Tag Archives: ieps

SPED Parents Beware!: 10 SPED Mistakes to Watch Out For

15 Jan

Deciding to place your child in special education is never an easy decision to make.  As parents we worry if we are making the right decision and if the school will do their best to service our child’s needs.  I like to think that all schools, every where, are doing their best to meet the need of all the children they serve.  However, I know this is not true, so, based on my experience as a parent and teacher, I have come up with a list of ten things to watch out for.  Any of these things could* signal to you that your child’s school is not complying with special education regulations.

10.  Not Informing You of Your Rights:  The school should give you a copy of your rights (called the Parental Safeguards) every year.

9.  Completing Paperwork Late:  A new IEP is written every 12 months, your child is re-evaluated every 3 years, & testing is done within 30 days from permission granted.

8.  Being Inflexible About Meeting Dates & Times:  The school is required to make an effort to have parents at the meetings.  If you request a change in date or time, it should be granted.

7.  Missed Service:  The IEP is a legally binding contract.  The service time must be provided.  If a teacher or specialist is out, that service time is to be made up to your child.

6.  Unmeasured Progress &/or Goals:  The school needs to keep track of your child’s progress (or lack of progress) on  the IEP goals.  They need to report this to you in progress reports.

5.  IEPs that are not Individualized:  Some schools write IEPs for groups of students.  IEPs must be individualized.  Be sure your child’s IEP matches their unique needs.

4.  Under-qualified Staff:  Ask if the teacher providing the service is licensed in special education, occupational therapy, etc.  A teacher’s aide shouldn’t be the main service provider.

3.  Not Accepting Parent Input at Meetings:  You’re an equal member of the IEP team and should be treated that way.  Your ideas count and should be taken seriously.

2.  Unauthorized Changes to IEP:  An IEP cannot be changed with out your permission (even something small).  Once you sign it, it’s a legal document.

1.  Non-Negotiation with Parents:  The school should try to resolve disagreements with parents.  The “my way or the highway” approach to IEPs shouldn’t be the expectation.

*Keep in mind that laws differ from state to state and that sometimes schools make honest mistakes.  If you find any of these mistakes being made at your child’s school, I would carefully investigate by first, reading the parental safeguards that you should have received, second, researching your state laws, and finally, asking some carefully worded questions (with a follow-up in writing).  I suggest that parents assume positive intentions from their child’s school, however, it is the obligation of school staff to know the laws and to follow them.

Does my child really need an IEP?

28 May

Does my child really need an IEP?

This is a question that many of us have wondered about. We worry that by allowing the school to give our children special education that they will be labeled and tracked for the rest of their school days.  We wonder if they will be denied by colleges if they see SPED on their records.  What will the other children think and say? As parents, we worry about the lasting effects of special education on our children.  Stereotyping, assumptions, bullying, and poor self-esteem are some of the negative things we hear about special education.  So you ask, “Is all of this worth allowing the school to put my child on an IEP?”  If you consider the benefits that your child may receive from being on an IEP, you may decide the answer to your question is yes.

What are the positives  if my child were put on an IEP?

While it is true that sometimes people make assumptions (or stereotype) children in special education, most educational professionals are aware that children with disabilities have strengths as well as their weaknesses.  When an IEP is written for your child, there will be a specific place where the team will write your child’s strengths.  These strengths will be reported by you, the teachers, and the specialists who tested your child.  The IEP should be designed to work off of your child’s areas of strength.  Without the IEP to guide them, many general education teachers may never get to the point where they even discover your child’s strengths because they are so focused on catching them up in their areas of weakness.   The weakness becomes the focal point for instruction, not your child’s strength.

Yes, it is also true that children in special education are victims of bullying.  However, in recent studies it has been found that 1 in 4 of all children are victims of bullying at some point in their childhood.  Bullying has become a hot topic in education now.  Schools are working on coming up with prevention plans for all children.  In Massachusetts, a bullying prevention law was recently passed in congress.  Because of the increase of inclusion programs for special education students, children are more accepting  of a child’s differences than they were in the past.  Children and adults with disabilities are no longer hidden away, they are involved in the school and general community.  While every parent should stay vigilant about bullying, I would not deny my child services because I thought they may get bullied.  There are ways to prevent and stop that problem if it were to occur.

While poor self-esteem is a definite concern for any child that struggles in school, giving a child help usually does not cause a child to have low self esteem.  In fact failing school or struggling with grade-level work is more likely to cause the low self-esteem of a child with learning disabilities.  Children are happy when they feel successful, when they are accomplishing their goals, and when they are not struggling.  Receiving more time from teachers, instruction that is at their level and tailored to build off their strengths will only help to raise the child’s self-esteem.  Another important consideration is that special education services are a matter of confidentiality.  It is not noted in a child’s permanent record or on their report cards that they are receiving special education services.  This information is kept in a separate file and not shared with staff that does not work directly with your child.

If my child’s IEP is carefully planned, written, and carried out, what could be the benefits?

  • Lower teachers to student ratios (more time face to face with the teacher)
  • More time given for review of curriculum (this is extra help for the child)
  • Special testing accommodations (no time limits, use of reference sheets, use of a scribe)
  • Accommodations in the classroom (less homework, use of a spell checker, books on CD)
  • Specialized instruction (Wilson Reading, Orton-Gillingham, Touch Math)
  • Special therapies (physical or occupational therapy, social skills groups)
  • Use of non-standard accommodations (sensory stimulation, fidget-toys, seat cushions, behavior modification plans)
  • No cost summer program
  • Accountability (progress reports, frequent assessment of goals, yearly team meetings)
  • Confidentiality

While special education is not right for every child, it is exactly what others need to be successful. Consider the positives as closely as you consider the negatives when you are deciding whether to give your consent.  Again, I suggest you do your research about your child’s disability, take the time to visit the school and see their special education program, and know what options are available to your child before you make any decisions.

NOTE:  If you feel your child needs special education services and was denied by the school district, there are things you can do to try to get your child the help they need.  I discuss this issue further in What You Can Do if Your Child Has Been Denied SPED Services .

What is Special Education? (Types of Placements for Your Child)

27 May

Learn about how special education services are delivered in the public school system now, as compared to just twenty years ago. 

Special education is individualized, specialized academic instruction for students that have a qualifying disability.  Basically, it is giving a student what they need to achieve to their greatest potential.  So why do so many people have a negative reaction when they hear the words special education?

 It may conjure up images from their own childhood; perhaps they recall children in hidden classrooms, never mixing with the rest of the student body.  They may remember these students being bullied and alienated at school or in the neighborhood.  It is true that in the not so distant past, special education was not what most of us would want for our children.  However, much has changed!

Special education as we know it today has only been around since the 1970’s, but it has gone through several major overhauls in the past 30 years.  Once, special education was one size fits all.  That meant all the children with physical or learning differences were kept together in one room, while the rest were taught the curriculum.  That is not the case now. In the 1990’s special education made a shift toward mainstreaming, or including children in the regular general classroom as much as possible.  This means that many children that would’ve been put into separate classrooms, away from their peers, are now being educated in the general classroom.  It turns out that this model of special education benefits not only the child with special needs, but also the typical students.  Children are seen as individuals, with different needs.

Some children do not benefit from mainstreaming or inclusion, they need more intensive, therapeutic instruction that needs to be delivered in a separate classroom.  However, these students are not hidden away in the bowels of school buildings anymore.  All efforts should be made to have separate classrooms mixed in with general classrooms.  Some students need to be educated in specialized schools because they need a wrap-around approach to their education.  There are many ways that districts deliver special education services to students.  Here are the 4 methods used in public school districts:

Full Inclusion:  In this model, the general education (gen. ed.) teacher and a sped teacher collaborate in the gen. ed. classroom.  This model can look different in different schools.  Sometimes a sped teacher is leading a small group within the classroom, other times the sped teacher is assisting the gen. ed. teacher.  The student will receive accommodations, changes in the classroom environment, that will help them access the gen. ed. curriculum (Eg. Have the student sit closer to the teacher).  Sometimes the curriculum will be modified for the student so they can complete the same or similar activity as the rest of the class (Eg. Give the student less problems to solve).

Partial-Inclusion (Pull-out):   Schools will have designated areas (usually called resource rooms) where service is given to sped students only.  The students will leave their gen. ed. classroom during the subject area that they need assistance in and go to the resource room to receive their instruction.  Sometimes the instruction is very similar to what the gen. ed. students are learning, other times it is not.  Students are taken to the resource room for various reasons.  Some common reasons for using this model instead of full-inclusion is that the student’s instructional level is well-below the grade level, the student requires a different type of program (especially true for students with reading disabilities) than the other students are using, or the student requires a small group setting with a slower pace and frequent review.  Many resource rooms have more than one staff member working with students, so the students get more teacher time.

Substantially Separate Classrooms: Classrooms for children that benefit from a small group setting for most of the day.   Usually there is more than one adult in the room so students get a lot of one-on-one instruction.  Students in these classrooms are usually mainstreamed for a small part of the day (gym, music, art, etc.).  The room is usually operating much differently than a gen. ed. classroom, using more therapeutic programs and highly specialized instruction methods.  Usually substantially separate classrooms include students that all have the same or similar disability.  The students in these classrooms usually have significant difficulty accessing the gen. ed. curriculum, but they may not necessarily be cognitively impaired.

Outside Placement:  Sometimes a district does not have the facilities, staff, or resources to service a student.  In that case, schools will place the student in an outside placement.  An outside placement will be in a different school, either publicly funded or private. A publicly funded outside placement will typically be an educational collaborative.  A collaborative is several school districts pooling  funds, staff, and resources to offer services to their most disable students.  Sometimes the services are provided in a public school building, but usually the collaborative will have its own space.  Sometimes, districts will pay to send students to a privately funded school because they do not have the ability to educate the student in their district or in a collaborative.  Districts use this option as a last resort because it can be very costly.  The school must pay for the tuition and the transportation fees.  In certain rare instances a district will split the cost of a private outside placement with the parents.

Because special educators work to meet the individual needs of their students, there is not one model of service delivery that will benefit all children.  It really depends on the needs of the child, the degree of disability, and preferences of the child’s family.  When you are considering what type of placement is best for your child try to put your own bias aside.  Forget what you felt like when you were a child.  Instead, investigate the placements available at your child’s school.  Talk to the teachers, observe the settings, and consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  If they work better in a small group with more teacher supervision, then a partial-inclusion program may be best for them.  If your child requires unique instruction methods most of the time, a separate setting may make sense.  Try to keep an open mind and arm yourself with information.