Tag Archives: Special

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance

The Orange County Schools ‘ Special Education Alliance was created by the 28 districts in Orange County in 2003. The primary goal of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is to meet the need for a countywide system that can focus on special education. This includes offering staff development and training to school employees, creating leadership in advocating for legislative and administrative change, overseeing the decisions and rulings rendered by administrative agencies, offering a way to fund the litigation and appeals of administrative and judicial decisions and rulings especially when the outcome has a countywide significance or precedent setting in its implications for all students.

The Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance was created with the intention of addressing all the concerns of all students regardless of if the student has any manner disability. Any student that is not receiving the full services they need changed because of lack of funding to support mandates created under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The main problem that Orange County Schools faces with meeting this federal mandate is drawing funds from the regular education program. Funds are often taken from the regular education program to support the needs of special education students. Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance aims to provide the services all students need to be successful in meeting academic standards.

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance plans to accomplish this goal by providing staff development to its practitioners, use the legislative process to seek adequate funding to provide these high quality services, and when necessary, support litigation to achieve these goals. Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance also encourages staff members, parents, advocates and organizations to get involved by using their voices and contact the local officials and hold them accountable for promises and mandates for which regular education and special needs children are entitled.

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is lead by an Executive Committee that is composed of Superintendents from different school districts across Orange County. The actual carrying out of the goals is the responsibility of the Review Committee. The Review Committee is comprised of five Superintendents regionally nominated, Orange County Schools’ legal counsel, two private attorneys representing school districts in special education matters, two SELPA directors, and one business administrator. The Review Committee has been working hard for the past two years in order to try and meet the goals of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance. Even though the focus of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is in the areas of legal and funding, it tries hard to work closely with teachers and staff members so that its members are informed about the needs of the schools at root levels.

Since the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance was created it has accomplish a great deal to meet the needs of the school districts across Orange County.

Special Education Has Changed Over Time

Special education has been assisting students with learning disabilities in the United States education system since the end of World War II. The first push for special education started when a group of parent-organized advocacy groups surfaced. In 1947 one of the first organizations, the American Association on Mental Deficiency, held its first convention. That marked a starting point for special education as we know it today.

Started during the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1950s, the United Cerebral Palsy Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and John F. Kennedy’s Panel on Mental Retardation were among an increased amount of advocacy groups for assisted learning programs. This strong push helped bring special education into schools across the country in the 1960’s as school access was established for children with disabilities at state and local levels.

The parent advocacy groups dating back to 1947 laid the ground floor for government legislation being approved by Congress in 1975 that was called the “Education for All Handicapped Children Act” (Public Law 94-142). This act went into effect in October of 1977 and it was the beginning for federal funding of special education in schools nationwide. The act required public schools to offer “free appropriate public education” to students with a wide range of disabilities, including “physical handicaps, mental retardation, speech, vision and language problems, emotional and behavioral problems, and other learning disorders.”

The law from 1977 was extended in 1983 to offer parent training and information centers. Later in 1986 the government started programs targeting youngsters with potential learning disabilities. The Act from 1975 was changed to the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA) in 1990. Since establishment of IDEA more than 6.5 million children and 200,000+ toddlers and infants are being assisted each year.

Special education in schools often unintentionally overlooks a key aspect of why students suffer from learning disabilities. The reasons for common learning disabilities are weak cognitive skills. Studies show that 80% of students enrolled in special education at some level suffer from underlying weak cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are the mental capabilities that one needs to successfully learn academic subjects. In more detail cognitive skills are learning skills used to retain information; process, analyze, and store facts and feelings; and create mental pictures, read words, and understand concepts. They are not to be confused with academic skills which would include subjects like math, science, or history.

Proper testing to identify these weak cognitive skills will help quality learning centers put together a plan of action to strengthen them. This sort of training will last a lifetime. By not targeting the cognitive skills a student will struggle for the rest of their life until they are trained properly. It is highly recommended that you get your child tested at a learning training center that provides cognitive testing. Once tested a personal, unique training program can be developed for your child to overcome their learning disability.

Parental Retaliation in Special Education – How Can I Prove It – And Will It Ever Stop?

Are you a parent who has a child with autism or other disabilities that receive special education services? Have you experienced parental retaliation by special education professionals in your school district, because you have advocated for your child? This article will educate you on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil rights (OCR) definition of retaliation, and also what standard they use to determine if parental retaliation has occurred. In addition this article will discuss whether retaliation can be decreased, so that you can truly be a meaningful participant in your child’s education!

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights states that: “504 prohibits recipients or other persons from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Section 504, or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under Section 504.34 C.F.R. 100.7(e).” One of the protected activities under Section 504 is advocacy, and retaliation is prohibited if you advocate for your child.

The Office of Civil Rights has released information that OCR complaints have increased at a very large rate (which I believe is due to the amount of parental retaliation that special education professionals engage in). The types of retaliation I have seen are calls to Child Protective Services (CPS), banning parents from school grounds, and possibly punishment to a child. Parents need to stand up to this retaliation and gather evidence of the retaliation, so that they can file an OCR complaint.

OCR uses a five point test to determine if a parent has experienced retaliation:

1. “Has the parent engaged in a protected activity?”

2. “Is the district aware of the protected activity?”

3. “Was the parent or student subjected to an adverse action?”

4. “Will a neutral third party decide there is a causal relationship or connection between the protected activity and the adverse action?”

5. “Can the school district offer a legitimate non-discriminatory (non-retaliatory) reason for the adverse action, which a neutral third party will not consider to be pre-textual?”

A few comments about the five point test:

1. Under #1 advocacy is considered a protective activity as well as filing a state complaint or a due process complaint.

2. Under #2 most special education professionals know of parent’s advocacy especially if the parent has filed a complaint or due process.

3. Under #3 the adverse action means a negative action such as suspending a child or calling CPS and making a child abuse complaint.

4. Under #4 the retaliation must be closely-timed to the protected activity of advocacy, or OCR could rule against you on your complaint.

5. Under #5 this in some cases is what causes a parent to lose the complaint–If the school can come up with a plausible non-discriminatory reason for the action, and then the finding may be against the parent.

OCR recently released a Dear Colleague letter (April 2013) about retaliation that can be downloaded at, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html. This is a great resource that can ensure successful advocacy.

The only thing that will decrease retaliation is enforcement, which is usually left to the parent. I do believe that you should file an OCR complaint for ever retaliation action done by special education professionals (that you can prove of course). Work hard to secure written evidence to prove your case, as well as include the five point test in your retaliation claim, (with all of your evidence listed, and attached of course). Parental retaliation often occurs in the dark, and if light is brought to it, the situation very well could improve! Never stop fighting for your child-he or she is worth it!

Special Education Acronyms – What Do All Those Letters Mean?

Do you sometimes wonder what some of the Acronyms in special education mean? Do the acronyms make your head spin? This article will discuss common special education acronyms and what they mean. This will make it easier for you to actively participate in your child with disabilities education.

1. FAPE: stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. Each child has the right under IDEA to receive a free appropriate public education.

2. IDEA: stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; which is the federal law that applies to special education.

3. IDEA 2004: This is the federal law that was reauthorized in 2004. If you see this in an article, it usually means that something was changed in IDEA, by the reauthorization in 2004.

4. LEA: stands for the local educational agency, which is your local school district.

5. SEA: stands for the state educational agency, which is your states board of education.

6. IEP: stands for the Individual Educational Plan, which must be developed for every child that receives special education services.

7. LRE: stands for Least Restrictive Environment. LRE means that children with disabilities need to be educated in the least restrictive environment, in which they can learn. LRE starts at the regular classroom, and becomes more restrictive.

8. NCLB: stands for the No Child Left Behind Act.

9. IEE’s: stands for an Independent Educational Evaluation. These are initiated and paid for by parents, to help determine their child’s disability or educational needs.

10. IEE’s at Public Expense: stands for an IEE where the school district pays for it. There are rules that apply to this, that you must learn before requesting an IEE at public expense. Many special education personnel try and do things that are not allowed under IDEA, so you need to educate yourself.

11. ASD: stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which some school districts use in their paperwork.

12. ADD: stands for Attention Deficit Disorder.

13. ADHD: stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

14. PWN: stands for Prior Written Notice. Parents must be given PWN when the school district wants to change things in the child’s IEP. (such as eligibility, change services, refuse to change services etc.).

15. ABA: stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis that is an educational treatment for Autism.

16. SID: stands for Sensory Integration Disorder. A lot of children with Autism have difficulty with sensory integration.

17. SPD: stands for Sensory Processing Disorder which is the same as above, but some people in the special education field, call it different names.

By understanding the acronyms used by special education personnel, you can be a better advocate for an appropriate education for your child.

5 Lies About Special Education Transportation, and How You Can Overcome the Lies and Get Your Child

Are you the parent of a child with autism or a physical disability, that receives special education services? Does your child need transportation services? Do you think that special education personnel are not being truthful about what the federal special education law (IDEA 2004) says about transportation? This article will be discussing 5 lies that are commonly told to parents about transportation. Also, discussion on how to overcome these lies to help your child receive needed, transportation services.

Lie 1: We can keep your child on the bus for as long as we want. While IDEA 2004 does not address length of bus ride, long bus rides can be negatively affecting a child’s education (causing stress, negative behavior).The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) stated in a policy letter to anonymous (1993) that lengthy bus rides may be discriminatory, and may result in denial of FAPE. Why could a long bus ride be discriminatory? If children with disabilities are on the bus longer than children without disabilities, this could be considered discrimination.

Lie 2: No one says that we have to provide transportation to your child, and we are not going to. Transportation is considered a related service and needs to be given to a child, if they need the service so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Lie 3: The transportation director makes decisions about whether a child needs transportation not the IEP team. In a document from OSEP entitled Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation OSEP states “The IEP team is responsible for determining if transportation is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services… ” If your child needs transportation make sure that it is listed in your child’s IEP as a related service (if child not riding regular education bus).

Lie 4: The state says that we can bring your child to school 15 minutes late every day, and take her out 15 minutes early due to transportation issues. Ask the school to show you in writing any documentation that proves that they have the right to do what they want to do. In the above example you could ask for “Please show me in writing where it states that our State Department of Education is allowing cutting short of education due to transportation issues!”

Actually the above OSEP document makes it clear that the school day for a child with a disability should not be longer or shorter than the school day for general education students. Since a child would receive less educational time this could also be a denial of FAPE.

Lie 5: If you want your child to participate in extracurricular activities then you must provide transportation, we do not have to. Actually IDEA 2004 states that a child with a disability has a right to transportation for required after school activities as well as for extracurricular activities. Make sure that the extracurricular activity is listed on your child’s IEP, and also listed that they require transportation in order to participate in the activity.

How do you overcome these transportation lies?

1. Learn about transportation requirements in IDEA 2004 (which is the federal special education law). I use the book Special Education Law 2nd edition from Peter and Pam Wright, which is fantastic. This book as well as a lot more advocacy information for parents can be found at: http://www.wrightslaw.com.

2. Call your states Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for help with advocating for transportation issues.

3. Bring all of the above information to an IEP meeting to assist you in your advocacy.

Good luck in your advocacy!

Analyzing Issues of Overidentification in Special Education

Overidentification in special education has two potential meanings. First, it can mean that there are too many students being identified as needing special education in a school or district. Estimates of students in need of special education services have ranged from 3% to 8% of total students. Central office staff typically attempt to stay within the 10% range however, it sometimes reaches highs of 13% or more. Second, it may mean that a certain group of students is over represented in the special education population in comparison to their make up in the general population of students. Ideally, the proportion of the subgroup of students in the special education population should be identical to that of the general population.

Overidentification of students in need of special education services results in a number of negative outcomes for the students, the school district, and to a larger extent society. Students identified as needing special education services often don’t receive the same rigorous curriculum as those not receiving services. Therefore, they are not as prepared for the demands of the next grade level as unidentified students. They frequently have lowered expectations placed upon them, may be socially stigmatized, may display greater behavioral problems requiring disciplinary action, and are more likely to not complete school or they complete school with less skills than other students.

Overidentified students place an unnecessary burden on already limited school resources and take away existing resources from those students who are really in need of them. Staff time is taken up in extra preparation for their daily needs, to go to extra meetings, and to complete evaluations. If discipline becomes an issue, then administrator time gets taken away from other duties.

In regard to potential impacts on society, overidentification’s reduced demands, watered-down curriculum, and potential social stigmatization leaves students unprepared to continue with their education or lacking the skills necessary to take a productive role in the workplace and support themselves. When these students are unable to become productive members of society after school then their educational institution has failed them.

Some of the reasons for overidentification include:

  • Poverty and income inequality
  • Inequity in schools funding
  • Inability to access early interventions
  • Lack of training in regard to appropriate referrals to and placements in special education
  • Lack of understanding of diverse populations

Research has found that students from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to be unprepared for the rigors of education and lack the background knowledge and experiences of their more affluent peers. The Head Start Program was developed in 1965 to meet this need, and to provide comprehensive services to low income families during the preschool years. However, while gains have been made, a gap still exists, and many families are unable to access these services for a variety of reasons.

Schools are not always funded appropriately with many schools requiring students to bring in their own work materials, lack resources for paraprofessional support, or lack the funds to have full day kindergarten or hire enough teachers to have smaller classes. When schools are funded appropriately, the district often determines where and when the money is spent, which may not always be on the biggest needs or those that will make the biggest difference in the long-term.

Unfortunately, some schools don’t always make appropriate referrals or placement decisions. Sometimes they wait too long before making a referral and sometimes they make one too soon. The advent of Response to Intervention (RTI) may help in this area as schools should have data about how students respond to interventions before making a referral.

Lack of understanding about different cultures and the way children learn may also lead to students being over identified, especially for behavior concerns. Not every child is able to sit in a chair for six hours a day learning. There are many ways to learn and students need to be exposed to as many of them as possible before being identified with a disability.

Parents and educators need to be aware that over identification of students for special educational services has short and long-term consequences. These consequences affect the student, the school, and, potentially, society. It is the school’s responsibility to keep an open mind, look at individual differences and all possibilities prior to identifying a student as in need of special education services.

Do Special Education Success Stories Exist – And How Do I Obtain This for My Child?

As a parent and advocate for over 25 years, I often become frustrated by how long it takes to successfully advocate for one child (even my own children)! Sometimes it seems like I am banging my head against a wall (giving myself a concussion), with little to no outcome. I was recently reminded that advocacy is difficult by its very nature, but even when it seems like I have not done much or the parent has not done much—the child can really benefit!

1. I was helping parents in another state with their high school son’s education. Things had gotten very bad at school for the young man, and the school wanted to send him to an alternative school. I immediately began working with the mother and educating her on IDEA 2004 and discipline laws. I read letters, helped her write letters, worked on a settlement with the school, and encouraged her to keep fighting despite how bad things were. The situation worsened, and the young man left school-which was frustrating for his parents and me! Imagine my surprise when a few months later I received an E-mail from his mother with a picture of his high school diploma! I am so excited for the young man, and I realized that if his parents and I had not fought for him, he probably never would have graduated! Great outcome!

2. I advocated for a child with autism for over a year. The young man could not read, was delayed in all academic areas, and had developed school phobia. In my advocacy, I had to do a lot of educating of the school staff about dyslexia; research based instruction, as well as extended school year services. Another issue is that the school district insisted on bringing their attorney to all IEP meetings; even after giving them a copy of the OSEP policy letter to Clinton discouraging this practice. After a year, we had made some inroads, and the parents (and I) decided they would try on their own (with me helping them by phone etc.). After I stopped coming to meetings the school district stopped having their attorney attend IEP meetings—and the treatment of the parents is somewhat better. The young man is learning academically and no longer has school phobia-awesome!

There are success stories in special education advocacy; and here is what you can do to increase the chance of success for your child:

1. Assertive and persistent advocacy for as long as it takes. Sometimes advocacy is like a long journey, rather than a short one! Hang in there and you will be glad you did!

2. If your child is having difficulty with reading it is critical that you find accurate information on dyslexia, to use in your advocacy, and research based ways to deal with the disability. Try this link to the International Dyslexia Association ( http://www.interdys.org/ ).

3. Learn about best practices in special education for your child’s disability, and advocate for them. For example: ABA is still considered best practice for children with autism.

4. Call your states PTIC and ask about free or low cost advocacy trainings. You will not only learn lots, but you will be able to connect with other parents!

5. Consider the use of a qualified experienced advocate-this can often go a long way in advocacy success! Make sure that the advocate has experience with your states dispute resolution processes.

6. If the school continues to deny and/or delay needed services consider using the dispute resolution processes (due process, mediation, and state complaints).

Advocacy success stories to exist and this article has given you a few examples. You have also learned some dragon slaying tips to work toward your own child’s success story! Good luck!

Researching Special Education Schools for Your Child

Research on learning disabilities strongly supports early intervention in children who struggle academically. Children with a learning disability who receive proper attention and support to develop their weak areas are just as likely to be successful students as their peers without a disability, so long as their weaknesses are discovered early. Parents of students who need extra attention might want to consider special education schools. Learning about options in your area can help you select the right program.

The first place to start your search may be with an independent evaluation. A team of psychologists and social workers can evaluate your child to determine his or her eligibility. These learning experts may also recommend additional testing if they suspect that the student falls along the autism or language-based learning disabilities spectrum. Further evaluation may help pinpoint your child’s weakness or give some indication of the type of remediation that may be beneficial.

Once you have an idea of your child’s needs, start looking at the options your area. Making a list of priorities for your family can help narrow down your choices. Your list should include practical matters, such as location, transportation, availability of after-hours care and financial requirements are some examples.

Additionally, academic programs and resources should factor into your decision. Consider whether your student will benefit from tutors, assistive technology and smaller class size. Research the school’s policy on extended time or other accommodations for testing whether classes can be scheduled in a flexible manner. Many people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. Opportunities to participate in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses or a gifted program may be an important consideration. On the other hand, others learn best in a non-competitive environment in which lessons are project- or theme-based.

Finally, take the campus facilities and culture into consideration. Participating in extracurricular programs and sports can teach teamwork and sportsmanship to students who have trouble with social interactions. Conflict-resolution programs or a firm discipline policy may benefit some students.

Parents should also visit special education schools before making a decision. During your visit, sit in on a class to make sure that students receive enough individual attention. If the special education school utilizes a particular curriculum with which you are unfamiliar, request information about the program’s philosophy and methods. Ask questions about how study periods or homework sessions are structured. Teachers and administrators should have a system for providing regular updates about your child’s progress, so be certain that you are satisfied with the level of communication you can expect. Finally, ask for phone numbers of parents with children enrolled in the school before ending your visit. Speaking with parents of students who currently attend the school is a great way to find out more about the program.

Parents are the best advocates for children with learning disabilities. Exploring the educational options available and selecting the most effective special education curriculum can help ensure his or her academic success.

5 Qualities of a Good Special Education Advocate

Are you the parent of a child with autism that is having a dispute with school personnel, and would like some help? Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability, or another type of disability, that could use an advocate to help you in getting an appropriate education for your child? This article will give you 5 qualities that make a good special education advocate

An advocate is a person that has received special training, that helps parents navigate the special education system. In some cases the advocate is a parent of a child themselves, but this is not always the case. Before you hire an advocate check on their experience, and also make sure that the advocate is familiar with your child’s disability, so that they are able to advocate effectively

Qualities:

1 A good advocate must be familiar with the federal and state education laws that apply to special education, and be willing to use them, when needed. This is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), State rules for special education (how they will comply with IDEA), and No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The advocate does not have to memorize the laws, but should have a basic knowledge of what is in them. The advocate must also be willing to bring up the laws, at IEP meetings, if this will benefit the child.

2. A good advocate should not make false promises to parents. If an advocate tells you. that they will get the services that you want for your child, be leery! Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in special education, and advocates should not promise things that they may not be able to get. An experienced advocate who knows the law and your school district, should have a sense about what can be accomplished.

3. A good advocate should be passionate about your child, and the educational services that they need. Advocacy sometimes takes a lot of time. If the person helping you is not passionate about your child, they may not be willing to help you for the length of time that it takes to get your child an appropriate education.

4. A good advocate must be willing to stand up to special education personnel, when they disagree with them, or when the school personnel tell a lie. If the advocate you pick, has every quality, but is not willing to stand up to school personnel, he or she will not be an effective advocate for your child.

5. A good advocate is detail oriented, and makes sure that any services promised by special education personnel, are put in writing. A good advocate will read the IEP before they leave the meeting, and bring up any changes that should be made. Sometimes the little details are what makes for success!

By keeping in mind these 5 qualities, you will be better equipped to finding an advocate that will be able to help you, get an appropriate education for your child.

Special Education and the Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration means working with an individual or a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Its importance is most visible in education. Every day, teachers work together with their peers, school counselors, and other staff for the success of each student. And when it comes to special education, collaboration becomes the single most important thing for a teacher.

A teacher for special education has to collaborate with school administrators, general education teachers, school therapists, psychologists, and parents and guardians. Students with mild disability have now been included in regular classroom teaching, according to the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act. This has led to general and special education teachers working together, often with the help of the best fun educational apps. The role of the educator in a general classroom, involves teaching the curriculum and assessing and evaluating special children. It’s important that a the educator brings in a set of personal skills to enhance student learning. Skills of both the general teacher and the special educator should come together to help a student.

A special educator has to work closely with the school management. It’s a vital part of the job. Working with the management will help the special teacher follow the necessary laws and procedure, work with individualized education plan (IEP), and make sure that special children are accommodated in the appropriate classroom. It’s always important to forge a strong relationship with these people for ensuring the success of a special student.

Working with parents is a major challenge for all special education teachers. It’s important to make strong and regular contact. It’s a nice idea to allow parents come and volunteer in the classroom, so that both the educator and the parent can help the children. A special child can obviously relate more to a parent. If parents explain the use of the best fun educational apps for kids, it’s likely to be more believable to the children.

Working with school therapists and psychologists is another key collaboration of a special educator. A therapist can inform the educator about the limitations of a special child. He/she may even recommend the best fun educational apps for kids so that special children pick up social skills faster. The educator, on his/her part, can update the therapist on how a child is progressing. The therapist is also responsible for diagnosis of a special child.

The work of the school psychologist is also largely similar. They too test children for disabilities and ensure that the IEP is being properly followed.

Collaboration is an important part of a special educator’s job, regardless of which part of school education he/she is involved with. Whether it’s working with the school administration, other teachers, parents, guardians, counselors, or therapists, a special educator has to work as part of a team for the betterment of special children. The needs of a special child are much different from that of a neuro-typical. Besides, each child is different. The best fun educational apps can keep the child engaged besides imparting important social skills.