Special Education – How to Help Your Child Excel This School Year!

Would you like to help your child that has a disability and is receiving special education services, have the best school year yet? Would you like to know about 5 things you can do, to help your child make this school year a success? This article will discuss 5 ways to help your child excel this school year.

1. Open lines of communication with special education personnel.

You can do this by:

A. Start a communication notebook; a steno pad and rubber band work well for this. When a page is finished rubber band it to the cover, that way when you open the steno book, you will come to a blank page, or a new message. Encourage disability educators to write in the book daily; what has happened, what child has learned, positive comments about behavior etc. You can also write messages about your child; sick, tired, learned something new, difficulty at home etc. By doing this you and disability educators will be able to communicate on an ongoing basis.
B. Visit your child’s classroom the first week of school; and talk to the special education staff, that are working with your child. Tell them what works for your child, what upsets them, and your willingness to work together for the benefit of your child.
C. Call your child’s teacher occasionally to check in, and see how things are going. Is your child learning, are they struggling in a certain subject?

2. Express the importance to all disability educators, of having high expectations for your child. With appropriate instruction, children with autism or other disabilities can learn academics at a similar rate to children without disabilities.

You can do this by:

A. Discussing this on your visit during the first week of school. Children will live up to our expectations; whether low or high.
B. Write a letter to your child’s teacher expressing how you believe that your child can learn academics, and are looking forward to working with the school for the benefit of your child. Include things that have worked for your child.

3. Make special education personnel accountable for your child’s learning. Some children with learning disabilities or autism, may need a multi sensory reading program, in order to be a successful reader. Stand up and ask for a change in curriculum, if your child requires it.

You can do this by:

A. Asking for pre testing at the beginning of the school year, and post testing at the end of the school year. This will tell you where your child is starting academically, and how much they have learned over the school year.
B. Discuss homework with your child’s teacher; and anything you can do at home to increase their learning.
C. Keep copies of schoolwork, positive ones and things that you think your child needs more help on. Write letters when you need to, especially if you believe that your child needs more special education services.

4. Learn about positive behavioral supports and how they are successful in increasing positive school behavior, while decreasing negative school behavior. Share the information that you learn with school personnel, and insist on the use of positive behavioral supports, rather than punishment.

You can do this by:

A. Reading a book or attending a training, that specifically promote the use of positive behavioral supports and plans.
B. Many disability organizations have information about positive behavioral supports on their Websites.

5. Tell disability educators when they are doing positive things with your child that are working. This is done for three reasons: The first reason is because teachers need to hear when things are going well, and your child is learning. The second reason is that you are documenting what is working for your child for future school years. The third reason is that if you tell school staff when you are happy, they are more likely to listen when something goes wrong, and you are not happy.

You can do this by:

A. Verbally telling school staff when you are pleased. Also write letters that will be kept as a part of your child’s school record.

By doing these 5 things you are increasing your child’s chances of having a wonderful productive school year.

Criteria For IEE’s at Public Expense – Can Special Education Personnel Do That?

Are you a parent who is interested in what criteria special education personnel can use for an Independent Educational Evaluation at Public Expense? Have you been denied an IEE at public expense, because you refuse to go along with strict criteria set by your school district? This article will discuss what criteria special education personnel are allowed to set for IEE’s at public expense.

The Office of Special Education Programs does allow school districts to make criteria for IEE’s at public expense if:

a. Parents are allowed to ask for a waiver of the criteria if their child’s disability warrants it, or
b. The criteria do not prevent the parent from getting the IEE at public expense.

Below is a discussion of the criteria that school districts are allowed to set: (Just remember that the criteria cannot prevent the parent from getting the IEE at public expense)

1. Professional qualifications; An independent evaluator must be at least as qualified, as special education personnel, who do the testing in the school district. If you want an independent evaluator who is more qualified than school person, you must put that in your initial request for an IEE at public expense.

A lot of conflict often occurs because parents want their child tested by a Clinical psychologist not a School psychologist; which increases the cost.

If you can prove, that unique circumstances require a clinical psychologist, then your school district may agree. If they do not, they should file for a due process hearing.

2. Cost; A lot of school districts, place very low cost on independent educational evaluations at public expense. A good qualified independent evaluator is going to cost quite a bit, depending on the profession and location. If the evaluation that you want is going to cost more than the amount stated by your school district, tell them that you are asking for a cost waiver because of unique circumstances. They may ask you to list the unique circumstances, which is allowed.

Another issue is that school personnel cannot prevent you from getting an IEE at public expense. If they make the cost too low, then you will not be able to get the evaluation.

3. Geographical; Some school districts want you to stay within a certain geographic area. Again they can do it, if it does not prevent you from getting the evaluation.

Below is criteria school districts are not allowed to set:

1. Pick from this list of Evaluators: This is not allowed by the Office of Special Education Programs which is part of the Department of Education.

2. We will pay but we get to pick the evaluator: Also not allowed by OSEP. On February 20, 2004 OSEP published a policy letter regarding IEE’s at public expense. In this letter OSEP states: It is the parent, not the district, who has the right to choose which evaluator. . .will conduct the evaluation.

3. If you want an IEE at public expense you must file for a due process hearing. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is clear; either school districts pay for the evaluation of they file for a due process hearing to prove that their evaluation is correct. This is important because in some states the burden of proof at due process rests on the party that files.

4. We want to determine specifically what tests are done. IDEA states that parents and school districts must agree on areas to be tested, not on the tests themselves. If an agreement cannot be reached then special education personnel must file for a due process hearing.

By understanding what criteria special education personnel can make for an IEE at public expense, you will be in a better position to get an IEE at public expense for your child.

Can Special Education Personnel Pick And Choose Services And What About Waiting Lists?

Have you been told by special education personnel that they do not provide Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, for children with autism? Have you been told that your school district only provides certain services, due to money issues? Is your child on a waiting list for educational or related services? This article will discuss whether the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA), allows special education personnel to only provide certain services to children with a disability. Also discussed, are children put on waiting lists for related and educational services.

IDEA defines special education as: specially designed instruction at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability…

The purpose of IDEA is to provide an education that meets a child’s unique needs and prepares the child for further education, employment and independent living.

Special Education Personnel cannot pick and choose which services that they are going to offer to children with disabilities. That having been said, many school personnel do try and limit what services that they will give children. This is the reason why it is critical that you stand up to special education personnel, who may ruin your child’s life by not giving them the services that they need.

If special education personnel try and limit your child’s services, ask them to show you, under what authority they have the right to deny your child needed educational services (there isn’t any). Remember what special education is-special designed instruction to meet the unique needs of your child.

Also, consider getting an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) of your child to prove what services that your child needs. The evaluator can participate in an IEP meeting by telephone, when the evaluations recommendations are discussed.

Waiting lists are also not allowed under IDEA. The difficulty is that when special education personnel state that they are putting your child on a waiting list, it sounds like it could be reasonable. It is not until you find out that waiting lists are not allowed, that you realize that you have been deceived. Always ask special education personnel to prove to you in writing, that what they are saying is the truth. If they cannot show you in writing that what they said is truthful; it probably is not.

For Example: Your 3 year old child with autism needs Applied Behavioral Analysis Treatment. The special education personnel, tells you that the class is full, and that they are waiting for additional funding for a new class. But in the mean time, your child will be put on a waiting list. Write them a letter, documenting what they said, and ask them to show you where it states in federal or state law, that they are allowed to have waiting lists (they aren’t). File for a state complaint for violation of your child’s rights.

By understanding what special education personnel can and cannot do under IDEA, helps you in your advocacy efforts for your child. Do not give up fighting for an appropriate education for your child, or their life may be forever ruined!

Future Possibilities – Education Technology

Laptop and PDA’s

Individuals in the business world have been utilizing the power of the laptop and handheld for years now. The educational community has just started to utilize these tools in their schools. Many teachers have begun to use laptops and handhelds to create lesson and assess student achievement. Students with exceptionalities are also utilizing laptops and handhelds to assist them in their studies.

The future could have every student and staff carrying a laptop or handheld throughout the day. This phenomenon is already occurring in most post secondary institutions and as the cost of these technologies go down the more likely it is that every student will soon be booting up at the beginning of each instructional day.

Online textbooks

The financial burden the cost of textbooks put on the education system is staggering. New textbooks are purchase every couple of year only to be replaced a few year later with the new cutting edge book that is not much different from the previous. Many companies are beginning to create CD-ROM and online versions of their books.

In the future we will probably find school boards paying a yearly subscription to the textbooks of their choice, which will allow their student to have unlimited access to the books via the internet or downloaded directly to their on their laptops at a fraction of the cost of providing a physical text for every student. Publisher need not fear this will not be the end of the book as we know it since we all still enjoy curling up with a good novel and love flipping through our favourite picture book.

Using the Experts

It is already possible to watch a live feed of Elephant Seals from California and have students ask questions to an onsite marine biologist. However, this could occur more effortlessly and regularly in the future.

Teachers could have access to thousands of experts around the globe and be able to utilize their expertise and knowledge when teaching specific topics. Students would be able to ask questions via video conferencing and perhaps even witness live experiments and studies happening around the world.

Virtual Reality Experiments, Activities and Field Trips

Virtual worlds such as Second Life are beginning to make it possible to create your own digital self (avatar) to travel and experience the world of cyberspace. Currently people are creating stores, team, games, homes and companies in these virtual worlds. Even corporations and educational institutions are experimenting within cyberspace.

In the future a teacher could take their class on a tour of the Amazon rain forest or the Great Barrier Reef within cyberspace and allow each individual student to explore using their own avatar. This may seem a little far out, but believe it or not it is already happening.

Instant assessment and feedback

With the use of laptops and handhelds teachers are already beginning to be able to record their instant assessments of students instantly. Not only are the teachers able to document student’s achievements quickly but with the help of virtual educational communities they will be able to give instant feedback to the student, parents, other teachers and administration.

Worldwide collaboration

World wide collaboration has already begun as students communicate with others around the world via email, video conferencing and instant messaging. Many collaborative projects are also occurring in the shape of online collaborative websites know as wikis. These sites allow anyone that has permission to add and edit the sites information. The most popular wiki, Wikipedia, is use by many internet surfers today.

The future possibilities of worldwide collaboration are mind boggling. Students studying Africa could be teleconferencing with a classroom of children in Botswana. A student writing an essay on the holocaust could have an instant message conversation with a holocaust survivor. An Art lesson on Picasso could begin with a question and answer period with his granddaughter. This is not very far fetched as many universities have been using these types of technologies to enhance their lectures and programs.

Streamlined Administration

Departments of education and school board are beginning to realize the power of streamlining educational data. Marks, reading levels, medical history, achievements, learning disabilities, attendance and many other important data about students is beginning to be compiled into streamlined databases that will help educators understand their students better and customize their lessons to improve achievement.

The Future is Now

Even though many of these technologies are available today, and are beginning to be used is some classrooms around the world, it gives us an idea of where we are heading. What educators and administrator need to remember is that we need to make sure that we keep the art and the human aspect in education and not let technology and ourselves turn it into an exact science that suffocates creativity and unique teaching styles. The possibilities endless we only need the creativity and willingness to embrace these new tools.