A Review…What Is Special Education
From Early Intervention to Special Education Services
As I sat at our first IEP meeting transitioning from Early Intervention to Part B for our daughter who is legally blind, my husband and I were told that she would have to qualify for “Special Education Services.” My thoughts raced in a million ways – but my question was how can our daughter not qualify as she is legally blind with several eye diagnoses which prohibited her from having vision to see like us! I couldn’t figure out how that worked! It seemed like it was a no-brainer! So the evaluations began. And so did our venture into Special Education Services.
We at that point, we had to go to square 1 to figure out what Special Education is about so that we would know what we were dealing with and how to best advocate for our daughter. I didn’t take a direct route, and finally found and learned from, the IEP Coach at the Parent Training Center that covered our county. Special education is for our children with disabilities. “Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This means education that is individually developed to address a specific child’s needs that result from his or her disability. Since each child is unique, it is difficult to give an overall example of special education. It is individualized for each child.”1 So the way we understood it, our daughter would have to qualify for special education services, and those services would be specific to her needs. That was the beginning ……
How Does Special Education Work?
Our children need to qualify for Special Education, so evaluations are initially performed by the district. Parents and the district will meet to discuss and decide what evaluations need to be done for your child. Parents are an integral part of the IEP Team. You should bring any medical information to this meeting to share and discuss with the Team. The Team will probably say that the medical is just that – medical information on your child. But the medical can be a first step in discussing what evaluations will be completed. Parents should have a copy of the medicals added to your child’s file. (You can request that the medicals be added to the Conference Notes for that Eligibility Meeting so that there is a record of your providing this documentation to the school).
The evaluation results will be shared with parents at the Eligibility Meeting. Parents can request to receive these reports prior to the meeting so that you can review them and have questions/comments ready for the meeting. (I would suggest putting this request in writing). Your child’s strengths and weaknesses will be discussed. Eligibility will be reviewed and the Team will answer several questions to determine if your child should receive Special Education Services. For initial services, parents need to sign that they are approving the IEP and all of its components. (34CFR 300.300). This is the meeting where parents will want to bring anything specific for your child to the Team’s attention so that it can be discussed by the Team and written into the IEP. It will be listed under an “umbrella term” rather than a specific so that the school can change/revise that tool without having to have a meeting (“Student will use a pencil grip” rather than “Student will use XYZ pencil grip”). This is why each child’s Individualized Education Plan is specifically designed for, and unique to, each child.
Services begin in the school. Parents should receive a Progress Report based on the IEP goals; this is usually provided every 9 weeks. Monitor your child’s progress for those 9 weeks. If you are not seeing progress, you can request an IEP meeting to discuss these issues.
Annually, the Team should meet to review and update the IEP. Present levels should be reported and reviewed. Goals should be revised; if they are mastered, new goals should be incorporated. Your child should continue to make progress so that he/she will graduate from high school and on to further education or employment.
Doreen Franklin is a Special Education Consultant & Private Tutor. She assists families with children with special needs with their IEPs. Doreen & her husband adopted two daughters; both are special needs. Doreen homeschooled their older daughter and tutors children privately.
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