• Accommodations

    What is the difference between accommodations and modifications?

    Accommodations are adjustments made in how a student with a disability is taught or tested. Accommodations do not change what the student is taught or what he is expected to know. Common examples of accommodations are: highlighted textbooks, extensions of time for a student who writes slowly, or seating close to the teacher.

    Modifications change the level of instruction provided or tested. Modifications create a different standard for the student receiving them. The most common modifications are those made to the general education curriculum for a student with a cognitive disability. When used, curriculum modifications should be written specifically in the student’s IEP and not left to interpretation by different individuals.

    Accommodations to the physical environment

    • Seat the student near the teacher.
    • Seat the student near someone who will be helpful and understanding.
    • Seat the student in an area free from distraction.
    • Seat the student out of main traffic area.
    • Provide more space for the student to store and use various instruction aids and equipment.
    • Allow the student additional break or rest times.
    • Establish and use learning centers.
    • Arrange classroom to facilitate small group, large group, and peer learning opportunities.
    • Ensure proper desk height and seating comfort.
    • Ensure proper lighting.
    • Ensure that various materials, supplies, and room composition do not result in allergic reactions by student.
    • Ask parents to structure study time. Give them information about your long-term assignments.
    • Encourage teacher to move around the classroom for proximity control.

    Accommodations for Organization

    • Help student use an assignment notebook or monthly calendar.
    • Allow additional time to complete tasks/take tests.
    • Help student organize notebook or provide a folder to organize work,
    • Help student set time limits for assignment completion; structure is important.
    • Help student set up timeline for completion of long assignments.
    • Question student to help focus on important information.
    • Help highlight the main concepts in student’s books.
    • Ask student to repeat directions before beginning tasks.

    Accommodations to Instructional Materials

    • Use large print materials for low vision students.
    • Use Braille for students who cannot read print.
    • Use high interest, low vocabulary reading materials.
    • Allow student to high light texts and show him how to do it.
    • Use multi-sensory materials.
    • Allow tape-recorded materials.
    • Allow student to use calculator.
    • Use concrete manipulative materials.
    • Provide student with advance organizers.
    • Provide student with advance lecture outline.
    • Provide students with lecture notes.
    • Have spell-check capabilities available for student.
    • Provide student with pretest questions.

    Accommodations During Testing

    • Allow student to take tests orally.
    • Allow student to use a scribe during testing.
    • Allow student more time during testing.
    • Allow student to break tests into shorter testing sections.
    • Allow student to use spell check or dictionary.
    • Allow student to tape record answers.
    • Allow student to provide answers orally.
    • Use different test formats (essay, short answer, objective).
    • Shorten length of test.
    • Use simple directions.
    • Use instructional aids to facilitate testing.
    • Allow student to take test in a quiet area.

    Accommodations to Instructional Method and Presentation

    • Use peer tutoring
    • Use peer buddies
    • Provide note-takers
    • Use graphic organizers
    • Use study guides
    • Allow student to use tape recorder
    • Use multi-sensory instructional materials
    • Use audio-visual resources
    • Use computer and computer programs
    • Use simple directions
    • Provide short term feedback for students
    • Teach and reinforce study skills
    • Break long assignments into multiple, short assignments to facilitate closer monitoring and feedback
    • Provide extensive feedback and monitoring
    • Use culturally sensitive materials
    • Use low vocabulary/high interest materials
    • Use flexible homework criteria for different students
    • Use a homework assignment book
    • Use materials that are age and developmentally appropriate
    • Provide photocopies of teacher’s notes
    • Stress auditory, visual, kinesthetic mode of presentation
    • Recap or summarize the main ideas of the lecture
    • Use verbal cues to help students organize notes such as “The next important step is …”
    • Avoid embarrassing student by requiring him/her to read orally in class (unless student can be successful.)
    • Encourage student to ask for assistance when needed.
    • Be aware of possible frustrations.
    • Reinforce appropriate participation in class.
    • Use nonverbal communication to reinforce appropriate behavior.
    • Develop and maintain regular school-home communication.
    • Encourage development and sharing of special interests.
    • Use memory devices to help student remember facts and concepts.

    Accommodations to Curriculum

    • Help provide supplementary materials that student can read.
    • Provide partial outlines of chapters, study guides, and testing outlines.
    • Provide opportunities for extra drill before tests.
    • Reduce quantity of materials. (Shorten spelling and vocabulary lists.)
    • Provide alternative assignments that don’t require writing.
    • Allow student to print.
    • Supply student with samples or work expected.
    • Encourage good quality of work and not quantity.
    • Use worksheets that are visually clear and adequately spaced.
    • Allow student to have sample tests.
    • Provide all possible test items and student or teacher selects specified number.
    • Give oral quizzes.
    • Provide extra assignments/test time if necessary.
    • Make sure assignments are started correctly in class.

    Accommodations to Homework

    • Give student more time to complete homework
    • Allow student to complete assignments using a tape recorder
    • Modify the amount of homework.
    • Tape -record the homework assignment for the student.
    • Write the homework assignment on the board for the student.
    • Use a homework assignment notebook to communicate with the parents.
    • Repeat homework assignments.
    • Use variable grading scales.
    • Give homework assignment for one week at a time rather than one day at a time.
    • Use peer grading in homework assignments.
    • Use peer buddies in homework assignments.

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  • Assistive technology

    National Council on Disability Issues Report on Assistive Technology.

    The National Council on Disability has issued a report on the availability of assistive technology to persons with disabilities. The report contains a specific section on education and emphasizes the major role technology now plays in education. To see the news release and link to the report, go to http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2000/assisttechnology.htm.

    OSEP Policy Letters on Assistive Technology

    The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has issued many Policy Letters governing when a school must provide AT to students with disabilities. The key OSEP Policy Letters are summarized below by category.

    REQUIREMENTS TO PROVIDE, GENERALLY

    1) OSEP Policy Letter to S. Goodman, 16 Education Handicapped L. Rep. 1317 (8/10/90)
    a) Cannot preclude provision of AT; rather, must determine need case-by-case.
    b) AT may be a special education service, a related service or a supplementary aid or service used to maintain a student in the least restrictive setting.
    c) Includes AT devices and services.
    d) AT is required if needed to ensure that student receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
    e) IEP must include a statement of the nature and amount of service.
    2) OSEP Policy Letter to B. Orenich, Education Handicapped L. Rep. 213:166 (8/9/88)
    a) When AT is used as a "supplemental aid and service" to educate a student in the regular education environment, it must be included in the IEP.
    3) OSEP Policy Letter to R. Shelby, 21 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 61 (1/26/95)
    a) When AT (large print books) used as a "supplemental aid and service" to educate a student in the regular education environment, any modifications to the regular educational program must be included in the IEP.
    4) OSEP Policy Letter to D. Naon, 22 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 888 (1/26/95)
    a) There is no federal "approved list" of AT devices and services covered by IDEA.
    b) Students are entitled to AT as necessary to ensure a FAPE.
    c) The question is the relationship between the educational needs of the student and the AT device or service.
    5) OSEP Policy Letter to Hon. T. Libous, 17 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 419, 420 (11/15/90)
    a) Even if AT were considered only a related service, it could be provided as the sole component of a summer program.

    EXAMPLES

    6) OSEP Policy Letter to Anonymous, 13 Education Handicapped L. Rep. 213:198 (2/13/89)
    a) The related services list is not exclusive. It includes orientation and mobility training for students who are blind.
    7) OSEP Policy Letter to Hon. W. Teague, 20 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 1462 (2/15/94)
    a) The related services list is not exclusive. It also includes large print books and adapted spoons.
    8) OSEP Policy Letter to Anonymous, 18 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 1037 (4/6/92)
    a) AT devices include an FM auditory trainer.
    9) OSEP Policy Letter to C. Lambert, 18 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 1039 (4/24/92)
    a) Calculators may qualify as an AT device.

    EVALUATIONS

    10) OSEP Policy Letter to J. Fisher, 23 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 565 (12/4/95)
    a) The IEP team must assess "the student's functional capabilities and whether they may be increased, maintained, or improved through the use of AT devices or services."
    b) A parent has the right to an independent AT evaluation, at school expense, under the terms of 34 C.F.R. ' 300.503(b), if the parent disagrees with the evaluation obtained by the school.
    11) OSEP Policy Letter to T. Bachus, 22 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 629 (1/13/95)
    a) Hearing, vision, communication and motor abilities are properly included in the school's AT assessment.

    PERSONALLY PRESCRIBED DEVICES

    12) OSEP Policy Letter to J. Stohrer, 13 Education Handicapped L. Rep. 213: 211, 212 (4/20/89)
    a) If a wheelchair is required as a related service under 34 C.F.R. ' 300.13, the local education agency (LEA) must provide the service at public expense and without charge [see 34 C.F.R. ' 300.4(a)], regardless of whether the parents possess a wheelchair or can obtain one through private insurance.
    b) Related services include transportation in and around school buildings and can involve specialized equipment, such as a wheelchair.
    c) The LEA is not required to provide the wheelchair for personal use while the student is not in school.
    13) OSEP Policy Letter to P. Seiler, 20 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 1216 (11/19/93); OSEP Policy Letter to J. Galloway, 22 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 373 (12/22/94)
    a) A hearing aid is covered under the definition of "AT device."
    b) Historically, the LEA is not required to provide a personal device which a student would require whether or not in school.
    c) However, if the child requires a hearing aid in order to receive a FAPE, the school must provide it at no cost to the child or the parent(s) in accordance with 34 C.F.R. ' 300.308.
    14) OSEP Policy Letter to T. Bachus, 22 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 629 (1/13/95)
    a) If a student requires eyeglasses to receive a FAPE, the school must provide them at no cost to the parents.

    HOME USE

    15) OSEP Policy Letter to Anonymous, 18 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 627 (11/21/91)
    a) If IEP team determines that an AT device is needed for home use to ensure a FAPE, it must be provided.
    b) Example given: closed circuit TV for student who is blind and needs to use the device at home to complete

    FUNDING SOURCES

    16) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) Policy Letter to Rose, 18 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 531 (9/19/91)
    a) The AT must be at no cost to parent or child.
    b) The LEA may access Medicaid or private insurance
    i) Use must be voluntary; cannot deny services if parent refuses to authorize use.
    ii) Use of other insurance must not result in any cost to parent, such as:
    co-payment
    deductible
    reduction of an upper limit on coverage.
    17) OSEP Policy Letter to Dr. O. Spann, 20 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 627 (9/10/93);
    18) OSEP Policy Letter to W. Cohen, 19 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 278 (7/9/92)
    a) A parent's use of insurance is voluntary. If the parents refuse to consent to use of insurance, special education services cannot be denied.
    19) OSEP Policy Letter to Anonymous, 21 Individuals with Disabilities Education L. Rep. 1057 (8/9/94); 34 C.F.R. ' 300.6(e)(f).
    a) If parents agree to use family-owned AT to fulfill IEP, school is responsible for maintenance and repair if damaged on school bus or at school.
    b) If the school did not use the family-owned device, it would be responsible for providing and maintaining a needed device.
    20) OSEP Policy Letter to Rieser, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Policy Letter to Rieser (7/17/86), 2 Education Handicapped L. Rep. 211:403.
    A) Under an interpretation of IDEA by the United States Department of Education, some protection is offered to the family that moves and leaves an AT device behind. Under that interpretation, if the new school's IEP committee does not recommend purchase of the AT device and the parents request a hearing, the new school must provide the device until the case is resolved. See U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Policy Letter to Rieser (7/17/86), 2 Education Handicapped L. Rep. 211:403.

    Facts About Assistive Technology and the IEP

    Assistive technology needs must be considered along with the child's other educational needs.
    Needs for technology must be identified on an individual basis.
    Identification of technology needs must involve family members and a multidisciplinary team.
    Parents or IEP members can ask for additional evaluation or an independent evaluation to determine assistive technology needs.
    When an evaluation is being conducted, consider: fine-motor skills, communication, and alternatives to traditional learning approaches.
    Lack of availability of equipment or cost alone cannot be used as an excuse for denying an assistive technology service.
    If included in the IEP, assistive technology services and devices must be provided at no cost to the family and, if so indicated, devices must be allowed to go home with the student.
    Parents always have the right to appeal if assistive technology services are denied.

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  • Autism Supplement

    Parents of Texas' roughly 20,000 students who are on the autism spectrum hope that a November 2007 addition to the requirements for special education students will help resolve one of special education's more contentious areas. Known as the “Autism Supplement” this additional requirement for IEP consideration include the following points:

    AUTISM SUPPLEMENT – 11 POINTS THAT MUST BE DISCUSSED

    Parents and educators must discuss each of the following 11 points before creating an Individualized Education Program for a student with autism in Texas:

    • Extended educational programming, including extended-day and extended-year services
    • Daily schedules with minimal unstructured time
    • In-home and community-based training that helps students acquire social and behavioral skills
    • Positive behavioral support strategies
    • Planning for the life, work and education of children of all ages
    • Parent and family training and support
    • Suitable student-to-staff ratios for children during the various stages of learning
    • Communication interventions
    • Social skill supports
    • Professional educator and staff support and training
    • Teaching strategies based on research-based practices, including discrete-trial training and applied behavior analysis

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  • Basic Definitions

    What is an IEP?

    An IEP is an Individualized Education Program designed to detail and document the plan the school intends to use with your child who has been designated as a child in need of special education services.

    The IEP lists goals and objectives that it will attempt to reach with your child. It will also list the education and services that your child is to receive in order to attempt to reach those goals and objectives. The school can’t guarantee progress or the best program out there, only one in which the child will make meaningful educational progress by implementation of the IEP that is reasonably calculated to confer meaningful educational benefit.

    The IEP is also supposed to contain ways to measure progress toward those goal and objectives.

    The IEP is supposed to be a contract between the school, child and parents, written in such a fashion that it should be portable and can be taken to another school and implemented exactly the same way, if need be.

    What is the purpose of a case conference committee meeting?

    The school will convene a case conference committee meeting in which all the folks who will have a role in her education will attend and devise an IEP (individual education plan) based on your child's unique needs.

    The meeting is the place for you to air your suggestions as far as placement and services for your child.

    What happens if the school officials and the parents disagree about what the IEP should contain?

    If you are not able to resolve the conflict, then either you or the school will ask for a due process hearing to resolve the conflict. When a case goes to due process, an independent hearing officer decides the issues.

    If you do decide to go to due process, I would suggest that you shop around for an attorney in your state who does special education law as an area of practice. It's a highly specialized area, and there aren't too many attorneys who know/understand that area of law, so you might have to do a little digging.

    What is a due process hearing?

    A due process is an administrative hearing that is the legal mechanism used to resolve issues of contention between parents and schools about the appropriateness of IEPs for special-needs students.

    How does a due process hearing come about?

    After an impasse is reached between the parties, one of them will request a due process hearing. This request can be made directly to the school and a copy of it is also sent to the Indiana Department of Education.

    The Indiana Department of Education will then assign an Independent Hearing Officer (IHO). This person is an administrative law judge who is generally very knowledgeable about education-related issues.

    The hearing officer and the parties will solidify what the issues are to be determined at a hearing, decide on the dates for the hearing and decide whether the hearing should be open (allowing the public in to observe) or closed (meaning only the parties and their witnesses will be allowed to observe).

    At the hearing, the parents generally present their evidence and witnesses first and then the school will present its case.

    At the conclusion of the testimony, the hearing officer will issue a decision.

    How do appeals work?

    Either side can appeal the hearing officer's decision. In Indiana, that appeal goes to the Board of Special Education Appeals, who assigns a panel to review the hearing officer's decision.

    In Texas, like most other states, there is no second-tier review, and either party can file an appeal directly to state or federal court, saving parents and schools time and money.

    The panel will not reweigh the evidence or decide whether the hearing officer was "fair" or not. Instead, it will find whether the procedures used afforded the parties with a fair and impartial opportunity to present their case.

    Either side can then appeal the decision to state or federal civil courts.

    What is FAPE?

    Perhaps the biggest debate in special education cases is the one over the definition of the word "appropriate," which comes from the term Free Appropriate Public Education. What does this word appropriate mean?

    1. Your child is NOT entitled to the BEST special education.

    As a parent, you must eliminate the word "BEST" from your vocabulary when you discuss your children's educational needs. Your child is entitled to an "appropriate education" - NOT the BEST education or an education that geared to "maximize potential." Many courts still define an "appropriate education" as "access to an education" or a "basic floor of educational opportunity."

    2. Parent testimony carries little weight in the eyes of judges.

    Loving parents are biased. The parents' testimony about what the child needs will not carry the day in most cases.

    3. School staff will testify that their program is appropriate 99.9 % of the time.

    About 85% of the time, school staff will testify that their program is BEST for the child. (Note: School staff can and do use the word "BEST" - but parents cannot.)

    4. Parents must have strong knowledgeable experts in special education litigation - and experts must never use the terms "best" or "maximizing potential."

    Experts must be willing to advise the IEP team, Hearing Officer, or Judge about the inadequacies of the public school program and the adequacies of parent program.

    If the parents' experts testify that the school's IEP and program IS appropriate, parents will not prevail.

    To understand the concepts -- FAPE v. maximizing or "best" - you should read the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley.

    What are some examples of related services that a school might offer a child?

    Requesting a related service should be based on the fact that your child needs the service in order to benefit from her/his educational program. You may request an evaluation for one of the following specific areas.

    • Parent training and counseling in understanding the educational needs of the child.
    • Counseling and therapy
    • Education aides
    • Diagnostic medical services
    • Specialized transportation
    • Occupational therapy
    • Psychological services
    • Therapeutic recreation
    • Inservice
    • Specialized equipment
    • Specialized materials
    • Curriculum development
    • Interpreter services
    • Rehabilitation counseling
    • Social work services
    • Assistive technology device
    • Assistive technology service
    • Physical therapy
    • Orientation / mobility

    I intend to go to due process, but the school doesn't know this yet. What should I do about getting a copy of the school's records?

    If you intend to go to due process, request, in writing, a copy of your child’s complete school record. The school is required, by law, to get this copy to you within 45 days of your request.

    Request any and all records maintained by the school concerning the student at issue, including but not limited to: attendance records, progress reports, deficiency notices, report cards, correspondence to and from parents, awards; standardized testing results and class schedules. Also ask for referrals for evaluations; evaluations, notes from multi-disciplinary team meetings; IEPs; notices of placement and statement of rights that were provided to parents.

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  • Graduation

    These are the ways that an Indiana student can acquire a diploma:

    1. Passing the Mathematics and English/Language Arts portions of the ISTEP+/GQE;

    OR

    2. Fulfilling the requirement for the Core 40 Waiver (until July 1, 2011);

    OR

    3. Fulfilling the requirements for a GQE “Evidence-based” Waiver (see below);

    GQE “Evidence-based” Waiver (No change to current waiver provision)

    A student who does not achieve a passing score on the graduation examination may be eligible to graduate if the student does all of the following:

    (1) Takes the graduation examination in each subject area in which the student did not achieve a passing score at least one (1) time every school year after the school year in which the student first takes the graduation examination;
    (2) Completes remediation opportunities provided to the student by the student's school;
    (3) Maintains a school attendance rate of at least ninety-five percent (95%) with excused absences not counting against the student's attendance;
    (4) Maintains at least a "C" average or the equivalent in the courses comprising the credits specifically required for graduation by rule of the state board;
    (5) Otherwise satisfies all state and local graduation requirements; and
    (6) Obtain a written recommendation from a teacher of the student in each subject area in which the student has not achieved a passing score on the graduation examination. The written recommendation must be concurred by the principal of the student's school and be supported by documentation that the student has attained the academic standard in the subject area based on:
    (A) tests other than the graduation examination; or
    (B) classroom work.

    OR

    4. Fulfilling the requirement for a GQE “Work-readiness” Waiver. This is a new method that became effective May 2006 but made retroactive to the 2005-06 school year via Public Law 181-2006 (HEA 1347), which amended Ind. Code 20-32-4-4 and which provides a “Work-readiness Waiver” (retroactive July 1, 2005) and eliminates the Core 40 Waiver beginning July 1, 2011.

    GQE “Work-readiness” Waiver (New waiver provision)

    A student who does not achieve a passing score on the graduation examination may be eligible to graduate if the student does all of the following:

    (1) Takes the graduation examination in each subject area in which the student did not achieve a passing score at least one (1) time every school year after the school year in which the student first takes the graduation examination;
    (2) Completes remediation opportunities provided to the student by the student's school;
    (3) Maintains a school attendance rate of at least ninety-five percent (95%) with excused absences not counting against the student's attendance;
    (4) Maintains at least a "C" average or the equivalent in the courses comprising the credits specifically required for graduation by rule of the state board;
    (5) Otherwise satisfies all state and local graduation requirements; and
    (6) Complete the course and credit requirements for a general diploma, including the career academic sequence; a workforce readiness assessment; and, at least one (1) career exploration internship, cooperative education, or workforce credential recommended by the student's school.

    For more information about Indiana’s graduation requirements, you can visit the following website:
    http://www.doe.state.in.us/core40/pdf/faq.pdf

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  • Graduation Rates

    According to a study done by the Sagamore Institute for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which was made public recently, Indiana's high school graduation rates are on a downward trend, not the upward trend touted by the Indiana Department of Education.

    The Indiana DOE calculation showed about a 90 percent graduation rate, whereas the Indiana Chamber of Commerce study found graduation rates that were only about 75 percent.

    An electronic version of Indiana's High School Graduation Rate: A New Look at the Past Decade is available at www.indianachamber.com

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  • Graduation Walk

    A Texas law called Scooter’s Law (SB 673) went into effect in May 2007. This law states that students with disabilities who will graduate under their IEP (not regular academic standards) and have been in high school for four years can participate in the graduation ceremony with their peers at age 18 and continue to be eligible for special education services until they graduate or age out. A student can participate in only one graduation ceremony.

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  • IEP checkup

    Some families are interested in a legal opinion about whether there appear to be any potential problems with their child’s IEP or 504 plan and tips on what to do to fix those potential problems.

    Philpot Law Office P.C. offers this service, which includes an examination of your child’s IEP by an attorney and also by a licensed specialist in school psychology or an educational diagnostician.

    The examination of up to 120 pages of records pertaining to your child would include the child’s IEP, a client questionnaire and the most recent school and/or private evaluations of your child.

    After this review, you would receive a written response to your request for an evaluation of your child’s IEP.

    The cost of this service is $600.

    Contact Philpot Law Office P.C./LLC for more information about this service.

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  • Legal settlement

    "Legal settlement" refers to the idea that a student has a right to attend the public school where he lives. Schools monitor the home addresses of students to keep out students whose parents are presumably not paying taxes in that district and thus should not be allowed to attend a different school of their own choosing. These types of problems often arise for township schools or suburban schools because commonly families do not want their children to attend inner-city or poor school districts and instead attempt to enroll them in the suburban or “richer” school districts.

    Historically, in a divorce situation, the parent who had physical custody of the child is the school district where the child had legal settlement.

    However as of July 1, 2006, pursuant to SEA 39 (which affects the following citations: IC 20-26; IC 31-34; IC 31-37) provides that if a court order grants a parent custody of a student, the parent granted physical custody (or the student if the student is at least 18 years of age) may elect not to later than 14 days before the first day of the school year whether the student will have legal settlement in the school corporation in which the student’s mother or in which the student’s father resides. It provides that (1) the election may be made only on a yearly basis; and (2) the student or parent who makes the election may not be charged transfer tuition. Effective July 1, 2006

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  • Residential Issues

    If your child cannot attend your local school due to behavioral issues caused by a disability or mental illness, the school district and/or cooperative serving that school district is still liable for ensuring that the child receives FAPE (a free appropriate public education).

    If ensuring your child’s right to FAPE means that the school district or cooperative must provide an IEP that calls for a residential placement, then that is the legal responsibility of the school where you live or the school district where the residential school is located.

    Often, however, schools will not voluntarily agree to write in a residential placement into a child’s IEP due to the high cost that the school will have to pay to provide that.

    However, the schools can write in the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program or Plan) that a residential placement is required for educational reasons and then seek extraordinary funding from the state department of education, which has funds set aside for just such purposes.

    Oftentimes, securing a residential placement paid for by the school or state must be done via the special education hearing process, due to the high costs involved and the reluctance of schools to make the financial commitment necessary.

    If your child needs a residential placement for educational reasons, and you are receiving resistance from your school district, you are likely going to have to file for a due process hearing in order to get that done via a settlement agreement or via a hearing officer order.

    The school can be liable for paying for this placement through age 22 or until the child receives a regular diploma.

    ****Note: If your child is NOW in an agreed-upon residential placement, pursuant to your child’s IEP, and the school is suggesting that the residential placement should end and you do not agree that that is appropriate and if you file for a special education hearing BEFORE the projected end date of your child’s placement, that hearing request triggers “stay put” which means that your child is legally entitled to stay in that residential placement at school or state expense until all the legal proceedings are resolved, which in some instances can take months or years.****

    The above information is a simplified explanation. If you are in a situation potentially involving a residential placement, it’s best to seek the assistance of an attorney in order to fully understand your rights and how the laws apply in your particular circumstances.

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  • TAKS M/Alt

    There are 2 different alternative TAKS tests (plus the regular TAKS test with Accommodations). TAKS-M is for students who receive extensive modifications. Beyond that, there is the TAKS-Alt for students with significant disabilities (typically students in life-skill classes). All students must now be tested. This is to address accountability, and there are no longer any exemptions. That is because once the Feds changed to mandatory state testing they specified a percentage of sped students who were allowed to be exempt from testing. But the percentages weren't based on reality and very few schools were able to keep exemptions under 2%. Another example of: be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

    For students taking TAKS-M or TAKS-Alt it is not necessary for them to "pass" the test in order to graduate. Graduation is then an ARD committee decision: Completion of IEP as determined by the ARD committee which may include credit and curriculum requirements, demonstration of employability skills, and/or reaching the age of 22

    TAKS-M Participation Requirements

    Students receiving special education services who have a disability that significantly affects academic progress in the grade-level curriculum and precludes the achievement of grade-level proficiency within a school year will be assessed with TAKS-M.

    Admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committees may decide that a student's knowledge and skills in one or more subject areas can best be assessed with TAKS-M if the student meets all of the following participation criteria.

    The student

    -- needs extensive modifications and/or accommodations to classroom instruction, assignments, and assessments to access and demonstrate progress in the grade-level Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS),

    -- demonstrates academic progress in such a way that even if significant growth occurs during the school year, the ARD committee is reasonably certain that the student will not achieve grade-level proficiency as demonstrated by multiple valid measures of evidence,

    -- meets some but not all of the participation criteria of TAKS-Alternate (TAKS-Alt), and

    -- requires an alternate form of TAKS which is more closely aligned with instructional modifications in order to demonstrate knowledge of the grade-level TEKS.

    TAKS-Alt Participation Requirements

    Students receiving special education services who have the most significant cognitive disabilities and are unable to participate in the other statewide assessments even with substantial accommodations and/or modifications will be assessed with TAKS-Alt.

    Admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committees may decide that a student's knowledge and skills can best be assessed with TAKS-Alt if the student meets all of the following participation criteria.

    The student

    -- requires supports to access the general curriculum that may include assistance involving communication, response style, physical access, or daily living skills,

    -- requires direct, intensive, individualized instruction in a variety of settings to accomplish the acquisition, maintenance and generalization of skills, accesses and participates in the grade-level Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) through activities that focus on prerequisite skills,

    -- demonstrates knowledge and skills routinely in class by methods other than paper-and-pencil tasks, and

    -- demonstrates performance objectives that may include real life applications of the grade-level TEKS as appropriate to the student's abilities and needs.

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  • TEKS

    This is the state-mandated curriculum for each grade level in Texas public schools. TEKS should be considered to be the “general education curriculum” referenced in the IDEA. Parents should request (or download) a copy of TEKS for their child’s age-appropriate grade level to use in developing their IEP.

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  • Thoughtful responses

    Sometimes we hear statements made in meetings to develop IEPs for children with disabilities that just don’t make sense to us. Rather than blowing your top, here are some possible responses to the types of things that you might hear in IEP team meetings:

    Statement: "We’ve never had a child like yours in our school."

    Possible responses: “My child has had past success in our community preschool and in interacting with children in our neighborhood. It is very important to her and to us that she attends school with her friends and her brothers and sisters. We know that with proper supports and services, she can benefit.”

    “We agree that she will require specialized support with her physical needs during the school day. We are sure that the IEP team can come up with a plan to provide the help she will need. We will support the IEP team in asking for the information and additional expertise needed to implement the plan.”

    Statement: "We focus on learning functional skills in this program."

    “In addition to learning functional skills, though, I want my child to receive excellent instruction and be included with her friends and classmates in all school activities. She needs an IEP that will provide her with both functional and academic goals. I would like to work together to identify the goals for her and then talk about how we can help her with her functional skills here and at home.”

    “If we cannot provide her with good quality instruction and access to the general curriculum, then we need to identify other options available for her. We need services that will support her’s functional skill needs while she is learning reading, math and the other skills that all students will need in the future.”

    Statement: "We don’t have a full time school nurse."

    “Until we develop my child’s IEP, we are not going to know how much nursing support she is going to need at school. We don’t expect all school staff to provide services, but we do expect that a health support plan will be developed and that she will receive what she needs so she can attend school.”

    Statement: "Our district doesn’t put technology into the IEP."

    “I am sorry, but my son needs to have a Go Talk to communicate with others. My concern is that if we do not specifically write this into the IEP is that he will not get it. If you would like information on where you can find this for him, I have it at home and can call you with the information.”

    “If we don’t write this into the IEP, then my concern is that my son will not get this Alpha Smart. He needs this for middle school. We did a trial run with it at his former school last year and improved wonderfully in his writing skills.”

    Statement: "We don’t have an inclusion program here."

    “It’s the IEP team’s responsibility to develop a complete education program for my son. When we identify the supports, adaptations and accommodations that will assist both my son and his teachers, we know he will be able to learn and grow with the other students.”

    Statement: "You need to be realistic."

    “We agree that we all need to be realistic. We believe that it is not realistic to give up high expectations for her and accept less opportunities for her to learn and grow with the other children in her school and community simply because she has a severe disability.”

    “Our vision for our daughter is that she have every possible opportunity to learn all she can and be as independent as she can be. She has dreams for her future and we intend to help her reach for those dreams. We believe it is realistic to expect her IEP team to help her learn as much as she can and develop as many skills as she can.”

    Statement: "Your child’s behaviors are disrupting the classroom."

    “Yes, his behavior can be disruptive at home, too. But we know that behavior is often a means of communication for children who aren’t able to communicate well. We know that when he is able to communicate his wants and needs and when he is not frustrated, his behavior is much better and is not disruptive. I need the IEP Team to help everyone understand why he has hard days sometimes and what we can do to help him improve his communication and his social skills, which will in turn improve the behaviors” “He has a lot of strengths, too. He loves music, he is funny and enjoys humor, and he really tries hard to do what his teachers and we expect him to do. He wants very much to be with other boys his age and socialize. Why can’t we use the strengths to help him get better at handling the things that frustrate or upset him?”

    Statement: "We just don’t have the money for technology."

    “I appreciate the fact that providing our son with a modified computer and software could be expensive. However, learning to use these devices and gaining access to curriculum using adapted software is critical to his learning and to his future. We will work with you to identify possible sources of assistance, but our responsibility is to make sure that his IEP accurately reflects what he needs. We can’t end the conversation because of money.”

    “There are many sources of possible funding for both hardware and accessible software. But this meeting is not about money. This meeting is about determining what our son needs in order to benefit from school and about preparing him for the future.”

    Statement: "We can’t mainstream your child unless we have a one-to-one instructional assistant or aide."

    “Before we make a decision about a full time assistant, we need to look at what the school day is going to be like, what the demands will be and decide what the paraprofessional will be doing to support my child and my child’s teacher.”

    “I am very concerned that he have excellent instruction and lots of opportunities to be a real part of his class. I wonder how we could make sure that support from a paraprofessional doesn’t interfere with these things?”

    Statement: "First we’ll work on skills and then we’ll see if your child is ready for mainstreaming."

    “He may not have all the skills the other children have, but he can be – and wants to be -- a part of his general classroom with support. We can make learning those skills part of his IEP and his special education services. Besides, I am sure that there will be other children in his class who need to learn similar skills as well.”

    “I want to make sure that my son receives the individual instruction and reinforcement that he needs. I also want the IEP team to work with me to make sure that he is not held back or that he misses other opportunities to learn.”

    Statement: "We need your permission to use the time-out room for out-of-control behaviors."

    “I cannot give you permission to force my child into a time-out room. If there are new behaviors that are of concern to the IEP Team, then we need to act quickly to bring a behavior professional into the class to help us determine what may be happening to cause these behaviors. I need to know who in this school is trained to assist teachers and children when there is a genuine crisis. I also need to know from the IEP Team what strategies, interventions and supports are going to be developed and used so that my child has an effective Positive Behavior Support plan in place.”

    Statement: "We’ll use teacher observation to measure that IEP goal."

    “Although subjective data is one piece of the pie, it’s not going to be possible for me to know if my daughter is making progress unless we have some objective measures written into her IEP. What other measures can we use to track her progress toward reaching these goals?”

    “We need to think about some more formal ways of measuring her progress. Sometimes it takes quite a while for my daughter to learn new material. I need to know what assignments and assessments we are going to use to ensure that she is mastering the really important skills on this IEP.”

    Statement: "Your child can’t participate in academic classes if he can’t pass the state assessments."

    “It’s absolutely essential that my son be provided with good instruction in a variety of academic classes in order to meet his IEP goals. We want him to have the same opportunities to learn as all other students at this school, whether he is able to pass the end-of-year assessment or not.”

    “We know that we and the IEP team can determine whether my son will take the regular state assessments or an alternate assessment. Maybe he will not reach all the course requirement for this class, but alternate achievement standards for him should not get in the way of him learning.”

    Statement: "Your child’s health needs make it impossible for us to serve him here."

    “We have evaluations and recommendations from her physicians that clearly state that she is able to and will benefit from attending school. We and they will work with the IEP or 504 team to put together the proper services and supports for her.”

    “She has an IEP. We need to reconvene the IEP team and include a school nurse so that we can review the concerns of the school staff and add the training, services and supports needed to address those concerns. She is just like her friends and classmates in most ways and she deserves an opportunity to continue to attend school.”

    Statement: "The general education teacher could not be here today."

    “My daughter is one of Miss Taylor’s students and we think she is doing very well. However, I have no idea if the goals and supports we are suggesting are going to be helpful to Miss Taylor in adapting the curriculum and classroom activities so my daughter can be successful. We need to schedule another IEP Meeting so that Miss Taylor can attend for at least part of the time.”

    “This is the first year my child has been spending a lot of time in a general classroom. I do not want to have IEP Meetings without my child’s teacher. We can complete the main parts of the IEP and give a draft to Mr. Jones. But then we have to schedule an IEP Meeting that includes him so that our team is complete.”

    Statement: "We can’t continue to give your child special education services if you don’t sign this IEP."

    “I am not ready to accept the entire IEP as written. I will sign that I participated in this meeting, but we will need to meet again to see if we can come up with a program that meets my child’s needs.”

    “Actually, it is not necessary for me to sign the IEP document as a whole in order for the services that I do agree upon to be given to my child. If the school district has a policy about parents signing their child’s IEP or losing services, I would like to see a copy of that policy.”

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  • Top 10 Tips for Parents

    This link is to a Powerpoint presentation given all over the state by Dorene Philpot that contains her “Top 10 Tips for Parents.” Feel free to use and distribute this information to anyone who you think would benefit from it.

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  • Wheelchairs

    It is impermissible for a student to be barred from access to classes and other activities that regular education peers are provided and which could easily be provided by the school through accommodations, such as a wheelchair or wheelchair accessibility.

    For example, a district was required to incur a minimal, nonrecurring expense necessary to make a local school closest to the home of a student who used a wheelchair accessible. The district’s decision to place the student at a middle school which was accessible to wheelchair uses was impermissibly based upon physical accessibility only, rather than the student’s needs. Moreover the expenditure would benefit not only the student but the larger constituency of all wheelchair users as well. San Antonio Indep School Dist., 17 EHLR 1168 (SEA TX 1991).

    If your child is being barred from classes, field trips or activities, you should ask for a planning meeting to address that problem and incorporate the solutions into your child’s 504 plan or IEP. It’s helpful to get a letter from your child’s physician indicating the problem and the need for a "reasonable accommodation" for the child.

    Use IDEA/504 approach to obtain the wheelchair for the child, having the provision of/training in the use of a wheelchair added to her IEP under functional goals for independence/self-help skills - including the use of the wheelchair with any needed assistance to allow her to participate in extracurricular events and activities.

    A common wheelchair accessibility issue occurs when a school tells a family that a child cannot participate in field trips due to wheelchair accessibility problems.

    One creative parent resolved the problem by giving the school written notice that she was going to rent a wheelchair for the child and would send them the bill and that she expected that the school would need to arrange to transport the chair and child for the trip. The school saw the error of its ways and took care of the problem.

    Several OCR regulations and opinions have dealt with this issue in the past. The right to access to ALL school activities, including extracurricular activities, is an area in which OCR is very supportive of student rights.

    Following are citations to 504 regs, followed by citations to some OCR letters and rulings:

    The federal regulations governing Section 504 can be found in Volume 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“C.F.R.”).

    34 C.F.R. § 104.37 sets forth the requirement that public schools provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity as that available to non-disabled students to participate in non-academic and extracurricular services and activities. This section reads as follows:

    § 104.37 Nonacademic services.

    (a) General.
    (1) A recipient to which this subpart applies shall provide non-academic and extracurricular services and activities in such manner as is necessary to afford handicapped students an equal opportunity for participation in such services and activities.
    (2) Nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities may include counseling services, physical recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the recipients, referrals to agencies which provide assistance to handicapped persons, and employment of students, including both employment by the recipient and assistance in making available outside employment.

    Note that §104.34, which addresses “Educational Settings,” provides, with respect to Nonacademic Settings, as follows:

    (b) Nonacademic settings. In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including meals, recess periods, and the services and activities set for in § 104.37(a)(2), a recipient shall ensure that handicapped persons participate with nonhandicapped persons in such activities and services to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the handicapped person in question.

    *********

    See Williamstown (MA) Publ. Schs., OCR I, Boston MA, 2003, 39 IDELR 43, in which a parent had complained that the district denied her daughter, who had spastic cerebral palsy, access to a computer lab, the choral group and a field trip. When OCR investigated, it found that the student had been unable to accompany her class on a field trip because there was no plan for transportation. OCR found that the district did not provide the student with an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. The case was resolved by the district agreeing to provide, inter alia, appropriate transportation to allow such equal access.

    See Chino Valley (CA) Unified School Dist.,OCR, 3/10/2000, addressing a complaint that 12th grade students with disabilities were excluded from a field trip to Medieval Times. In it letter, OCR states:

    "Section 504 prohibits the exclusion of students from participation in any school activity on the basis of disability."

    The matter was resolved by the district entering into a written agreement under which it agreed to sponsor a second field trip to Medieval Times, and pay the total cost for all the students who had been previously excluded. Additionally the district agreed that in the future, all eligible students, including those with disabilities, would be invited to attend such field trips. In addition, the District agreed to provide Section 504 disability sensitivity training to all high school administrators. Based on all these assurances, OCR indicated that it would consider the matter resolved, but that "OCR will monitor the

    District's full implementation of the commitments contained in the VRP" [voluntary resolution process].

    See Chesterfield (VA) County Public Schools, ICR XI D.C. 2003, 39 IDELR 163, in which OCR approved a settlement agreement after students with mobility impairments complained that field trips to a local movie theater were not accessible. OCR agreed that it was inappropriate for school personnel to carry the students to the second floor so they could see the performance, and approved the district's agreement to request the theater to make the performance wheelchair accessible.

    See Rim of the World (CA) Unified Sch Dist., 38 IDELR 101, OCR OX (2002), in which a district avoided a finding of violation of 504 when a teacher told a blind student that he could not participate in a field trip unless accompanied by a family member only because OCR found that this was a "miscommunication" and an "isolated incident" by a teacher who was not the student's normal teacher and because the teacher was not stating school policy - - the student had gone on other field trips without any requirement of a family member coming along.

    See Ramirez v D. of Columbia, 32 IDELR 87 (US D.Ct. DC, 2000). In holding that the school had to modify a restroom so the student could maneuver his wheelchair through the doorway, the court ruled that access was required under IDEA and 504. The court noted that regs implementing the ADA and 504 require a program "when viewed in its entirety" to be "readily accessible to individuals with disabilities." It also referenced Appendix A to 28 CFR §35.150(b)(1), which discusses acceptable vs. unacceptable ways to provide program accessibility. (Carrying the child is not considered an acceptable method for achieving program accessibility,)

    See also Evans County (GA) Sch. District, OCR June 30, 1999, in which OCR approved a settlement requiring the district to hire an architect to renovate the entire school system. Among other complaints that were addressed, the student with a mobility impairment had been excluded from a pep rally because he was unable to open the gymnasium doors. With respect to access to the pep rally, the case states:

    "With respect to the allegation that the Student was treated differently than students without disabilities when left outside the gym during a pep rally because he was unable to open the gym doors, the District informed OCR that the Complainant notified the Special Education Direction (Director) of the incident. The Director and the classroom teacher apologized to the Student and the Complainant and developed a plan to insure that the incident would not reoccur. . . . As a result of the District's actions, OCR considers the matter resolved."

    See also Bad Axe (MI) Pub. Sch. OCR Region V 20 IDELR 819 (7/23/93) finding numerous violations of 504 accessibility requirements, including lack of accessibility to the spectator seating in the football stadium because there were no curb cuts to allow individuals in wheelchairs to reach the seating area.

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