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Special Education

When you have a child in special education, the terms, acronyms, rules, and regulations can be complicated. Here are some answers to common questions about special education, and where to go to find more information.

Click below for answers to the following special education questions:

Question 1: What should I do if my child has an IEP but is not making any progress?
Question 2: I am considering moving to a different state. Can my child, with an active IEP, transfer into another program? Who do I need contact to make this transition?
Question 3: I am concerned my child's school is not really following her IEP. What can I do about this?
Question 4: How do I know when my child no longer needs an IEP?
Question 5: I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?
Question 6: What does "adversely affecting educational performance" actually mean when considering speech services for a child? Does a child have to be failing to be considered eligible for speech services?
Question 7: If my son's therapist is absent, can a substitute with no special training fill in and work with students?
Question 8: My daughter is reading below grade level and she is the second grade. I was told that her reading level will be a level L in June. Her peers will be on level N. She is receiving RTI. What is the difference between special education and RTI? How long does
Question 9: My school is getting iPads to work with our students in special education next year. We've had one to "play with" and have used many of the educational applications that our computer center downloaded for us. Are there other specific apps out there that y
Question 10: I am interested in finding out more information about creating readings for the blind or dyslexic student. I am particularly interested in early elementary school literature or textbooks and reading on tape or disc. What can you tell me about working in t
Question 11: My son is using a textbook that does not have an audio version (tape/CD) available. Is there software that will copy/scan and convert to audio?
Question 12: What is the relationship between RTI and special education?
Question 13: Does RTI have the potential to reduce disproportionality in Special Education?

Question:

What should I do if my child has an IEP but is not making any progress?

Answer:

Because you feel that your child is not making progress, it is important to request an IEP meeting as soon as possible. At this meeting, there should be a detailed discussion about the type of assistance your child is receiving and for how long each day. You should also ask her teachers if your child is making progress toward meeting her IEP goals and objectives. Request documentation, such as your child's work samples and assessments, to support their claim.

You and the rest of the IEP team may need to rewrite your child's IEP in order to ensure that she is receiving the type and amount of services, accommodations, and modifications she requires to reach her academic potential. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to the meeting to offer moral support, to be a second set of ears to keep up with all of the information shared during the meeting, and to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve during the meeting. The following articles may give you some other ideas of how you can make the most of this meeting:

Your child's IEP is a legal document that her school must follow. If you do not feel that her IEP is being met or that you and the school can agree on an IEP for your child, then there are steps you can take. The next article outlines what can happen if there is disagreement about the IEP:

You can also contact the Parent Advocacy Resource Center in your state or find other local support centers . They may be able to provide you with information, suggestions, and guidance specific to your child's needs.

Additionally, you can find information about your child’s rights in this guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), which is the current federal standard for special education. Also of interest may be the National for Learning Disabilities’ Parent Guide.

Parents can be the strongest and most knowledgeable advocates for their children, so trust your instincts and don't give up until your child receives access to education that meets his or her needs!


Question:

I am considering moving to a different state. Can my child, with an active IEP, transfer into another program? Who do I need contact to make this transition?

Answer:

This article will give you more information on changing locations when you have a child in a special education program.

It is important to plan the move far enough in advance to make sure your child’s current IEP is clear and specific before you go.


Question:

I am concerned my child's school is not really following her IEP. What can I do about this?

Answer:

Share your concerns with the IEP team at your child’s school immediately. The following articles from LD OnLine have information about parental rights and the IEP process that might be useful to you.

In addition, you may wish to explore LD OnLine's directory of Parent Advocacy Resource Centers.

Lastly, if your child’s IEP is still not being followed, contact an educational advocate or special education lawyer. LD OnLine has a Yellow Pages directory that might be helpful to you and the Wrightslaw website has useful information. Remember to listen to your instincts and trust that you have tremendous insight and knowledge about your child.


Question:

How do I know when my child no longer needs an IEP?

Answer:

Children with IEPs should be reevaluated at least every three years. This evaluation is often called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are.

IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to make sure that children with disabilities had the opportunity to receive a free and appropriate public education, just like other children. The law has been revised many times over the years. The most recent amendments were passed by Congress in December 2004. Because the law is continuously changed and updated, school districts must modify how to determine if a child has a disability. Check with your child’s school to see what eligibility criteria they are currently using.

IDEA 2004 states:

  • The local educational agency (your child’s school) is no longer required to consider a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning.
  • A school may use a process that determines if a child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as a part of the evaluation process.

If informal testing states that a child is working at grade level, the school may feel he or she no longer meets their eligibility criteria. Be an advocate for your child. You are his or her voice at all the meetings you attend. Here are some links to articles that may be helpful.


Question:

I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are a few universities around the United States which offer graduate specializations in learning disabilities. Although there are not many which offer this as an option now, there likely will be in the future.

Each state has its own criteria for granting teaching credentials to those who wish to work with learning disabled students. The recent passage of the federal law known as "No Child Left Behind" has raised standards for teachers in all fields. Because of this, you should contact your state Department of Education and get a list of their requirements before you begin looking for an appropriate program.

Once you know what courses you must take in order to get the teaching license and endorsement you want, you can start looking for a college that meets your requirements.

The following sites may help you find the right school for your professional needs.


Question:

What does "adversely affecting educational performance" actually mean when considering speech services for a child? Does a child have to be failing to be considered eligible for speech services?

Answer:

"Adversely affecting educational performance" is a phrase from the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The interpretation of this phrase has been debated for many years. Many students are doing fine academically, but still have a speech impairment. Because school systems often include adequate oral communication as part of their performance standards, children with only a speech impairment can receive services.

For more information about IDEA and Special Education, visit the following sites:

You may find helpful information from the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA).


Question:

If my son's therapist is absent, can a substitute with no special training fill in and work with students?

Answer:

School systems do not always provide a substitute therapist for short term absences. In some cases, paraprofessionals work with a child. This gives the child more opportunities to work on a particular goal, but the paraprofessional must be supervised by a certified individual. Typically, if there is a substitute therapist, it is a licensed one. If you have further questions about your district's policies, speak with your therapist directly or the district director of special education services.


Question:

My daughter is reading below grade level and she is the second grade. I was told that her reading level will be a level L in June. Her peers will be on level N. She is receiving RTI. What is the difference between special education and RTI? How long does

Answer:

RTI has three distinct levels of services: the general education program, small-group tutoring conducted using the resources and personnel available in general education, and more intensive tutoring usually conducted with the resources available in special education. So, special education is a level of services provided within an RTI prevention system. NCLB provides schools until spring of 2014 for all students to achieve AYP (annual yearly progress) in reading and math.

Question:

My school is getting iPads to work with our students in special education next year. We've had one to "play with" and have used many of the educational applications that our computer center downloaded for us. Are there other specific apps out there that y

Answer:

As more and more schools look towards integrating the iPad and iTouch into their classrooms, the range of educational applications available is growing. For specific apps that may be helpful for students with disabilities, you may want to check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, an extensive list compiled by assistive technology specialists and helpfully broken down by category (communication, math, writing, music, art, etc.). For another view of how the iPad might be beneficial for students with disabilities, The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism chronicles one mother's use of assistive technology and educational apps with her autistic son; she has some great suggestions and videos of her son using different apps.

For older children, apps like The Elements are exciting examples of what is possible with the iPad, as students can explore the Periodic Table in an interactive, media-rich and engaging way. Penultimate is a popular note-taking app that students may enjoy; students may also do well with fun games that teach math skills, such as Alien Equation. Apps for astronomy, Star Walk and Solar Walk would also be good choices for older students. BrainPop has just released a free app that delivers a new featured movie every day, teaching students about a wide variety of topics.

There are so many educational apps available, with new ones coming out every day, that it can be hard to keep track of them all. You may want to check out reviews of educational apps from other teachers to help you find those that are worth checking out for your students. I Education Apps Review has a collection of reviews from teachers that can help get you started.


Question:

I am interested in finding out more information about creating readings for the blind or dyslexic student. I am particularly interested in early elementary school literature or textbooks and reading on tape or disc. What can you tell me about working in t

Answer:

Providing accessible text to students with disabilities has received a lot of attention in recent years as both technology tools and publisher standards have modernized. The increasing availability of digitized texts from a variety of sources make it easier than ever before to find most materials available in multiple formats. For harder to find texts, software and hardware options are available to help you convert texts into formats more readily accessible by individuals with print disabilities. If you are trying to find electronic text and audio books, there are several free options available for students with documented print disabilities: Bookshare and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic are both popular options for finding texts for students, and may be a good place to start if looking for academic texts and grade-level literature. Project Gutenberg is another option for free eBooks, and Librivox has free audio books available for download. Both websites offer books in the public domain, so they may not always have everything you are looking for. If you can't find the texts or the materials you need, or if you prefer to create your own alternate formats for student readings, a number of software programs and scanning options are available; see this customized Tech Matrix for digital text. For students who are blind, you may be interested in purchasing a Braille printer or refreshable Braille displays; check out the customized Tech Matrix on Braille for suggestions.

Question:

My son is using a textbook that does not have an audio version (tape/CD) available. Is there software that will copy/scan and convert to audio?

Answer:

Scanning and converting a text to audio can be time consuming and expensive, depending on the software you use. If you only need one textbook (and all of his other textbooks are available in audio format), it may not be worth it to purchase software for yourself. Start with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic or Bookshare.org; they often have textbooks available when you may not be able to find them elsewhere. If your son has a documented disability, he can access any books from RFBD or Bookshare.org. If you cannot find his textbook through a source such as RFBD or Bookshare.org, or you think you'll need to scan and convert texts on a more regular basis, you may want to consider purchasing a scanner and accompanying text-to-speech software. What you end up purchasing will depend on your needs and how much you want to spend. Solutions for having text read aloud range from the incredibly simple - scanning in text and using built-in voices to read - to the more complex - scanning in text and using human sounding narration and converting to an mp3. For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Microsoft Word both have very simple text-to-speech capabilities. If your son just needs to have the text read aloud to him while sitting at the computer, and doesn't mind synthesized speech, this could be a very basic solution. However, if you'd prefer something with more natural-sounding narration, you might need something with more features. Find a variety of solutions for scanning and text-to-speech in this customized search on the TechMatrix.

Question:

What is the relationship between RTI and special education?

Answer:

Response from Doug Fuchs

The relationship or what the relationship should be between RTI and special education is a very important issue. Some people believe that special education should have little role in RTI, others believe that special ed should have a predominate role in RTI. Some believe that special education's proper role or function should be sprinkled, if you will, across and among the RTI tiers so that special educators are working at tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 and so forth. Others believe that special educators should be only at the most intensive tier in an RTI system.

So, there's, I think, considerable confusion at the moment as to what special ed's proper role, function, set of responsibilities should be in an RTI system. What the professional role of the special educators should be in an RTI system. Importantly, a related concern or question is what constitutes most intensive instruction? States and districts and other stakeholders are relatively clear about what should go on at tier 1 and tier 2.

What general education can do to contribute to a well-functioning, high-performing RTI system. There's relative confusion, uncertainty as to what the nature of instruction should be for the children who are chronically unresponsive to tiers 1 and 2. What do we do for the kids, with the kids who are not responding to quote unquote best evidence practices and secondly who should deliver that most instructionally intensive treatments or interventions. So, I wish I could give you a clear, persuasive, consensual sense or opinion as to what special education's role should be but there really isn't a consensus at this point.

What would I personally like to see? I would personally like to see special educators providing most intensive instruction. Special educators don't exclusively need to be those providing that most intensive instruction, but I think that's in principle, that's what special educators role should be primarily. They should be working with kids who are the most instructionally needy children in a given school.


Question:

Does RTI have the potential to reduce disproportionality in Special Education?

Answer:

Response from John Hosp

I think RTI has a great potential to reduce disproportionality. Traditionally the focus in disproportionality has been looking at counting the numbers of students within various subgroups, in different categories or placements, in order to identify disproportionality. However, within RTI the focus on improving student outcomes really provides an opportunity to change how we think about disproportionality.

Through the high-quality instruction that is culturally and linguistically responsive we have the opportunity to ensure that we are focusing on the needs of all different groups of students and all students individually. One of the ways to make sure we align this is through assessment, another key component to RTI, and looking at the assessment used through RTI of screening and progress decisions that we need to make and the assessments that go with them — it really gives us the opportunity to focus on the improved outcomes for individual students as well as various subgroups of students to make determinations of how they are performing. One of the considerations for me is to look at the evidence-based interventions, and not just the general quality — the general efficacy — of the interventions, but also how different individuals or different subgroups of students may respond differentially so that when we are judging an evidence-base we are considering the different groups and how they may respond rather that just considering the general efficacy of an intervention.

So these characteristics are not necessarily specific to RTI, the high quality instruction, use of assessment, date-based decision making, but as core characteristics of RTI they are some of the vehicles we can use to address disproportionality.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald