I. The First Stop: Identification
When teachers have a concern about a student's learning, they may refer him or her to the Instructional Study Team (IST) for review. This team may include the school principal, nurse, psychologist, social worker, classroom teacher and other other school personnel that may have observed the student. Interventions designed to alleviate the problem may be suggested and implemented.
If the interventions do not adequately assist the child, a referral may be made by the building principal for a more comprehensive evaluation. This referral will be made to the Committee on Special Education or Committee on 504 Chairperson.
- A parent may request special education evaluation for their child at any time; this request should be made to the building principal.
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II. Moving Right Along: Initial Evaluation and Eligibility Determination
Prior to an evaluation, the school district will provide the parent with a written notice of the proposed evaluation, including the reasons the evaluation appears necessary. No formal evaluation will take place without this notification.
Also prior to an evaluation, the district will request parental permission to conduct the evaluation. As a parent, you may choose to agree with the evaluation and provide the district with a written response to their request, or you may choose not to give your consent and provide a written explanation why you do not want your child tested.
If you provide permission, all medical and developmental histories should be given to the school. This information will be important to the evaluators as they complete their evaluation. Any previous evaluations should also be shared with the evaluation team.
Following the evaluations, the Committee on Special Education, of which the parent is a vital member, discusses the evaluations and determines whether the student should be classified as a student with a disability as defined by NYS Education Dept. It is at this time that this multidisciplinary team determines appropriate special education services and/or programs should be implemented to meet the student's needs.
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III. Checking the Map: Who Gets Special Education Services?
Children with one or more of the following disabilities and who require specialized instruction to benefit from his/her education may receive special education.
Categories of Special Education:
Related Services which may be considered:
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IV. Preparing for the Journey:Creating a Home File
It is important that parents have organized information that enables them to keep their child's paperwork easily accessible. A suggested format would be in 3-ringed binders with dividers or a box with folders. The following items should be included your home file.
get to Know Me - picture/strengths/weaknesses
Developmental Records/Reports- Evaluations
Calendar of Meetings, Appointments
Communications, letters, notes
Directory of Names and Phone Numbers
Current and Past IFSPs and IEPs (Individualized Education Plans)
Adaptive Equipment/Medical Equipment List
Special Events, Milestones, Activities
A Mini File- a quick reference for day care or respite providers
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V. The Scenic Route: Stop for a View of a Meeting
- Ask about rights and responsibilities if they are unclear.
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VI. Buckle Up: Assistance from an IEP!
If the multidisciplinary team, of which you are a member, determines that your child is eligible for special education services, and Individual Education Plan is developed.
The Purpose of an IEP:
Communication between parents and school.
Documentation of commitment of resources for the student
Record of current functional levels for academics and other areas, including strengths and weaknesses.
Documentation and evaluation of progress.
Before the IEP meeting:
Talk to your child about school.
Communicate with your child's teacher(s).
- List your child's strengths and weaknesses.
- List the goals you would like your child to achieve.
- List questions you would like to ask at the meeting.
- Review your home file and previous IEPs.
Know parent rights and/or responsibilities.
Ask spouse, friend, advocate or anyone with knowledge of the child you would like to attend to come to the meeting.
During the IEP Meeting:
Ask and receive answers to questions.
Clarify the educational program that is proposed.
Discuss the Least Restrictive Environment for your child.
Work as a team to explore options.
After the IEP meeting:
Keep the IEP available to monitor progress.
Learn about special education and your child's disability.
Learn about community resources/parent support groups.
A Functional IEP is:
Achievable – reasonable expectations for accomplishment from present level of educational performance and annual goals.
Meaningful – calculated to provide educational benefits aligned with state and district standards.
Practical - based on the needs of the child.
Measurable – progress toward anticipated outcomes.
Realistic – determines appropriate placement in the least restrictive environment.
Useful – beneficial education and related services.
Valuable – determines if a child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Remember: parents may bring anyone to the meeting who can provide support or additional information to the team. IEP teams are required to consider the information from an outside source. The team is not required to implement the findings or follow the recommendations, but should have all the information available before making decisions.
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VII. It's not the Final Destination: Initial Placement
When the parent receives the IEP in the mail, consent for initial services is included, and should be returned to the district PPS office.
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VIII. Traveling in Style: The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
(Where will your child be educated?)
LRE guarantees that you child will be provided education with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate and possible.
The first consideration will be a placement in the general education classroom environment with supplemental aids and services.
Your child will be, if at all possible, served in the school your child would attend if the disability did not exist.
Your child will participate with non-disabled peers in non-academic, extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent possible and appropriate. Nearly every child should have some participation with non-disabled students.
IX. Pause to Study the Map: Review and Revision of the IEP
Each year the process of reviewing and revising the student's IEP is repeated. The parents receive meeting notices before the IEP Annual Review meeting. It is important to contact the PPS office asap if you need the meeting time/date changed. Bring to the meeting updated medical records and lists of medication changes.
At least every three years that a student is in a special education program, the multidisciplinary team, including the parent, meets to determine if the student continues to be eligible. In September a packet will be mailed to parents notifying them that a triennial re-evaluation needs to be conducted for their child during the school year. Once parental consent is obtained, an evaluation will be conducted in the specific areas identified by the team; a comprehensive evaluation may not be necessary. Following the evaluation, the CSE will decide whether or not to continue services in special education.
X. Trip Insurance: Parent Rights and Procedural Safeguards
Several times throughout the special education process, parents are provided with written documentation of their rights regarding special education processes. These rights are provided in the form of procedural safeguards. The rights are intended to help parents become fully informed before making decisions, and to offer guidance if the parents should disagree with the direction services are provided. A condensed version is given here:
Procedural Safeguards Notice:
Right to informed consent on evaluations and placement.
Right to be involved in all decision-making.
Right to examine records.
Right to obtain an independent evaluation.
Right to Prior Written Notice.
Right to due process.
Right to appeal decisions.
Right to “stay put” in child's current placement.
Right to information on discipline procedures.
Right to voluntary mediation.
Right to notification of assigned surrogate parent.
Right to information on transfer of rights at age 18.
Responsibility to notify school of private placement.
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XI. Exiting the Special Education Highway
Many students who receive special education services are able to be declassified when these services are no longer needed. The CSE, of which the parent is a member, reviews evaluative data, teacher reports and progress to determine ongoing eligibility. If the student is exiting from special education, declassification is discussed and a plan to facilitate a smooth transition to general education may be implemented. For students who continue to require special educations transition planning (for when the student completes HS) begins the year the student turns 13 years old. The CSE team develops measurable goals for after high school and coordinated transition activities for college or vocational training.
Before discussing how to make plans for graduation, it is important to understand the concept of transition. Transition planning is critical to a student’s success and plays an important role in determining readiness for graduation.
What is transition?
Transition is the term for the “bridge” between school and college/ adult life for students with disabilities. This is a time to be used for preparing students for life after high school and includes planning for post-secondary education or training, employment, and community living.
What is transition planning?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) to include a statement of transition service needs when the student reaches 13 years of age. The transition plan is to focus on the student’s school courses and provide details on how instruction and community experiences will be provided to prepare the student for adult living and employment. In addition to planning and receiving information about services available while in school, students and their families are to receive accurate, understandable information about community services or agencies that may be able to assist them after they leave high school. Additionally, representatives of any agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services identified in the IEP should be involved in the development of the transition plan.
What are transition services?
Transition services include activities and supports designed to lead the student to identify his/her interests and strengths and to begin to work on the skills needed to be successful in employment and adult living. Transition services and supports can be provided by a variety of sources including schools, families, community members, and agency providers. The transition planning process consists of setting goals, developing a plan to meet those goals, and determining the transition services that are needed to ensure that the student is prepared for life after high school.
Why is transition planning important?
Transition planning, beginning in middle school or early high school, helps students explore what they want for themselves following high school. Effective transition planning assists students in school by involving them in meaningful activities to prepare them for adult living after their high school years.
A transition plan is designed to accomplish the following:
• Work with the student and his or her family to think about goals for life after high school and to develop a long-range plan to get there.
• Design the high school experience to ensure that the student gains the skills needed to achieve his or her desired goals for life after high school.
• Identify and link the student and family to any needed services, supports or programs before the student leaves the school system.
How does transition planning assist in determining readiness for graduation?
A main focus in transition planning is the identification of the skills, services, and support the student will need to be prepared for life after high school. Goals are developed based on what the student wishes to achieve and a plan is made to help the student reach his or her goals. The IEP team can gauge the student’s readiness for graduation and entry into the adult world by measuring his/her progress in achieving the goals that have been established in the transition plan.
A FRAMEWORK FOR TRANSITION PLANNING
The following suggestions are intended to assist in guiding the student and his/her IEP team through the transition planning process. This is not a comprehensive list of all that needs to be done and some items may not be applicable for all students, but it may be used as a guide. It is important to remember that transition planning is not a one-time event, but is a process that spans the student’s high school years.
By age 14, the student should begin to:
Identify interests, preferences, and needs and know how to communicate these to others.
Identify broad goals for the future, including plans for independent living and employment.
Identify and develop a plan to learn skills necessary for independent living. This should address issues such as communication, personal care, daily living skills, money management, and transportation.
Explore career options, possibly by participating in job exploration activities.
Discuss plans for graduation.
By age 16, the student should:
Identify and develop a plan to learn skills to lead to employment. The plan may include classroom instruction, job exploration activities, part-time employment, or volunteer work.
Determine whether s/he plans to continue with education after high school. If so, the high school course of study needs to be designed to meet admission requirements of the post-secondary program.
Work through the application process for adult service agencies, if it is anticipated that such services will be needed.
Practice independent living skills such as budgeting, shopping, cooking and housekeeping, as appropriate.
Review and further develop plans for graduation.
By age 18, the student should:
Continue coordination with adult service agencies, as needed.
Complete VESID Application /Continue job exploration activities.
Visit colleges or vocational/tech schools, if applicable. Work with high school and college personnel to ensure admissions requirements and needs for accommodations are met / Learn about resource learning centers in college and find out if the college your child is applying to has a learning center.
Continue to review and further develop plans for graduation
AREAS FOR IEP TEAM EXPLORATION
While the principles for decision-making provide the foundation that guides the decision-making process, the second set of guidelines developed by the task force describes the areas that the Individual Education Program team may wish to explore when developing the transition plan and making a plan for graduation. These can be grouped under five areas of exploration:
• Individual Perspectives & Awareness – area related to the student’s understanding and awareness of him/herself and the world;
• Academic - area related to the student’s educational or academic abilities;
• Vocational – area related to the student’s abilities in regard to his/her employment future;
• Personal/Social/Interpersonal – area related to the student’s abilities in regard to self and interactions with others; and
• Independent Living – area related to the student’s ability to live in the adult world.
There are key questions that should be asked in each of the five areas of exploration. Examples of the key questions are on the following page. These questions are intended to serve as a springboard for discussion and consideration. Other questions may need to be added, depending upon the individual circumstances of the student.
KEY QUESTIONS IN AREAS FOR EXPLORATION
Following is a set of questions that the IEP team may wish to consider when discussing each area to be explored. The team should begin asking these questions as they begin the transition planning process for the student (at least by age 14) and continue to review and ask them at least annually throughout the student’s high school years. As the team examines the areas (such as Academic, Vocational, Independent Living, etc.), it is important that these questions be asked in each context related to the student’s life. These questions are:
What is important to the student personally? What does s/he want?
What does the student want and need to know? How aware is the student of
his or her options?
What do the parents want and need to know? How aware are they of the options available?
What natural supports are available for the student?
What information is needed to assist in the decision-making process?
What voices, perspectives, or experiences of others should be considered?
What do the student’s environment and community have to offer?
What services and/or supports might the student need to be successful in the adult world? If adult agency services or post-secondary education are recommended, what needs to be done to prepare the student?
In considering these areas for exploration, the IEP team may wish to break down the process into questions that are oriented to the student and those that are oriented to the student’s environment. Exploring the issues oriented to the student includes looking at the strengths, abilities, preferences, and interests of the student. This includes examining the expectations demonstrated or expressed by the student. Exploring the issues oriented to the student’s environment takes into consideration school, home, family, relationships, community, and opportunities that are available. Understanding how the environment may impact the student is an important piece of the process.
Once these areas have been explored, it is important that the team take the next step to identify what action needs to be taken to assist the student in reaching his/her goals. These actions, identified as “steps to reach expected outcomes” will form the basis for the transition activities that will take place during the student’s high school years. The transition activities will then lead the student to be prepared for graduation and entry into the adult world.
The following chart represents examples of questions that might be asked in each area for exploration and steps to be taken to reach expected outcomes for the student. As with the rest of the transition planning process, these and other questions should be asked and reviewed beginning at least at age 14 and continue to be re-assessed throughout the high school years.