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Special education is a set of services, rather than a specific “place” for your child to go. The general education classroom is considered the least restrictive environment (LRE) for most kids. Almost six million students in the U.S. receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Most special education students spend the majority of the day in general education classrooms.
How do I determine if my child has special needs?
As a parent, you may request an evaluation of your child to determine his or her needs for special education and/or related services. The result of the evaluation determines your child’s eligibility to receive a range of services under applicable laws. Your child’s evaluation must be conducted by a trained and knowledgeable individual. The evaluation must cover all areas related to the suspected disability, offered in your child’s native language and conducted at no cost to you. If you disagree with the evaluation, you have the right to take your child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and you may request that the school system pay for this IEE.
What are the types of services available to my child?
There are several different settings that a student can receive the services that he/she will need:
- Restrictive-Supportive-Self Contained Class: A Special Day Class (SDC) which is quite small with no more than 8-10 students based on the age in which the students are in that classroom all day with a credentialed special education teacher and usually there are paraprofessionals also in that class
- Resource (RSP): Classes that a student will need some extra help in a subject matter and they will attend that class a certain number of minutes and days per week
- Special Day (SDC): Classes that do not require the student to be self-contained all day but a certain number of minutes and days per week
- Push In: Classes that the student is in a general education class with added support for a certain number of minutes and days per week
- Push Out: Classes where the student is pulled out for the added support for a certain number of minutes and days per week
- Small group: Service given in a small group for the students to have interaction with each other
- Designated instructional services (DIS) are usually pull-out individual and small group services
- Supplementary services on an IEP are to help the student with:
- Use of large print
- Use of calculator
- More time for testing
- Read instructions out loud
- Consult time with teacher
- Needs to sit in the front of the room, etc.
What is the school psychologist's role?
School psychologists collaborate with educators, parents and other professionals to create safe, healthy and supportive learning environments. Their job is to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally, and they work to strengthen connections between home, school and the community for all students.
For a more detailed explanation of the role of a school psychologist and how they can help your student and family, visit the National Association of School Psychologists.
How do I begin the special education process?
The first process is the teacher requests a Student Study Team (SST) meeting to discuss concerns with a student. The SST may decide to move forward on an assessment. The second process is a parent request, as outlined:
- Parent/guardian writes a letter requesting assessment for child. In the request, include the child’s name, birthdate, grade level and why you are requesting an assessment. Also include contact numbers for staff to contact. Parent takes letter to school. The school has 15 days to contact parent.
- Once contacted by school, an assessment consent form is sent home to parent/guardian for signature. Parents then send back assessment form immediately, as there is then 60 days from date signed to complete the assessment and hold an IEP meeting.
- The assessment team is usually the school nurse, special education teacher, school psychologist, speech and language therapist (if needed) along with the general education teacher.
- A notice of meeting will be sent home to set up the IEP meeting between the parents/guardians and the IEP team.
- At the IEP meeting, introductions are made, Procedural Safeguards: Parents’ Rights should be gone over and the purpose of the meeting should be discussed. The different reports of the assessment team will be gone over with the parents. The team should also discuss the child’s present levels of cognition and academic performance.
- A discussion of goals, team members concerns, services and placement will take place. Once everyone is in agreement, the IEP should be signed by all parties. If a member of the team was unable to make the meeting there should be an Excusal Form for the parent to sign and it should be attached to the IEP.
- A copy of the IEP and all of the reports should be given to the parents.
- At any time, if parents are concerned about services or goals, they may request a meeting and an amendment to alter services may be written.
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