4 Advocacy Tips to Empower You, When Special Educators Try to Use an Unapproved IEP!

Are you the parent of a child with Autism receiving special education services from your school district? Have special educators in your district tried to change your child’s IEP services, without your approval? Are you frustrated and not sure whether it is even allowed and what to do about it? This article will give you information about why school districts cannot implement a child in special education’s IEP, without parental approval; and four advocacy tips to empower you as you overcome this roadblock!

Several courts have ruled including the US Supreme Court; that school districts must seek a due process hearing if they want to implement an IEP, without a parent’s approval. For example: If your school district states that your child with Autism no longer needs special education services, and they are going to stop the services; they are required to file for a due process hearing. Unfortunately, you may have to be assertively persistent in your advocacy to make sure that school employees understand this.

Advocacy Tips:

1. If your school district develops an IEP at a meeting that you do not agree with; the next day send the school district a letter, explaining to them in detail why you disagree with the proposed IEP. Keep a copy for yourself, and hand deliver the letter to the school district.

2. If your school does not file for a due process hearing (before implementation of the unapproved IEP), you may file for a due process hearing yourself, and ask for a “stay put” placement as well as services (from the last agreed upon IEP). You should also ask the hearing officer to change the burden of proof to the school district, since they refused to file, since most States place the burden on the party that files (only six states (CT, DE. NJ, NY, NV, and WV place the burden of proof always on the school district).

3. If the school personnel do file due process so that they can implement an IEP that you do not agree with (or if you are ready to file to stop the school from implementing an unapproved IEP); make arrangements to take your child to a qualified evaluator for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). This will help you determine your child’s disabilities, or specifically what related and special education services your child needs. The evaluation report can be used at due process as your evidence that the schools proposed IEP will not provide your child an appropriate education.

4. If your school district does try to implement an IEP that you do not believe will give your child an appropriate education, this may leave the school district vulnerable to be required to pay for a private placement or services. IDEA 2004 allows parents to seek private placement and services for lack of a free appropriate public education (FAPE); and then seek reimbursement. Finding a child ineligible for related and special education services has required many schools around the country, to bear the cost of the child’s private services and schooling.

In the above example if educators states that your child with Autism is no longer eligible for special education services, you may be able to seek private services and/or placement, and then file due process for reimbursement of the private services cost.

As a parent you need to assertively and persistently advocate for your child, so that he or she can be ready for post school learning and a productive adult life! Good luck!

4 Important Areas of Transition For Your Child Receiving Special Education Services

Do you have a child with autism that is 16 years of age or above, receiving special education services? Do you worry about what will happen to your child, after they are no long eligible, for special education services at the age of 22? Would you like to learn what 4 areas need to be considered when you are writing a transition plan for your child? This article will discuss four important areas of transition, that must be included ,when special education personnel write a transition plan for your child.

The Individual with Disabilities Education Act require a transition plan and needed transition services on the plan, for all children with disabilities who are 16 years of age. Some states require that the plan be developed when the child is 14 and ½, so check with your state board of education and see what the age requirements are in your state.

Transition Services means a coordinated set of activities, designed in a result oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement, of the child with a disability to facilitate movement from school to post school activities.

There are 4 areas that must be addressed in the transition plan, these are:

1. Employment is defined as competitive, supported etc. Transition assessments may be done in the area of employment to determine Strengths, weaknesses, preferences and interest of the student in developing post school outcomes. You may request a functional vocational evaluation, if you think that your child needs it. It is important to have high expectations in the area of employment so to help a child reach their full potential.

2. Post Secondary Education is defined as college 2 yr. 4 yr, trade school, vocational school based on student preference. The transition goals should help bring the student to the place they need to be in order to go to post secondary education.

3. Post Secondary Training is defined as vocational training, independent living skills training. This is different from #2 because this training is usually given by an agency that works with adults with disabilities. This would be appropriate for students with moderate to severe disabilities, though high expectations should still be expected. Hopefully this training can be given in the community and not at the agencies building (most people refer to such as sheltered workshops). Community is always better!

4. Independent Living Skills training if needed, and is defined as, activities of daily living, functional home skills, cooking, shopping, housework, money skills, budgets, transportation, recreation/leisure, and future planning.

I believe that all students regardless of the level of their disability must be given functional skills training and independent living skills training. It will help the adult become as independent as they can be, and will ensure that they reach their full potential.

If you make sure that your child’s transition plan includes these 4 areas: Employment, Post secondary education, Post secondary training, and Independent Living Skills training, your child will be on their way to reaching their full potential as an adult.

6 Ways to Improve Special Education For All Children With Special Needs!

Are you the parent of a child with autism or another disability that is frustrated by the special education system? More than 6 million students with disabilities receive special education services in federally funded special education programs. This is about 9% of the country’s school age population. This is a lot of children who depend on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to help them get the services that they need to live a fulfilled life. As any parent of a child with a disability knows much improvement needs to be made to the special education system. This article will discuss 6 ways to improve the special education system.

Needed to improve the special education system:

1. More available parent training and more resources to pay for the training! Parent trainings are available but in most cases do cost, which prevents some parents from attending. Parents must understand their rights under IDEA in order to be effective advocates for their child.

2. More effective enforcement of IDEA, to include the withholding of funds from states and school districts, who are continually non compliant! The enforcement of IDEA basically does not exist. It is the federal governments responsibility to enforce IDEA to the states, and it is the states responsibility to enforce IDEA of local school districts. Neither one does very much in this area. Enforcement without withholding of funds will not work. In my experience it will not take many states losing their IDEA funding, before major positive changes will occur.

3. Improved diagnosis of disabilities and an easier eligibility process! Many children with disabilities throughout the US are told that they do not have a disability, therefore are not eligible for special education services. This reality hurts children with disabilities and may forever ruin their lives! Parents often do not even know that they can disagree with the schools opinion! The eligibility process needs to be made more child friendly!

4. Special education personnel must set realistic high expectations for all children with disabilities! Congress has said from the beginning that school districts expectations of children with disabilities are too low. School personnel and parents must believe that children can be successful in their education and lives, if given an appropriate education, and keep expectations high.

5. Focus on outcomes of special education so that all children will be ready for post school learning and independent living! For the year 2005-2006 55% of children with disabilities graduated from high school, in comparison to a little over 70% of children without disabilities graduated from high school. This will limit the children’s ability to go to college or get a job, which will affect the rest of their lives!

6. Improve the federal funding of IDEA! The current estimates are that the federal government only pays about 17% of per pupil costs for special education. The federal government needs to put their money where there mouth is, and fund IDEA fully!

All parents can be involved in advocating for systemic special education improvements. Notify your state and federal representatives and see how they are willing to get involved, in this process. Children with disabilities deserve to receive an appropriate education and live their lives to the fullest!

India’s Move to Right to Education

BACKGROUND.

It was Saturday afternoon; the world seemed to be on vacation but me, as I was busy serving guests at a lunch party at my masters’ residence. Chatting and laughing was loud enough to be heard in every nook and corner of the house. But those were of least concern to me, because I had to respond to every single call for any requirement at the very word of the guests or the master in particular. It was 2009, and I was just seven, wearing a sweater and a half pant, watching a bunch of people boasting about the achievements of their wards and trying to prove ones child better than the other. When suddenly, an old man read from a magazine that the government was to pass a new act namely, Right to Education Act. But to me those routine talks about the household work made more sense than this new coming up topic, because neither I could read or understand there high-level conversation, which had diverted there talks from their children, on top of that I didn’t even understand, what the word ‘right’ meant. That elderly fellow said something like…

History of the Act:

The Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2003 was the first attempt of the Central government to draft a comprehensive legislation on education after the 86th Constitutional Amendment that made education a fundamental right. The Bill was an excellent example of bureaucratic empowerment, creating up to 6 levels of various authorities to ensure the provision of free and compulsory education. Furthermore, the reservation of up to 25% of the private school seats for the economically backward students to be selected by these authorities ensured that the Bill was a throwback to the old licence-permit-raj regime. Following widespread criticism, the Bill was discarded.

The Right to Education Bill 2005 is the second attempt by the Central government to set the education system right. Some of the important provisions of the Bill:

• Promises free and compulsory education of equitable quality up to the elementary level to all children in the age group of 6 to 14.
• Mandates unaided private schools to reserve up to 25 percent of the seats for students from weaker sections. The schools will be reimbursed by the lower of the actual school fee or per student expenditure in the government school. The aided schools will reserve “at least such proportion of their admitted children as its annual recurring aid bears to its annual recurring expenses subject to a minimum of 25 per cent.”
• Requires all remaining students to be accommodated by opening new government schools and within three years of the passage all students to have a school to go within their own neighbourhood.
• Forms School Management Committees (SMCs) comprising parents and teachers for state schools and aided schools. The SMCs will own the assets of the school, manage the accounts, and pay salaries.
• Establishes a National Commission for Elementary Education to monitor the implementation of the Bill, State Regulatory Authorities to address grievances under the Bill, and several ‘competent authorities,’ ‘local authorities,’ and ’empowered authorities’ to perform a vast number of regulatory functions and meet out punishment to defaulters.
• Assigns all state school teachers to particular schools from which they will never be transferred-creates a school-based teacher cadre.

The finance committee and planning commission rejected the Bill citing the lack of funds and a Model bill was sent to states for the making necessary arrangements.

INTRODUCTION

As is evident, even after 60 years, universal elementary education remains a distant dream. Despite high enrolment rates of approximately 95% as per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2009), 52.8% of children studying in 5th grade lack the reading skills expected at 2nd grade. Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in December 2002, by the 86th Amendment. In translating this into action, the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’ was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was not notified for roughly 7 months.

The reasons for delay in notification can be mostly attributed to unresolved financial negotiations between the National University of Education Planning and Administration, NUEPA, which has been responsible for estimating RTE funds and the Planning Commission and Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). From an estimate of an additional Rs.3.2 trillion to Rs.4.4 trillion for the implementation of RTE Draft Bill 2005 over 6 years (Central Advisory Board of Education, CABE) the figure finally set by NUEPA now stands at a much reduced Rs.1.7 trillion over the coming 5 years. For a frame of reference, Rs.1 trillion is 1.8% of one year’s GDP.

Most education experts agree that this amount will be insufficient. Since education falls under the concurrent list of the Constitution, financial negotiations were also undertaken between Central and State authorities to agree on sharing of expenses. This has been agreed at 35:65 between States and Centre, though state governments continue to argue that their share should be lower.

KEY FEATURES OF THE ACT INCLUDE:

1. Every child from 6 to 14 years of age has a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education.
2. Private schools must take in a quarter of their class strength from `weaker sections and disadvantaged groups’, sponsored by the government.
3. All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75 per cent parents and guardians as members.
4. All schools except government schools are required to be recognized by meeting specified norms and standards within 3 years to avoid closure.

On the basis of this Act, the government has framed subordinate legislation called model rules as guidelines to states for the implementation of the Act.

The family, I had been working for, (walia family) had always been caring for me, with occasional slaps and abuses, to which I had become accustomed to and accepted them as a part and parcel of my monthly income of 700 Rs along with square meals and the discarded cloths of the children to the master. But then that was my life……bhaiya and didi (son and daughter to the master) were both elder to me by 4 or 5 years respectively and during my free time often played along with me, but again I was reminded of my being a servant whenever I forgot that…they had thought me to read and write my name in Hindi, which I always kept scribbling at the corners of the walls which resulted in a colour change of my cheeks to red from white, whenever caught. That Act being the burning topic of those days always managed to occupy some space at the front page of every news paper, which further became a topic of early morning drawing room discussion for the family as it was that day and just like every normal citizen he also started which his speech, with the critique of right to education act and its loop holes….

LOOPHOLES IN THE ACT

The Act is excessively input-focused rather than outcomes-oriented. Even though better school facilities, books, uniforms and better qualified teachers are important, their significance in the Act has been overestimated in the light of inefficient, corrupt and unaccountable institutions of education provision. Then the Act unfairly penalises private unrecognised schools for their payment of market wages for teachers rather than elevated civil service wages. It also penalises private schools for lacking the infrastructural facilities defined under a Schedule under the Act. These schools, which are extremely cost efficient, operate mostly in rural areas or urban slums, and provide essential educational services to the poor. Independent studies by Geeta Kingdon, James Tooley and ASER 2009 suggest that these schools provide similar if not better teaching services when compared to government schools, while spending a much smaller amount. However, the Act requires government action to shut down these schools over the coming three years. A better alternative would have been to find mechanisms through which public resources could have been infused into these schools. The exemption from these same recognition requirements for government schools is the case of double standards — with the public sector being exempted from the same `requirements’. By the Act, SMCs (school management committees) are to comprise of mostly parents, and are to be responsible for planning and managing the operations of government and aided schools. SMCs will help increase the accountability of government schools, but SMCs for government schools need to be given greater powers over evaluation of teacher competencies and students learning assessment. Members of SMCs are required to volunteer their time and effort. This is an onerous burden for the poor. Payment of some compensation to members of SMCs could help increase the time and focus upon these. Turning to private but `aided’ schools, the new role of SMCs for private `aided’ schools will lead to a breakdown of the existing management structures. Teachers are the cornerstone of good quality education and need to be paid market-driven compensation. But the government has gone too far by requiring high teacher salaries averaging close to Rs.20,000 per month. These wages are clearly out of line, when compared with the market wage of a teacher, for most schools in most locations in the country. A better mechanism would have involved schools being allowed to design their own teacher salary packages and having autonomy to manage teachers. A major problem in India is the lack of incentive faced by teachers either in terms of carrot or stick. In the RTE Act, proper disciplinary channels for teachers have not been defined. Such disciplinary action is a must given that an average of 25 percent teachers are absent from schools at any given point and almost half of those who are present are not engaged in teaching activity. School Management Committees need to be given this power to allow speedy disciplinary action at the local level. Performance based pay scales need to be considered as a way to improve teaching.

The Act and the Rules require all private schools (whether aided or not) to reserve at least 25% of their seats for economically weaker and socially disadvantaged sections in the entry level class. These students will not pay tuition fees. Private schools will receive reimbursements from the government calculated on the basis of per-child expenditure in government schools. Greater clarity for successful implementation is needed on:

• How will ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’ be defined and verified?
• How will the government select these students for entry level class?
• Would the admission lottery be conducted by neighbourhood or by entire village/town/city? How would the supply-demand gaps in each neighbourhood be addressed?
• What will be the mechanism for reimbursement to private schools?
• How will the government monitor the whole process? What type of external vigilance/social audit would be allowed/encouraged on the process?
• What would happen if some of these students need to change school in higher classes?

Moreover, the method for calculation of per-child reimbursement expenditure (which is to exclude capital cost estimates) will yield an inadequate resource flow to private schools. It will be tantamount to a tax on private schools. Private schools will end up charging more to the 75% of students – who are paying tuition’s – to make space for the 25% of students they are forced to take. This will drive up tuition fees for private schools (while government schools continue to be taxpayer funded and essentially free).

Reimbursement calculations should include capital as well recurring costs incurred by the government.

By dictating the terms of payment, the government has reserved the right to fix its own price, which makes private unaided schools resent this imposition of a flat price. A graded system for reimbursement would work better, where schools are grouped — based on infrastructure, academic outcomes and other quality indicators — into different categories, which would then determine their reimbursement.

Quality of Education

The quality of education provided by the government system remains in question. While it remains the largest provider of elementary education in the country forming 80% of all recognized schools, it suffers from shortages of teachers, infrastructural gaps and several habitations continue to lack schools altogether. There are also frequent allegations of government schools being riddled with absenteeism and mismanagement and appointments are based on political convenience. Despite the allure of free lunch-food in the government schools, which has basically turned the schools into a “dhaba” and school teachers to “chefs”, many parents send their children to private schools. Average schoolteacher salaries in private rural schools in some States (about Rs. 4,000 per month) are considerably lower than that in government schools. As a result, proponents of low cost private schools, critiqued government schools as being poor value for money.

Children attending the private schools are seen to be at an advantage, thus discriminating against the weakest sections, who are forced to go to government schools. Furthermore, the system has been criticized as catering to the rural elites who are able to afford school fees in a country where large number of families live in absolute poverty. The act has been criticized as discriminatory for not addressing these issues. Well-known educationist Anil Sadagopal said of the hurriedly-drafted act:

“It is a fraud on our children. It gives neither free education nor compulsory education. In fact, it only legitimizes the present multi-layered, inferior quality school education system where discrimination shall continue to prevail.”

For me this new topic was like Ramayana being recited in the house, although Ramayana was still Hindi, but this was complete alien…it was Wednesday afternoon and the family members were all taking rest when I decided to run away from that house, and then actually did…but when was back home I was scolded brutally by my father who said ‘here comes one more, person with his mouth wide open, good for nothing creature’. After few days, I was as well enrolled in local village school, which served lunch to every student who attended the school. But the food wasn’t easy here too, every pupil was made to cook food and wash dishes, the left out time was utilized in fulfilling the desires of the school teacher. I did everything in the school but study. But my sister was not as lucky as me, although for sake of attending school, she was only enrolled in there but the reality was that she hardly attended any classes due to engagement in the household work, as that was more important and education for marriage than that what was written the school books. The only day we had a feast was when inspection was on the calendar. I did wanted to study but my pockets didn’t allow me, I always pondered but couldn’t make out what was wrong with my school when compared to those big ones in the cities but the answers were nowhere for me……

THINGS WHICH CAN BE DONE FOR THE IMPROVEMENT.

The RTE Act has been passed; the Model Rules have been released; financial closure appears in hand. Does this mean the policy process is now impervious to change? Even today, much can be achieved through a sustained engagement with this problem.

Drafting of State Rules

Even though state rules are likely to be on the same lines as the model rules, these rules are still to be drafted by state level authorities keeping in mind contextual requirements. Advocacy on the flaws of the Central arrangements, and partnerships with state education departments, could yield improvements in at least some States. Examples of critical changes which state governments should consider are: giving SMCs greater disciplinary power over teachers and responsibility of students learning assessment, greater autonomy for schools to decide teacher salaries and increased clarity in the implementation strategy for 25% reservations. If even a few States are able to break away from the flaws of the Central arrangements, this would yield demonstration effects of the benefits from better policies.

Assisting private unrecognized schools

Since unrecognized schools could face closure in view of prescribed recognition standards within three years, we could find ways to support such schools to improve their facilities by resource support and providing linkages with financial institutions. Moreover, by instituting proper rating mechanisms wherein schools can be rated on the basis of infrastructure, learning achievements and other quality indicators, constructive competition can ensue.

Ensure proper implementation

Despite the flaws in the RTE Act, it is equally important for us to simultaneously ensure its proper implementation. Besides bringing about design changes, we as responsible civil society members need to make the government accountable through social audits, filing right to information applications and demanding our children’s right to quality elementary education. Moreover, it is likely that once the Act is notified, a number of different groups affected by this Act will challenge it in court. It is, therefore, critically important for us to follow such cases and where feasible provide support which addresses their concerns without jeopardizing the implementation of the Act.

Awareness

Most well-meaning legislation’s fail to make significant changes without proper awareness and grassroot pressure. Schools need to be made aware of provisions of the 25% reservations, the role of SMCs and the requirements under the Schedule. This can be undertaken through mass awareness programs as well as ensuring proper understanding by stakeholders responsible for its implementation.

Ecosystem creation for greater private involvement

Finally, along with ensuring implementation of the RTE Act which stipulates focused reforms in government schools and regulation for private schools, we need to broaden our vision so as to create an ecosystem conducive to spontaneous private involvement. The current licensing and regulatory restrictions in the education sector discourage well-intentioned ‘entrepreneurs’ from opening more schools. Starting a school in Delhi, for instance, is a mind-numbing, expensive and time-consuming task which requires clearances from four different departments totaling more than 30 licenses. The need for deregulation is obvious.

Today, I am 15 in age, out of school and again away from home, working only to earn hand to mouth, to boast that am literate I have gained my elementary education but the fact is, I only know how to write my name in Hindi along with few more things and that’s not because of the school but I owe that to Mr walias’ children. And today, the biggest question for me is, why should anyone get enrolled in a school to gain elementary education, when that education is doing no good to him in the future? After 14 I had to leave the school, in spite of me being still in standard four, I couldn’t support my studies further so ultimately all my efforts went in vain, leaving me all to myself, just to ponder what should I do????

CONCLUSION:

The Act has failed in identifying what actually ails our education system and so not surprisingly it offers solutions that are either redundant or counter-productive. Its unrelenting faith in the bureaucracy and its seething animosity towards private initiatives in education reflect a bygone era. However well-intentioned the government may be, the central planning approach cannot serve the future needs of India. It has failed in economics and it cannot do any better in education. The promises made in the Bill then amount to political grandstanding.

The fulfillment of the constitutional obligation does not necessarily require the state to build and manage schools. It can discharge its obligation successfully by restricting its role to the provision of financial resources to those who cannot afford and enabling all parents to make informed choices. The education system should be designed in such a manner that there is competition and choice. The schools should compete with each other to attract students and the students should in turn have the freedom to choose their school. This would ensure the best allocation of scarce resources and an improving quality of education.

One way for the government to finance education that would guarantee access to school and would create right incentives for improving quality is to fund government schools on the basis of number students in the school. Instead of a lump sum grant, the government fixes a per student charge, which multiplied with the number of students, determines the grant that a school would receive. The state can also provide financial support to students in the form of a voucher that can be redeemed only at educational institutions to cover the expenses of education. With this education voucher, the student would be in a position to choose from amongst the various public and private schools.

This would ensure competition amongst schools and thus good quality education. Furthermore, the financial resources of the state would be put to more effective use by targeting them towards the poor only and by optimally utilizing the management skills of the private sector. There is no doubt that privately managed institutions have made a tremendous contribution to the cause of education, and in the last decade particularly the unrecognised private schools for the poor. It would be a tremendous loss of social capital if these schools were forced to close down. If the government opens a new school and runs well, there would be no reason for parents to send their children to a fee-charging, unrecognised school.

They would go out of business automatically. One more reason not to outlaw these schools with the passage of the Act is the chaos and harm it would create since they will have to close down well before the government will be able to open new schools across the country. In its zeal to fulfill its constitutional mandate, the government would achieve the opposite.

Instead of treating private initiative as inherently corrupt and exploitative, the government should channel the private enterprise to help expand access and improve quality of education. It has been done with great success in many areas.a

Unpacking Special Education

First, it is important to understand that Special Education services are meant to help your child succeed as a student and as an individual. Hopefully it is no surprise when your child is referred for Special Education Services. This referral can come from you, the teacher or anyone else who works with your child. Once your child is suspected of having a disability or believed to require extra services, a referral is placed.

What is a referral? Paperwork is submitted to a team called the CSE or Committee on Special Education. Generally the team consists of teachers, the school psychologist and other people who work with your child. What you may or may not know, the most valuable member of the CSE is the parent. After all, you know your child best!

Once the referral is received, the student is evaluated. Different members of the CSE meet with your child and evaluate through observations, and various assessments. It is important to note, that this can NOT happen without your consent. Usually, the initial evaluation includes: a physical examination, psychological assessments, social/emotional history, observation of your child in their classroom and any other appropriate assessment. This could also include speech and/or language, behavior evaluation etc.

Once the evaluation has been completed, a CSE meeting will be scheduled. It is important that the parent be present and is aware of their rights. At the CSE meeting, the results of the evaluation will be discussed and recommendations will be made. If you disagree with the results, you have the right to request that an outside agency evaluate your child, at the expense of the school district.

If your child is eligible to receive special education services, the Committee must select a disability category that is most appropriate for your child. Again, if you disagree with the committee, you have the right to seek mediation.

Once your child is deemed eligible to receive services, the committee will be responsible for developing an IEP or Individual Education Plan for your child. When creating your child’s plan, their strengths and needs will be taken into consideration. The IEP will document goals that your child will attempt to meet with the support of special education services. The IEP will also indicate where the services will take place. It is important to note that Special Education services are based on a spectrum that ranges from the least restrictive environment or LRE to the most restrictive environment.

Once the IEP has been implemented, you should receive written progress reports documenting how your child is progressing with their goals. Once a year, the CSE will meet to review the IEP. Every three years, a reevaluation will take place, similar to the initial referral to CSE to determine if your child still requires the support of Special Education services.

Hopefully this has “unpacked” the special education process for you.

What Are the 13 Categories of Disability For Special Education Eligibility?

Does your child struggle with academics, and you are concerned that they may have a disability? Have you been told by special education personnel that your child does not fit any of the 13 eligibility classifications to receive special education services? This article will discuss the 13 classifications of disability, that are covered in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and make a child eligible for special education services. Whether a certain child is eligible is up to the parent and the IEP team, but having a disability in one of the 13 categories is required in order to be found eligible.

The categories are:

1. Autism: A developmental disability that can affect the verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and can have a negative affect on the child’s education. The prevalence of autism is 1 in 150 as determined by the CDC or Center for Disease Control.

2. Other Health Impaired (OHI): The child exhibits limited strength, alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems, including but not limited to asthma, ADD/ADHD, cancer, diabetes, which negatively affects the child’s education.

3. Mental Retardation: Defined as significantly below average general functioning, with deficits in adaptive behavior, which negatively affects the child’s education.

4. Emotional Disturbance (ED): Exhibits one of the following conditions over an extended period of time and these conditions negatively effect a child’s education. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors. For a child to be ED they are not supposed to have any other type of disability negative affecting their education.

5. Deafness: Residual hearing is severely impaired in processing the spoken word, negatively affecting the child’s education.

6. Hearing Impairment: Exhibits a hearing loss that is permanent or fluctuating, which even with amplification negatively affects the child’s education.

7. Visual Impairment: Impairment is such that educational potential cannot be fulfilled without special services and materials.

8. Deaf-Blindness: Child has both hearing and visual disabilities.

9. Specific Learning Disability (LD): Exhibits a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological process (such as visual, motor, language etc) which negatively affects a child’s education.

10. Multiple Disabilities: The child exhibits two or more severe disabilities, one of which is mental retardation.

11. Orthopedic Impairment: Displays severe impairments that are the result of congenital anomaly, developmental, or other causes (such as CP) which negatively affects the child’s education.

12. Speech or Language Impairment: Exhibits a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a receptive and/or expressive language disorder, that negatively affects the child’s education.

13. Traumatic Brain Injury: The child has an injury to their brain resulting in total or partial functional disability.

By knowing what categories are covered under IDEA you will be able to understand if your child has a disability that makes them eligible for special education services. You are the only advocate that your child has-do not let them down!

Autism And The School System – Education

Autistic children will have special needs when it comes to schooling. Many children with Autism go to public school and do just fine with some special modifications. There are laws pertaining to kids with disabilities. Here are some of the things you will need to know about Autism and school.

The Individuals With Disabilities Act

The Individuals with Disabilities act was passed to make sure all children receive a free and appropriate public education that meets their needs. The act requires children with special needs to have special education service as long as they meet the requirements. Autism meets that requirement.

Free and Appropriate Education

This is an education that meets the special needs of your child. It is one that allows them to make progress learning.

Least Restrictive Learning Environment

This means that your child will be placed in an educational setting that is right for their special needs while allowing them to socialize with kids that do not have a disability. The school will do what it can to meet the needs of your Autistic child while keeping them in regular classrooms.

To figure out what special needs your child will need the school will evaluate your child. This evaluation can be requested by the school or the parent. If you think there is a problem write a letter to the school asking them to evaluate your child. They will send a paper home for you to sign that gives permission for the evaluation to take place. During the evaluation your child will be tested for learning disabilities along with any mental, or behavioral problems. After the evaluation is complete the school will have a meeting with you to discuss their findings, and what can be done to help your child.

IEP

An IEP is used when a child has a need for special education services. The group that evaluated the child will be part of the team that creates the IEP. The parents will also have a say in what is included in the IEP. An IEP will state the needs the child has to get an appropriate education. They will also list the services the child is going to receive in the IEP. The IEP can be evaluated at any time if the services are not working for the child. An example of some services that might be included in an IEP are extra time when completing class work, have tests read aloud to the child, or an aide is provided for the child. Each IEP will be different for each child. The IEP will be evaluated on a yearly basis unless the parents request it sooner. The parents have the right to be at every IEP meeting held.

You are your child’s best advocate when dealing with the school system. Some schools will try to give you the run around. They will do whatever they can to keep your child from having any special services in school. You have to be the one to stand up for your child. You are their voice. If you do not feel comfortable dealing with the school alone there are lawyers and advocates that are there to help.

8 Parental Causes for Denial of Special Education FAPE for Children With Disabilities!

Are you the parent of a child with a disability receiving special education services? Have you been fighting for your child to receive an appropriate education but are afraid that you are losing the battle. This article will be addressing the definition of FAPE as well as 8 parental reasons that may be contributing to your child not receiving a free appropriate public education.

Definition of FAPE

In a US Court of Appeals Case in the Third Circuit N.R. vs. Kingwood Township FAPE is defined as: a satisfactory IEP must provide significant learning and confer meaningful benefit. The definition of FAPE in IDEA 2004 states that FAPE means related and special education services that are free to the parent, and meet the standards of the State Educational Agency. Recently, many states have passed National Core Educational Standards to make the standards more uniform from state to state.

Possible Parental Causes

1. Some parents may not educate themselves about all of the federal and state laws that they can use to advocate for their child. These laws are: IDEA 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, ADAAA, etc. It is critical that parents read books, and attend conferences to educate themselves.

2. Parents may be unwilling to confront or stand up to special education personnel who are refusing to provide FAPE to their child. This may be due to parents upbringing of not confronting authorities or educators

3. Schools have low expectations of what a child can learn in academic and functional areas. Parents must stand up to low expectations by some special education personnel, to the benefit of their child.

4. Not making sure that their child is held to the same educational standards as children without disabilities. If children do not learn academics and functional areas they could be hindered in their adult life.

5. Some parents may not learn appropriate remediation that their child needs to help them in their education.

6. Some parents may be unwilling to file a state complaint, 504 complaint, or file for a due process. As an advocate for over 20 years I have seen many school personnel draw a line in the sand, and absolutely refuse to listen to any parental input on services that their child needs. This situation requires going outside of the school district in the filing of complaints or due process, in a timely manner.

7. Some parents may accept lack of FAPE year after year without doing anything about it, even trying to find private services (and asking for school reimbursement). I recently read about a family in San Francisco that fought their school by filing for a due process hearing when the school district refused to provide their 3 year old child with Autism Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services, even though independent evaluators stated that the child needed this service. The parents did not wait year after year to let their child fail, they filed immediately. The family won after a 7 month fight, and was reimbursed for the private ABA services, that was given to their child.

8. Parents often approach school districts asking for the best services for their child. IDEA 2004 does not require that schools offer the best, but just related and special education services that are appropriate to meet the child’s educational needs.

How can parents turn this around? By educating themselves about special education law and research based remediation for their child. They also must be assertively persistent in their advocacy, for as long as it takes for their child to receive an appropriate education. Going outside the school district the first time they deny your child FAPE sends a message that you will not tolerate the civil rights violations to your child. Parents have a tough job, but if they work hard and advocate hard their child can receive an appropriate education.

3 Reasons Why the Changes to Autism Criteria Will Have Little Impact on Special Education Services!

Are you the parent of a child with autism? Have you heard that the American Psychiatric Association voted to approve changes to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5); and are concerned how this is going to affect your child’s special education services? The good news is it probably is not going to affect your child’s special education services.

Past versions of the DSM placed autism at the top of the umbrella with Retts Syndrome, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s under the umbrella, but having their own categories. Now all the categories mentioned will be under one diagnosis-Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Here are three reasons why these changes will probably not affect your child’s special education services:

1. The DSM V will be used by Psychiatrists and other medical professionals not school districts. Each State Department of Education should have their own eligibility criteria, which school districts must adhere to; so the changes should not affect school districts.

2. Most school districts use autism rating scales such as the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), or depend on school psychologists to make the diagnosis. Actually, with all the different disorders under one diagnosis, may help you and your child more, than the way it was in the past; because some school districts fought very hard against recognizing PDD and Asperger’s as Autism.

3. Many children are diagnosed with Autism by an independent evaluator, either paid for by the parent or by the school district. Since many school districts absolutely refuse to state (in most cases) that a child has the disorder, the parent usually needs to take the child to a qualified evaluator with experience testing children with the disorder. Since most children are diagnosed in this manner, the changes proposed should not affect their diagnosis.

For those parents that are still concerned that their child’s disability will not be recognized, a comprehensive study was recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that could help calm your fears that this could happen. The study found that the new criteria identified a majority of children already diagnosed with one of the disorders.

Another positive issue that this revision addresses is that it allows for flexibility in the criteria for age of onset. In the past the DSM’s stated that children needed to have onset of symptoms before a certain age (and also needed to be diagnosed by a certain age). This was a huge issue for many children whose school districts refuse to identify them with Autism. My own son Shaun never was diagnosed with PDD-NOS; even though I believe that special educators in my district knew that this was what my son’s disability was. He is now an adult, and struggles to work, without any governmental help because of the lack of diagnosis.

I have found many times over the years that some people in the disability field tend to react to things without investigating whether the changes are good or are bad, for children with disabilities. I hope this article has educated you and helps you to be able to assertively and persistently advocate for your child!

Special Education – How to Use an Independent Educational Evaluation to Benefit Your Child

Do you have a child with a learning disability or with autism that is
not making academic progress, even though they are getting special
education services? Would you like to know what educational and
related services your child needs in order to learn how to read, or do
other academics? This article will discuss what an Independent
Educational Evaluation (IEE) is, and how you can use one to benefit
your child with a disability.

The definition of an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) is:

An independent educational evaluation is an evaluation conducted by a
qualified person, who does not work for the school district. Parents
of children with a disability often get IEE’s so that they understand
what educational needs their child has and what services they require.
Most independent evaluations are parent initiated and paid for by the
parent.

Once you have decided to get an IEE, there are several things to
consider about the evaluator:

a. Make sure that they are qualified to perform the educational
evaluation. For Example: a registered Occupational Therapist could
conduct an Occupational Therapy evaluation. If sensory processing
disorder (used to be called sensory integration disorder) is an issue,
make sure that you find a registered Occupational Therapist who is
SIPT certified. If your child has autism, make sure the evaluator
specializes in educational evaluations for children with all types of
autism.

b. Whether this person is now, or ever has been an employee of
your school district. Talk to the person, and make sure that they do
not have a relationship with your school district. Be careful, even if
they used to work for another school district, make sure they are
truly independent, and willing to make recommendations for what your
child needs.

c. Make sure that the evaluator is willing to write a detailed
report, to include recommendations for related and educational
services. Ask the evaluator if they are willing to recommend specific
amount of minutes of service and specific methodology for educational
and related services. If they are not, consider going to a different
evaluator.

Once you have answered these questions, make an appointment and take
your child. Bring up any concerns that you have, and make sure that
you understand what tests will be conducted on your child. When the
report is finished, have the evaluator mail a copy to you. If you have
concerns about what is written, you may contact the evaluator and tell
them your concerns. Make sure recommendations are specific for
minutes, #of times per week, goals, methodology, etc.

Call the school district and set up an IEP meeting to discuss the
results of the IEE. If they request a copy up front, you can give it
to them. If possible, set up with the evaluator, a time that she or he
can participate in the IEP meeting by telephone. By having the
evaluator participate, special education personnel will have a harder
time not including the evaluators recommendations.

At the IEP meeting, if the school personnel will not put the
recommendations in your child’s IEP, they must give you prior written
notice (PWN), as to why they are not willing to accept, the evaluators
recommendations. This notice must include the reason that they are not
accepting the recommendations, and what evaluations they are using to
refuse. If at the IEP meeting the school personnel do include the
recommendations, ask for reimbursement of the independent educational
evaluation.

An independent educational evaluation can be invaluable to your child.
By understanding what your child’s educational and related needs are,
you may be a more effective advocate, for needed educational and
related services. If your child does not receive an appropriate
education their future may be in jeopardy!