Understanding the Special Education Process

Whether you choose private or public education you need to be assured that your child is receiving maximum support in school. Often procedures and programs are overwhelming. In order to make informed decisions, it is important to understand the special education process and to know your rights. Although schools differ slightly when identifying children who qualify for special education services the process is fairly consistent between states. If your child is experiencing difficulties in any area of learning, your involvement benefits your child in many ways. The better informed you are as a parent the more effective the interventions become. The types of concerns addressed may include academics, behavior, social/emotional, and health issues. You may be the first to express a concern, or the school might notify you. Before your child can be identified as having special education needs, however, schools must follow certain guidelines. Pre-referral is an important part of the special education process.

Pre-referral helps to make certain that your child is provided with appropriate modifications and accommodations before being referred for special education testing. These strategies may include, but are not limited to, physical placement in the classroom, presentation and modification of materials, as well as individualized behavior plans. Often the modifications and strategies that are recommended provide your child with enough support that academic performance is improved and special education services are not required.

Different states refer to the child study team by different names. In some states the team is a function of general education, in others, the team is a part of the special education program. In any case, it is a school site committee whose primary function is to ensure that each child receives the most appropriate classroom support. The meetings are usually held in your child’s classroom or in an office at the school site, before or after school, allowing your child’s teacher to participate. By providing early identification and intervention for students who are experiencing difficulty in school, the child study team serves as a problem solving forum. The team works together in order to determine your child’s strengths and areas of difficulty. Your participation is very important. This is your opportunity to ask questions and provide critical information about your child. Members of the team will brainstorm in order to develop strategies and an action plan. Later the members will monitor, assess, and discuss the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan that was developed by the team. You have the right to ask questions and call additional meetings, if necessary. Team meeting notes will be taken and copies should be distributed to all members of the team. This documentation demonstrates that the school is providing your child with the legally required general education interventions. Team members vary depending on numerous factors. Often the general education teacher will be involved, as will a counselor, school psychologist, and/or an administrator. Teams may also include special education and related service providers. As the parent, you are an integral part of the team. While the school has the responsibility to invite you at a convenient time it is not absolutely required that you attend. It is however highly recommended as you have a wealth of information regarding your child’s preferred learning styles, health and educational history, behavior, personality traits, areas of difficulty, and strengths.

Typically a meeting is scheduled when there is a concern regarding behavior or academic performance. Anyone who works with a child may make this referral, frequently in written form. Often it is the classroom teacher who requests the meeting. As a parent you also have the right to request a meeting by contacting your child’s teacher or the school principal. Each team member may provide information and make suggestions. The team begins by discussing your child’s strengths and interests, information is shared, and specific concerns will be addressed. The team will review interventions that have already been implemented and how successful they have been. The team will then brainstorm possible additional interventions and will determine which strategies will be put into action. Team members will then be assigned tasks that they will help implement or research. A time-line will be determined by the team. There will be a follow up meeting in order to assess the successfulness of the strategies. The team may determine that sufficient progress has been noted and that testing for special education is not needed at this time. It may be determined that the team will reconvene in order to implement new strategies and monitor progress. If insufficient progress has been noted, a referral for special education assessment may be recommended in order to evaluate whether or not your child may have some type of learning disability.

The pre-referral process is one step in the special education process. It provides an excellent opportunity for you to collaborate with a team in order to insure that your child receive the most effective instruction designed to meet his or her unique needs. The process is most successful when it identifies and utilizes all available resources in order to appropriately support your child.

The administrator or designee supports the team by presenting the agenda, directing the meeting, answering questions, providing information, and offering support to you and other team members. The general education teacher provides up to date information regarding your child. They will listen to information, help to clarify concerns, and participate in the development of behavioral and academic interventions.

As the parent, you are a vital member of the team. Your presence at the meeting is invaluable as you will be asked to provide information pertaining to your child. These areas may include academic history, health and development, family matters, and social/emotional concerns. The information that you provide is confidential.

Having your child attend depends on the appropriateness and relevance to the meeting. Your child may share his/her own perspective regarding areas of difficulty and specific needs.

Special Education (SPED) support staff members may participate in both pre-referral and IEP meetings. During the pre-referral meetings, SPED and support staff members often participate due to their training and experience. Team members may include a school counselor, psychologist, nurse, speech pathologist, occupational and/or physical therapist, adapted physical education teacher, behavior specialists, and members from outside agencies. The team members may differ depending on the school but are available to provide information, answer questions, and gather resources that are designed to support your child. The gathering of information may include obtaining and reviewing records, consultations with you or staff members who work with your child, other teachers, and outside agencies. They may also observe your child in the classroom or outside on the playground. School support staff members make recommendations regarding strategies for designing and implementing interventions and modifications. SPED team members may also share information about eligibility, referrals, and documentation.

While the special education process differs from state to state, the procedures are designed to help you and your child receive the maximum benefit from the educational system. Please check with your school and district to find out more about the specific procedures followed in your state and remember that you are your child’s best advocate.

Learning in a Special Education Environment

Any child that has a need for guided education whether it is because of a mental or physical disability deserves to have the same chance in life and school as other children. Sometimes when a parent knows their child needs regulated special guidance on education, they don’t want their child to be singled out. They don’t want to have to have special arrangements. They want their child to be given attention without losing the same equality as other students.

Learning in a regulated special guidance on education is often required. It is design though not to restrict the children, but give them all the opportunity to succeed. Parents can rest assured that often it is the law that all children will have the best opportunities to succeed in education even if special education is needed. Sometimes students needing education need a complete special education curriculum while others just need various elements with education.

The student might have learning disabilities and needs extra attention to help them understand the lessons, to stay up with other students. Other students could be emotionally challenged and need special attention to help them accomplish goals. Then there are various physical disabilities that can cause the student to need more extensive assistance for their special education curriculum.

Often the definition of those being eligible for specialized education is provided by the state as well as the federal government. Depending on the disability there are various services available. Parents are asked to keep in mind that education environments are set up to benefit the child with a disability and provide them with more of an advantage than they would have otherwise got.

A specialized education environment is set up to benefit the classmates. It might be that is it more wheelchairs accessible to having equipment to help students with certain issues along with a teacher trained to help with these issues. Having specialized training will best benefit the child as an individual compared to a teacher in the traditional classroom with 19 other students that don’t have a disability or a class room with a few others that need special attention as well.

There is often an Individualized Education Plan put in place for the student. This allows the student to get assistance and education that is geared toward their needs in a way that will best benefit them. Talk with the school administrators, teachers and your child’s teacher to help design the best options for your child.

You may require talking to the child’s physician about the best specialized education program that would assist in improving the child’s development. Additionally, hiring the services of a special educator at home while the child goes to regular school is also a possibility to explore when you are looking for a cohesive environment for the child’s development.

You may explore for more information online as there are numerous websites dealing with special educators, pioneers in the friend of education that impart information about parenting and education.

What You Should Know About Teaching Special Education

Special Education for me is a challenging vocation for it caters to individuals with disabilities. Through this type of education, students with disabilities are educated effectively.

I read a line from an article years ago that states: “It is said that a society can be judged by the way it treats those who are different.”

In a democratic society it is believed that every individual is valuable in his own right and should be afforded equal opportunities to develop his potentials. The provision of special education will empower families to build future for their children, normal and special alike.

It was said that “teaching” is what special education is most about.

The role of the Special Education (SPED) teacher is very crucial. The SPED teacher has the responsibility not only to teach the regular classroom stuff like reading, writing, math etc, but also Activities of Daily Living and peer socialization.

An important part of a special education teacher’s job is the early identification of a child with special needs, intervention is vital in educating children with special needs because as time goes on children who are not coping or who struggle in the general curriculum can be negatively affected.

A SPED educator’s job is also challenging. Special education teachers work with children and youths who have a variety of disabilities. I also find this vocation fulfilling, for, it provides the opportunity to establish meaningful relationships with special kids.

Although helping these students can be highly rewarding, the work also can be emotionally and physically draining. SPED teachers work under the threat of litigation against the school or district by parents if correct procedures are not followed or if they feel that their child is not receiving an adequate education.

A SPED educator should be well-guarded by the laws. Understanding and practicing the laws will ensure a safe and legal environment for both the special child and SPED teacher.

A special educator’s battlecry should be “commitment”. Commitment spells equitable and excellent classroom. Without commitment to the chosen vocation, one won’t be able to do his/ her job well.

But, teachers cannot do it alone. Teaching is a collaborative effort between the educator, student, parents/ family and the community. SPED educators, should express desire to be the parents’ partner in the development of the special child.

As teachers, trying to reach out beyond the school to promote trust and understanding, and build partnerships with all segments of the school community is significant. Being active in associations/ causes supporting the special child/ special education can be a good start.

I would like to quote Robert Pasternack, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services,U.S. Department of Education. He said:

“Some of the kids that are in special education are not, in fact, kids with disabilities. They are, in fact, instructional casualties. They are, in fact, kids who haven’t been taught successfully using scientifically validated instructional approaches and research validated curricula in the general education system and general education settings.”

With that, I have the following implications to education of children with special needs:

States will put a premium on Reading — to deliver scientifically validated and scientifically based reading research, validated curricula and instructional strategies in classrooms.
Continuous and more additional trainings for teachers. If professional development will be given to teachers, if it’s sustained, if it’s systematic, if it’s embedded in what teachers do, then, in fact, we can go ahead and improve the capacity of teachers to address the learning needs of the heterogeneous groups of kids that they have in front of them on a daily basis.
If you are looking for a school that: Is committed to enriching the lives of our diverse population; Works to meet learner and community needs in a mutually supportive partnership; Has competent teachers, therapists, staff & facilities; Is accessible and safe; and