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Educational placements from Least Restrictive to Most Restrictive

August 21, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Dennise Goldberg

Least Restrictive Environment is defined as “In General.  To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” 20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(5)(A).  Below is list of educational placements from least restrictive to most restrictive: Read the rest of this entry →

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Top 10 Items that Should Be Listed in an IEP

April 10, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

We all know how important it is to have an IEP that addresses our child’s Academic, Developmental and Functional needs; to ensure they are appropriately prepared for an independent future.  Therefore, as parents, we have to make sure our child’s IEP includes the necessary information to prepare them for life after high school.  The results of your child’s most recent assessments, report cards, state tests, school personnel and parent input will assist the team in developing an appropriate IEP. 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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Advocacy Does NOT Mean You Have a Crystal Ball

May 17, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Advocacy can come from anyone, whether you are advocating for your child or someone is doing it on your child’s behalf. What parents need to understand is that advocacy does NOT mean you have a crystal ball. Reality check; the only things that are constant in this world are death and taxes. Therefore, when advocating for a child, it is impossible to predict the end result. When parents set out on a journey to advocate for their child, whether they do it themselves or hire someone, they must be open to wherever that journey takes them.

For example, you might have a child that has behavioral problems and is also failing in school academically. You feel your child requires an aide to assist them in class, so that is what you want to fight for. However, you’ve made this determination before any assessments have been conducted to see whether the child’s academic failures are caused by their behavioral problems or their behavioral problems are causing their academic failures. Basically, by requesting an aide before all the data has been evaluated, you’ve put “the cart before the horse.” Only after all the necessary assessments have been completed and discussed; you are able to make an informed decision as to what the appropriate services are required to help your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). At the end of the day, your child might require a placement change in order to receive FAPE. This brings me to my next point “Placement.” Read the rest of this entry →

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Confessions of a Special Education Advocate

May 14, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Winning isn’t everything!!!! Let me say that again, winning isn’t everything. Your child IS everything, they are your world, and they are your “everything.” Sometimes we get so caught up in the chess game between Schools and Parents we all forget that there is a beautiful child who needs our help, is asking for our help and is screaming for our help. Negative behaviors mean something, not that the child is bad but that the child is trying to make us listen to them. Maybe that negative behavior is the only way the child knows how to communicate their needs and wants. It’s up to us as the adults to listen and not spend our time trying to outmaneuver each other in the IEP meeting.

As you can tell I’m a little emotional right now. This IEP season has been a difficult one because many of our clients have children with varying degrees of mental health issues. The mind is a complicated place that has very little predictability when mental health issues are involved. Whether you are talking about a 7 year old boy with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an 8 year old boy with an anxiety disorder or a teenager who spent her toddler years in foster care and was born addicted to drugs; writing an IEP for these children is a difficult, ongoing process. Difficult might actually be an understatement, I’m not even sure an appropriate word exists in the English language for this monumental task. So why do we spend our precious time trying to outmaneuver each other rather than spend the necessary time writing an IEP that will shape a better future for that child. Read the rest of this entry →

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Parents need to be Open to the Appropriate Learning Environment

April 3, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The end of the school year is approaching; therefore, many parents around the country are debating the placement issue for the next school year. It’s a very important decision because if it’s not the appropriate placement, your child could either fall behind or will not be challenged enough. As concerned parents, we hope that we’ve made the correct decision for our child. The question is; did we have all the necessary information to make an informed decision?

Once again, time to go back to the beginning. Assessments are an essential component of updating a child’s present levels of performance. The first thing required in any Individualized Education Program (IEP) is “a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.” If you look closely at the language there are actually two parts that need to be analyzed, “academic achievement” and “functional performance”. Since neither of these terms are defined this created questions that were discussed in the Federal Register page 46662:

Comment: A few commenters stated that § 300.320(a)(1) requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement, and recommended that the regulations define ‘‘academic achievement.’’

Discussion: ‘‘Academic achievement’’ generally refers to a child’s performance in academic areas (e.g., reading or language arts, math, science, and history). We believe the definition could vary depending on a child’s circumstance or situation, and therefore, we do not believe a definition of ‘‘academic achievement’’ should be included in these regulations.

Comment: Some commenters recommended that the regulations clarify that not every child requires a functional performance statement or functional annual goals. Some commenters stated that requiring functional assessments for all children places an unnecessary burden on an LEA, does not add value for every child, and creates a potential for increased litigation. One commenter recommended that § 300.320(a)(1), regarding the child’s present levels of performance, and § 300.320(a)(2), regarding measurable annual goals, clarify that functional performance and functional goals should be included in a child’s IEP only if determined appropriate by the child’s IEP Team.

Discussion: We cannot make the changes requested by the commenters. Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I) of the Act requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.

As you can see without updating both parts of the present levels of performances and knowing a child’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to make an informed decision about the appropriate placement. If you make a decision about placement before you have current data on your child, you might place your child in an environment that’s either too quick or slow paced.

For example, if your child is currently in a Special Day Class and you would like to begin mainstreaming them next year. I would recommend updating your child’s psycho-educational assessment to base your decision on. I mention this because sometimes report cards can be deceiving and do not tell the complete picture regarding a child’s true strengths and weaknesses. If a child is mainstreamed before they are ready, they can experience stress and anxiety if they cannot keep up and fall behind.

The other side of the coin is when a child is placed in an environment that might be considered too low-functioning. When this occurs, the child is not receiving an education that will allow them to work to their full potential. Many children who have a disability such as Autism, ADHD or SLD, are mainstreamed.

Once again, I stress the need to make sure all the necessary assessments have been performed prior to making a decision about your child’s placement. You cannot have a productive IEP meeting with your school district about the appropriate placement for your child until you have all the facts to base your decision on. The key is to keep an open mind about placement until that time so that you can place your child in the appropriate learning environment.

 

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by Jess

Everyone’s Favorite Part of an IEP Meeting: Continuum of Placement Options

March 25, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

So, you made it halfway through the IEP. The IEP team discussed your child’s academic performance, goals and objectives were identified, and accommodations and/or modifications have been suggested. Now, IEP team moves on to the subject of placement and mentions that there are a continuum of placement options that must be discussed. This is where some parents get confused or feel that they are forced into a box on where and how the school will provide services for their child. Read the rest of this entry →

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