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What is compensatory education?

August 19, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

What is it?

Compensatory education is generally defined as a remedy owed to children with a disability who have been denied, a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Compensatory education may include summer services, additional therapy hours, or other measures that make the student whole for past violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by the School District. Compensatory education is intended to be a onetime offer to compensate for past denial of FAPE and doesn’t relieve the School District of providing FAPE on a go forward basis. Thus, compensatory education should be in addition to the necessary services to provide the child FAPE in the current or future Individualized Education Programs (IEP). Read the rest of this entry →

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New Regulations for Parental Consent for the Use of Public Benefits

March 17, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Tomorrow is March 18th and that means there are new regulations related to parental consent for the use of public benefits or insurance to pay for services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  These new regulations were published in the Federal Register on February 14, 2013, and are effective on March 18, 2013.  At the heart of this new language is reducing the School District’s requirement to seek parental approval each time the School District wants to access public benefits for IEP services to a one time approval.  Below you will find the prior language and the new language. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Ten Most Viewed Special Education Advisor Blogs for 2012

December 25, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The following is a list of the most viewed special education advisor blogs from 2012. This doesn’t include any of our guest articles which has been published separately. 2012 was Special Education Advisor’s second full year of operation and we continue to grow more quickly that we could ever imagine. We currently have over 36,000 visitors a month and over 75,000 page views per month. We continue to grow every month and it’s all because of our members and visitors. Thank you for your continued support and without further adieu here is the list: Read the rest of this entry →

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First Quarter 2012 OSEP Policy Documents on the Education of Children with Disabilities

December 10, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

As I have mentioned many times in the past the Federal Register is a goldmine of information when it comes to understanding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).   Section 607 of IDEA requires that the Secretary of Education, on a quarterly basis, publish in the Federal Register a list of correspondence. This is correspondence from the Department of Education received by individuals that describes the interpretations of IDEA or the regulations that implement IDEA.  OSEP has recently published the First Quarter 2012 Policy Documents and as always they are enlightening and should be read by all.  I am going to provide the first couple of paragraphs of each letter below with a link to the entire document. Read the rest of this entry →

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by Jess

IDEA Leadership Conference: Leading Together to Achieve Success from Cradle to Career

August 19, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Do you think that federal and state departments of education staff are a bunch of outdated bureaucrats who sit in locked offices enforcing obscure rules and ignoring the needs of kids and families? Well, I’ve just spent three days learning, collaborating, and planning with hundreds of them. These folks are knowledgeable, passionate, eager to learn, and dedicated to finding better ways to support states and stakeholders to effectively serve students who have disabilities. Read the rest of this entry →

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Dear Colleague: Least Restrictive Environment Applies to Preschool

July 28, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

“Dear Colleague” might be my two favorite words in the English language when they are being spoken by Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) for the United States.  Anytime I see a letter from OSEP starting with Dear Colleague, I know I’m about to get a smile on my face.  OSEP doesn’t send these types of letters out unless they feel the School Districts are seriously misrepresenting the intention of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and need a little prodding to get them back on track (this is my opinion anyway).   In the most recent example of the Dear Colleague letter, we get guidance on whether Least Restrictive Environment applies to preschool placement; guess what, it does and I have a grin from ear to ear.  If Jerry had Dorothy at hello in the movie Jerry McGuire, this letter had me at the first sentence: Read the rest of this entry →

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OSEP has Spoken Again: No More Summertime Blues

June 6, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the United States is on fire. Earlier this week I found out OSEP sent a memorandum to the State of New Jersey regarding Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) and when a parent has the right to request an IEE. Now OSEP has weighed in on timely evaluations and stated that initial evaluations cannot be delayed due to summer vacations. The letter to Reyes can be found below. Read the rest of this entry →

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OSEP Provides Guidance on Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE)

June 3, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

When establishing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) certain requirements were put in place to help protect the rights of children with a disability and their parents. These protections called the Procedural Safeguards are outlined in 20 U. S. C. § 1415. In my opinion, one of the most important of these safeguards is the Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) which is found in Section 300.502 of IDEA. It States:

(a) General.

(1) The parents of a child with a disability have the right under this part to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child, subject to paragraphs (b) through (e) of this section. Read the rest of this entry →

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Special Education Advisor is 2 Years Old!!

May 29, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Special Education Advisor started out as a way to help parents educate themselves on the Special Education process in the United States. I wanted to create a non-threatening place for parents to come and learn to be their child’s best advocate in an IEP meeting. That was it that was my dream. What has occurred in the preceding 2 years has been nothing short of amazing. With no budget and 2 employees, my husband and I, we set out on this journey and many of you have come along for the ride. We now have a vibrant community which includes more than 40,000 visitors per month and growing.

Originally, my husband and I did all of the content on the website ourselves but then one day we got an email. A Special Education Professional introduced herself and asked if she could write a guest post for SEA. Wow, why didn’t I think of that? We added a page on the website where parents, educators and other professionals could submit guest articles and we never looked back. Today, we post a minimum of 5 new articles per week including 3 guest articles. The subject of these articles while still heavily IEP related, now cover a vast array of different special needs related content. We are constantly looking for new areas to cover and in the last 4 months added an app and product review section.

We wanted to take a moment and personally thank all of our visitors, members, twitter followers, facebook fans, pinteresters and google plusers for coming along for the ride. That was a mouth full, but you get the idea. We spend an abundant amount of our time, 7 days a week, on SEA and interacting with all of you makes it worthwhile. We hope you will continue with us on this journey and help us spread the word about SEA in the coming years.

In the meantime, below is a list of 25 of our most popular articles from the last two years:

Brief History of Special Education Court Cases 

Just as the 1970’s began the passing of legislation for children with disabilities it was also the start of some of its most important court cases.  Two cases in particular were the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 343 Fed. Supp. 279, (1972) and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 348 F. Supp. 866 (1972).  In both PARC and Mills the judges struck down local laws that excluded children with disabilities from schools.  They established that children with a disability have a right to a public education and access to an education.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program for children who qualify for special education services by their local public school district.  It is not an Individual Education Plan.  Why isn’t it a Plan?  As the old saying goes, “plans are made to be broken!”  A program on the other hand must be followed!!  Congress in their infinite wisdom got this one right.  It is a legally binding document that must be followed to the letter of the law and tailored to meet your child’s unique needs.  An IEP must include:

How to Prepare for your Next IEP Meeting

Life is hectic when raising a child with special needs.  Parents are constantly dealing with therapies, medical appointments, administering medicine, and life in general.  To make matters worse parents are telling me they keep hearing in IEP meetings from School District personnel, “If you don’t like our offer take us to due process”.  This makes it even more important to be prepared for your next meeting.  This article will help you truly prepare for the next IEP meeting.

Proposed DSM 5 Changes and Autism: What Parents & Advocates Need to Know

In May of 2013 the new diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder will be distributed to doctors via the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). Think of the DSM 5 as the Bible of diagnostic criteria, developed and written by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Least Restrictive Environment (Legal, Judicial and Practical meaning)

The term Least Restrictive Environment is thrown around a lot in special education but what does it really mean.  There is the legal definition which states:

Disability Categories under IDEA

The following list outlines the definitions of each of the disability categories established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education (Improvement) Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)

2012 Update: Essential Special Education Twitter Feeds to Follow

Below is a list of Special Education Twitter Feeds worth following.  The list includes Parents, Educators, Advocates, Attorneys, Therapists and National Organizations.  This list should keep you up to date on everything happening in and around the world of Special Education.

IEP Goals And Objectives: Are These Any Good?

To develop IEP goals (and, in some states and situations, objectives) that are meaningful, measurable, and manageable, requires a  preliminary step that too many IEP Teams rush though: Writing a quality Present Levels section (“present levels of academic achievement and functional performance”) of the IEP. This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.

Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP

If your child has an IEP, the following top ten list is comprised of generic questions that all parents should be asking.  This list is not specific to any disability or situation.

A Letter to the MOTHER Who Rolled Her Eyes at My Son

Dear Other Mother at Physical Therapy,

For the past three days I have watched you roll your eyes at my son. I can see your annoyance with him when he gets loud and interrupts your quiet making it hard for you to read your book. I saw your anger when he accidentally bumped into you and just kept going instead of stopping to say he was sorry. I hear the hostility in your voice as you yell for the technicians to pay attention to your daughter and stop giving my boy extra attention. And for three days I have said nothing.

Brief History Of Special Education Legislation

Prior to the 1970’s special education in the United States was in a dismal state.  Many children with a disability were denied access to a public education.  Most of these children were either home schooled, did not receive any education at all or worse yet were institutionalized.  The foundation of today’s special education law was passed in 1975 and enacted in 1977.  This was Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA).  This law introduced the concepts of:

A Letter to Ron Clark: What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers

Dear Ron,

I have recently read your article, “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents” and found it to be ill-conceived, short sided and quite frankly wrong on many accounts. I am aware of your accolades and achievements as written in the editor’s note prior to the article but I will also point you to Rule #51 in your Essential 55 Rules, “Live so that you will never have regrets”. If you don’t already, I feel you will learn to regret writing this article. This article has the ability to create an even bigger chasm between Parents and Teachers. Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education, as proven by 20 years of research, is one of the most effective methods in a child’s academic success. Educating our children needs to be a partnership between Parents and Teachers. Especially, since school age children spend 70% of their time outside of school. Your article makes it painfully aware that your idea of a Parent – Teacher partnership is one where Parents do everything you ask without input or questions.

What Is The Orton-Gillingham Approach?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is a unique language training system that was designed by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham.  Dr. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties.  He revolutionized modern thought concerning learning disabilities, determining that language-based disorders were biological and not environmental in origin.  He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation, having extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and formulating a set of teaching principles and practices for such children.  He strongly believed that such disorders would respond to specific training if properly diagnosed and if the proper training methods to meet the needs of each particular case were instituted.

Special Education Facebook Pages to Like

The following is a list of Facebook pages that do a wonderful job of tracking, educating and informing on all aspects of Special Education and advocacy.  Anyone that has a child with an individualized education program (IEP) or individual family service plan (IFSP) should like these pages.

Top Ten Parental Rights in Special Education

10.  Parents have the right to request that their child be assessed for Special Education without delay.

9.  Parents have the right to list all of their concerns in the IEP.

OSEP Provides Guidance on the Number of Transition Goals Required in an IEP

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004 the U. S. Department of Education through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) required states to develop State Performance Plans based on 20 indicators. The data would be submitted annually, by each State, in Annual Performance Reports. The 13th Indicator, or Indicator 13, relates to transition services for students.

Seven Things I Wish Someone had Told Me When My Daughter Was First Diagnosed with Autism

1. You’re not alone. No, really, really not alone. About one in 110 of us are on the autism spectrum. Throughout the world, autism affects all races, social classes, religions, and income levels. You are going to meet some amazing people who are walking this road right with you. You may even find that you or your spouse are on the spectrum, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

IEP Recreation: There is no Friendship Algorithm

Making friends isn’t easy for anyone but becomes even more difficult if you are a child with special needs who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  While most schools use an IEP to primarily focus on academics, one of the most overlooked uses is to help with socialization and recreation.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for support services, known as “Related Services” that helps the child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  The definition of Related Services as defined by IDEA says:

Discipline for Children with IEPs

Disciplining a child with a disability is one of the most complicated issues surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004.  Parents, a lot of times, feel helpless and don’t know who or where to turn when their child with a disability is constantly acting out at school and being suspended.  This article will help explain what rights your child with an IEP has when dealing with discipline issues.

Five Practical Sensory Strategies for the Classroom

Children with special needs very often present with sensory integration difficulties, where their neurological systems are not organizing and responding appropriately to the multitude of sensory information that is entering their system. Intact sensory integration is important for all activities a child does, especially participating and being available for learning in a classroom environment. When a child’s sensory system is dysregulated we may see behaviors such as hyperactivity, poor attention, low arousal/energy, emotional outbursts, or inappropriate social interactions. Many of these children are in classrooms of twenty-five students (or likely more ) with one teacher. How can we support these children in school to better ensure their sensory needs are met in order to be successful students? Working in collaboration with teachers I have found these strategies to be effective and practical in general education settings.

Please Step Away From the Child! The Misuse of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Classrooms

I may upset a few parents with this post, but just know that I what I am about to say is in the best interest of your children. Many, many, many (did I say many?) parents insist that their children with autism have “shadows” when they are included in general education classrooms. Parents tell one another things like, “Whatever you do, make sure the shadow is assigned to your child, not the classroom.” In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to assign a non-certified staff person to a child. In fact, it is not just my opinion. Research has shown that having a shadow assigned to a student can have detrimental effects (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000); Giangreco & Broer, 2005). Some of the documented negative effects of having shadows assigned to students include:

Ten Related Services for an IEP you may not know about

In General the term Related Service means services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as described in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.  The Related Services most people are familiar with are Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Transportation.

FREE Common Core Standards App

Consider this your call to action! The Common Core Standards are coming to your State and every Teacher and Parent of a child with special needs MUST have this free app on their phone, tablet or iPad. As a parent of a child with special needs I don’t go to my son’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting without a copy of California’s State Standards for his grade level. I use these standards to write goals for my son’s IEP based on his individualized needs.

Change Your Ways!

For most of us, the drive to change our own behavior emerges on or around on January 1st with the dawn of a new year and new possibilities for self improvement. Loose a little weight, stop smoking, exercise more, and eat leafy greens seem to be among the favorites. Most of us are pretty conservative and only select 1 (maybe 2) goals to tackle each year. After all, we are only human and it takes a lot of thinking to change a pattern or ingrained routine. If you’re diligent and work hard, you might see a change but for most of us….it’s an exercise in futility somewhere around March 1st. Why does that happen? How do we lose our “oomph” and why do we slip back into our old, familiar ways. Why can’t we learn to change our ways? These are all questions that we ought to be asking, but rarely do. Instead, we wait until the following year and begin the process all over again. Why? Because changing a behavior is REALLY hard, even when highly motivated to do so.

Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors

To Whom it May Concern,

I am the parent of a special needs child.  I was overwhelmed, confused, heart broken and struggling to unravel the complexities before me.

Please do not pass judgement of me without knowing why I did not attend the school PTA breakfasts or community picnics.  Please take a few minutes to understand why I did not take you up on your offer to have lunch or grab a cup of coffee.  Although we see each other in the supermarket or at school functions, I don’t think you really ever knew me, actually, I can guarantee that you did not know me because just as my child was different, so was I.

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OSEP Letter to Cox – September 26, 2011

April 10, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

September 26, 2011

H. Douglas Cox
Assistant Superintendent
Special Education and Student Services
Commonwealth of Virginia
Department of Education
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120


Dear Mr. Cox:

This is in response to your June 16, 2010 letter, written on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education, to Patricia J. Guard, former Deputy Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). In your letter, you seek clarification of OSEP’s position on requirements for appropriate measurable postsecondary goals in individualized education programs (IEPs) under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Your letter refers to the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) guidance in the Indicator 13 Checklist Frequently Asked Questions (2006), which states that “students need to have at least one postsecondary goal that covers the areas of education or training, employment, and, if appropriate, independent living.” You indicate that similar guidance is provided in the NSTTAC Indicator 13 checklist, used in preparing State Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report submissions. You ask whether OSEP’s position is that postsecondary goals in the areas of training, education, and employment are required, and if more than one postsecondary goal is required.

OSEP’s position continues to be that IEPs that address transition services must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals in the areas of training, education, and employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills. However, based on your inquiry, we would like to provide further clarification on appropriate measurable postsecondary goals in the areas of training and education.

Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII) of the IDEA requires that a child’s IEP include “beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 16, and updated annually thereafter—

(aa) appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills.” 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII)(aa). The regulation at 34 CFR §300.320(b)(1) essentially incorporates this statutory provision.

OSEP interprets this statutory provision as not requiring, in general, that IEPs that address transition services include separate postsecondary goals in the areas of training and education.

The IDEA and its implementing regulations do not define the terms “training” and “education.” However, the areas of training and education can reasonably be interpreted as overlapping in certain instances. In determining whether postsecondary goals in the areas of training and education overlap, the IEP Team must consider the unique needs of each individual student with a disability, in light of his or her plans after leaving high school. If the IEP Team determines that separate postsecondary goals in the areas of training and education would not result in the need for distinct skills for the student after leaving high school, the IEP Team can combine the training and education goals of the student into one or more postsecondary goals addressing those areas. For example, for a student whose postsecondary goal is teacher certification, any program providing teacher certification would include education as well as training. Similarly, a student with a disability who enrolls in a postsecondary program in engineering would be obtaining both education and occupational training in the program. The same is true for students with disabilities enrolled in programs for doctors, lawyers, accountants, technologists, physical therapists, medical technicians, mechanics, computer programmers, etc. Thus, in some instances, it would be permissible for the IEP to include a combined postsecondary goal or goals in the areas of training and education to address a student’s postsecondary plans, if determined appropriate by the IEP Team. However, the guidance we are providing is not intended to prohibit the IEP Team from developing separate postsecondary goals in the areas related to training and education in a student’s IEP, if deemed appropriate by the IEP Team, in light of the student’s postsecondary plans. On the other hand, because employment is a distinct activity from the areas related to training and education, each student’s IEP must include a separate postsecondary goal in the area of employment.

Therefore, OSEP will inform NSTTAC that the guidance documents referred to in your letter will need to be revised to specify that, to be consistent with the IDEA, IEPs that address transition services must include a separate postsecondary goal in the area of employment, in addition to at least one postsecondary goal in the areas of training and education. Likewise, because independent living skills are distinct from employment, we will also inform NSTTAC that it will need to revise its guidance to specify that, to be consistent with the IDEA, a student’s IEP must include a separate postsecondary goal in the area of independent living skills, where appropriate.

The guidance provided in this letter is incorporated in questions F-1 and F-3 in the “Questions and Answers on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations” and a new section B. has been added to the “Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition.” These revised OSEP guidance documents are posted at http://idea.ed.gov .

Based on section 607(e) of the IDEA, we are informing you that our response is provided as informal guidance and is not legally binding, but represents an interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education of the IDEA in the context of the specific facts presented.

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Deborah Morrow at 202-245-7456 or by email at Deborah.Morrow@ed.gov.


Melody Musgrove, Ed.D.
Office of Special Education Programs


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