Aug 032013
 

The IEP Process for Writing Goals and Objectives – Define what your child will achieve:

There are seven common areas of need which may require specialized instruction. Not every child who requires instruction in any of these areas is considered a child with a disability. Only children who meet IDEA defined criteria for having a disability receive specialized instruction in these needed areas.

If you are in an IEP meeting, then your child IS a child with a disability. Through the IEP process she can receive instruction in any or all areas of need, as agreed upon by the IEP team.


Areas of instruction an IEP team can develop goals for during the IEP process are:

– Assistive Technology Usage
– Behavioral / Emotional Modification
– Daily Living Skills
– General Curriculum and Instructional Content
– Occupational Therapy
– Physical Therapy
– Speech-Language Therapy

Not every child has needs in every area. A child who has needs in every area may, or may not, require every area be addressed. Therefore IEP goals should only be developed for areas the child will actively work on during the next year.

You should know from your child’s Eligibility determination, and the type of difficulty your child is having, which types of assistance your child will require.

When going through the IEP process to develop your child’s IEP goals, you may need to ask if specific goals need to be developed for assistive technology. You may need to ask about specific skills your child needs to learn in order to participate successfully in his school.

While “Supports and Services” and “Assistive Technology” are required to be considered in the IEP process, sometimes goals are not put into place. Goals are often necessary to insure the child learns how to use specific equipment or skills as aids in the classroom.

For More info about Assistive Technology in the IEP Process

You may want to go visit the Learning Abled Kids Assistive Technology Site to see what kinds of A/T could help your child. The main goal of Assistive technology is to give your child EQUAL ACCESS to the curriculum in areas of reading, writing, and math. That is why it is critical for A/T to be considered during the IEP process.

For example, if your child can’t YET read, then he should have audio versions of all of his school books.. ALL of them. That will provide your child equal access to the book’s content in relation to his classroom peers.

If your child has a poor working memory and can’t calculate math problems in his head, he should have a calculator. A calculator allows your child to advance in his math reasoning skills while his working memory is being improved through cognitive enhancement. During the IEP process, cognitive enhancement should be considered as a viable IEP goal too.

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Aug 022013
 

Return to Questions

Q: My school says they won’t test my child because she is making passing grades. We think our child needs help. What are the rules for special education eligibility?


Answer:

By IDEA laws (Federal), if anyone “suspects” a child has a disability and requests a comprehensive psychological evaluation in writing, the school MUST evaluate the child to determine if the child has a disability.

The referral does not have to come from the school. A parent CAN request an evaluation for learning disabilities. Special education eligibility is NOT dependent upon classroom grades or the movement from grade-to-grade.

Special Education Eligibility Evaluation Timeframes

According to IDEA, an evaluation must occur “within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation; or If the State establishes a timeframe within which the evaluation must be conducted, within that timeframe.” 

In Georgia, a child must be tested for special education eligibility within 60 days of the written permission to test. However, some states require evaluations in a shorter timeframe.  I suggest checking the special education eligibility laws through your state’s Department of Education.

Your school cannot simply say testing your child is “not a priority” or that they don’t think your child has a disability.

Our school told us because our child was making C’s they didn’t “see a need” for reading services.  I told them I didn’t care if our son was making A’s -he couldn’t read. We suspected dyslexia! Special education eligibility is based upon the presence of a disability, not upon teacher-given grades.

When our son was evaluated, he did indeed have dyslexia. He met the criteria for special education eligibility.

IDEA laws say “it is important to clarify that a child suspected of having a disability but who has not failed, is making academic progress, and is passing from grade to grade must be considered in the child find process as any other child suspected of having a disability.  As noted earlier in the discussion regarding Sec. 300.101, paragraph (c)(1) of Sec. 300.111 has been revised to clarify that children do not have to fail or be retained in a course or grade in order to be considered for special education and related services.” (See Discussion at IDEA.ED.Gov)

Familiarize yourself with legal requirements for special education eligibility. You can learn a lot about IEPs through our Free IEP training at http://learningabledkids.com/iep_training/iep_course_objectives.htm. You can also learn the legal requirements through www.wrightslaw.com, http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home, and your state’s department of education special education eligibility rules.

MANY, MANY school administrators and teachers are mis-informed or uninformed regarding special education eligibility. They mistakenly think that if a child is passing, there is no need for special services. They personally hold to a ‘failure first’ philosophy, which is prohibited by IDEA. Not to mention, a “failure first” approach to special education eligibility is a form of educational neglect as I have written about.

We were able to file a successful due process case against our school system regarding special education eligibility. Take heart, if your daughter needs help.. you can probably get help, but it may not be an easy battle (and it is a battle when the school doesn’t think services are necessary and they refuse to evaluate your child). We got our own private evaluation. Unfortunately, our school STILL wouldn’t provide services because of the passing grades, so we had to file due process. The school admins were MISTAKEN in thinking classroom grades were an adequate measure of a child’s special education eligibility. Classroom grades SURELY don’t indicate the absence or presence of a learning disability.

I hope this information about special education eligibility helps. It isn’t an easy road to get services from schools that fight against parents. Just know, parents are often the first to see their child is struggling and needing help. It is always worthwhile to get help for your child as soon as possible. Hopefully you can get help before the advanced academics of middle or high school catch up with your child and cause failure.

IDEA says Failure is NOT a requirement for a child to meet special education eligibility for receiving services. The goal of IDEA is to provide proactive educational services… So, GO FOR IT! 

special education eligibility

Your child needs you to be his advocate!

You might find the book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy – The Special Education Survival Guide helpful in your pursuit of special education eligibility. The book was invaluable to me in going to battle with our school.

Best Wishes,
Sandy

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Aug 022013
 

Return to Questions

Q: Our school system says our child doesn’t qualify for special services because they think he has a behavior problem, not a learning disability. I think it’s a learning issue. What do I do?

Answer:

Under IDEA, if a child has a “behavior” problem that affects learning, he may be identified as emotionally or behaviorally disturbed (EBD). That is a special education category. Your child may need a Behavior Intervention Plan in order to function in the general classroom.

Having behaviors alone may not be enough to put an IEP into place though. It depends upon whether the behaviors affect your child’s learning or are caused by a learning disability.

In either case, your school must evaluate to determine if your child’s behaviors are caused by a disability. The behaviors cannot just be dismissed. If your school have not evaluated your child, no one will know whether your child’s behaviors are based upon a disability or not.

How to Determine if a Behavior Intervention Plan is Needed

If you suspect a learning disability, you can request a comprehensive evaluation for your child. All you have to do is put your request in writing to your school. If your child has not had a comprehensive evaluation, it would be beneficial for you to request one. If you request an evaluation in writing, the school system must evaluate within 60 days.

Your school MUST provide a comprehensive evaluation to insure your child does NOT have a learning disability. They must also determine if behaviors are caused by a disability. If so, they should also create a positive Behavior Intervention Plan.

*If* your child’s school refuses to evaluate your child, You can also tell your school you will pursue a private evaluation at their expense. They are required to evaluate under IDEA -Federal Law and to consider a Behavior Intervention Plan if your child’s behaviors are caused by a disability.

If you do not agree with their evaluation, you can also request a private evaluation at the school’s expense. Before pursuing an evaluation paid for by the school, I would highly recommend becoming knowledgeable about your child’s rights. Some school systems will walk all over parents who don’t KNOW their child’s rights, so you’d be wise to be armed with knowledge of what the schools are supposed to do.

Also, You can have your child privately tested if you’d like. If you have a private evaluation, you can take your private report to your child’s school. They must “consider” the report, but depending upon your school system, that consideration may be worthless.

Our school said to us, “We have to consider it. We don’t have to accept it. SO there, we considered it,” as they tossed it to the side with barely even a glance. The thing was, our private evaluation report was 37 pages, 10 times BETTER, and more robust than their skimpy two page evaluation report. They took pleasure in scoffing at us!! I pray your school system is more interested in doing what is best for your child. 😉

When your child has testing, it may be found that your child has a learning disability. If he does, then it would be beneficial for your child to also have a Functional Behavior Assessment. Then you can have them create a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).Behavior Intervention Plan

Your school can create a Behavior Intervention Plan with POSITIVE supports and instructions, then put that plan into place. A Behavior Intervention plan gives adults instructions about how to handle your child’s behaviors in a positive manner to minimize behavior problems.

PLEASE check out “Wrightslaw: Special Education Law” and “From Emotions to Advocacy” to learn more about your child’s rights and how to advocate for his needs.

Best Wishes
Sandy

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Aug 022013
 

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Q: I need information on adequate yearly progress (AYP). My child’s teacher is giving my son good grades, but I am not seeing the progress. I don’t think he’s making AYP. What can I do?

Answer:


A child must make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) as defined by the child’s IEP.

IEP Goals and AYP

This is why writing specific, measureable goals is critical for determining your child’s progress.

If your child’s goals are not clearly defined, the school can say your child is making progress using opinions rather than on objective data. IDEA requires that goals be specific and measurable. However, IEP goals are often not specific enough to track AYP in a meaningful way.

Good goals should be defined by some measurable criteria. Any independent evaluator should be able to use the goals to determine if your child is making AYP.

For example, an IEP goal could say a child will move from a 1.3 grade equivalent to a 3.8 grade equivalent in reading decoding, as measured by the WIAT. With that goal, anyone qualified to administer the WIAT test can determine if your child has made AYP.

MANY, MANY, MANY schools will define a goal such as, “Johnny will improve reading decoding by 80% accuracy.” — 80% of what??  What is the baseline? What tool is being used to evaluate the child’s progress to see if the child has made AYP? 

Having an open-ended “80%” measurement leaves AYP open to debate. It is easy for a school to claim a child has made 80% improvement. If you disagree that your child has made adequate yearly progress, it is very difficult for you to PROVE your child didn’t make AYP.  Therefore, it always pays for you to insist that your child’s IEP goals are very specific and measureable.

Classroom grades are VERY subjective. Classroom grades, along with teacher made tests or teacher observations, are NOT adequate measures of progress. They are subjective in measure and not suitable for determining AYP.

IDEA Special Education Law and Goals for AYP

IEP goals and AYP

From IDEApractices.org, the IDEA laws, Appendix A

“As noted above, each annual goal must include either short-term objectives or benchmarks. The purpose of both is to enable a child’s teacher(s), parents, and others involved in your child’s education to gauge how well your child is progressing toward AYP. IEP teams may continue to develop short-term instructional objectives, that generally break the skills described in the annual goal down into discrete components.”

“The revised statute and regulations also provide that, as an alternative, IEP teams may develop benchmarks, which can be thought of as describing the amount of progress the child is expected to make within specified segments of the year. Generally, benchmarks establish expected performance levels that allow for regular checks of progress that coincide with the reporting periods for informing parents of their child’s progress toward achieving the annual goals. An IEP team may use either short term objectives or benchmarks or a combination of the two depending on the nature of the annual goals and the needs of the child.”

“The IEP team’s determination of how each child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum is a primary consideration in the development of the child’s IEP. In assessing children with disabilities, school districts may use a variety of assessment techniques to determine the extent to which these children can be involved and progress in the general curriculum, such as criterion-referenced tests, standard achievement tests, diagnostic tests, other tests, or any combination of the above.”

A Strategy for Tracking AYP YOURSELF!

One of the things you can do to determine if AYP is being made, and how much progress, is to have testing done. You can have a private evaluator use the same standardized testing that was initially used to identify your child as needing services.

Many standardized measures are reusable after 6 months or a year. So if your child had the WIAT, that test can be done again to see what his actual progress is.

Why would YOU take your child to an independent evaluator? Because schools have been known to cheat on a child’s testing. There have been plenty of court cases about schools cheating. For kids with disabilities, who are covered under No Child Left Behind funding incentives, there is an incentive for schools to make kids look like they’re making AYP.

I’ve known more than one case where private testing showed the child had actually made very LITTLE progress at all. A couple of times, a child has actually regressed. In each of those cases, the parents suspected their child hadn’t made the progress the school said was made. So, it wasn’t really a surprise

Therefore, if your gut instinct is telling you your child is NOT making AYP, you’d be wise to seek independent verification of progress (or lack of progress).

How Much Progress is AYP?

Also your child SHOULD make progress comparable to his or her overall academic aptitude. In other words, a teachable child can make MORE than one year’s progress in a year if he receives proper instruction.

Remember, kids with learning disabilities CAN LEARN. That is part of the criteria for being identified as having a learning disability.

There are things that can be done in the area of data collection from classroom papers to determine if your child has actually made AYP or not. You can survey spontaneous work done at the beginning of the year as compared to work done by your child at this point in the school year, then determine if the work is better or not.

So your child should make at least one year of progress for each school year. Otherwise, your child will be falling further behind for the year and won’t make AYP. If that happens over time, your child can fall further and further behind his peers.

Therefore, you don’t want to be slack in monitoring your child’s actual progress from one year to the next. Chart his test scores each year. Look at the IEP goals before your IEP meeting. Determine for yourself if you believe your child really made AYP. It’s important to track AYP for the sake of your child’s future!

If you would like support, feel free to join one of our groups on Yahoo at: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/LearningAbledKids/info or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/LearningAbledKids.
You can ask more questions based upon your son’s specific goals within the group.

Hope this helps! It is a tough position to be in… I’ve been there!

Best Wishes,
Sandy

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