“I think your child needs a referral to Special Education.” With those words, your heart skips a beat, and you begin worrying. Special Education? What does this mean?
Special Education provides children a range of services if needed. So, how do we know if your child needs special education? There is a process to decide if your child is eligible, and parents are essential to making this important decision. Here’s how it works.
- There is a problem that interferes with learning. This is usually seen by your child’s general education teacher in school age children. Once a problem is identified, a team meets and decides on specific interventions. For example, the teacher may cover phonics a few minutes more each day, or use touching numbers in specific ways for adding or subtracting. These interventions happen for eight weeks. If your child catches up or makes significant progress, the referral process stops. The teacher will continue with what works.
- If progress is not adequate, you will receive official notice to give consent for assessment. You will also receive information about the process from your Special Education Parent Liaison Coordinator at the school. This title may vary, but the role will be similar. This person is your ‘go to’ person for questions or concerns about the special education process. You can also use www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state to find information about your state, and access parent-friendly materials.
- The assessment process looks at a variety of strengths and challenges for your child. Academic skills (reading, math, writing) are tested. So is cognitive ability (IQ) which looks at thinking skills. Parents and teachers fill out forms looking at social and behavioral skills. There are vision and hearing screen tests. Others, such as Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, may be part of the assessment process if needed.
- When assessment is complete, the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) team meets. You as a parent are part of the team. Several decisions are made. The first decision is determining is my child eligible for services?
- If yes, further decisions are made (see below)
- If no, the committee will discuss other options that are available such as school tutoring programs or other types of services.
- If your child is eligible, several decisions are made by you and the team using your expertise as parent along with the assessment results.
- What services or interventions are needed? Examples include specific training to get a firmer foundation for reading or developing skills to improve comprehension. Goals and objectives, which show how to reach the goals in smaller steps, are written into the IEP document.
- What modifications are needed? Examples of modifications include more time on tests and state exams, having a seat to better see/hear the teacher, or using larger print on materials. These modifications will then be used in all classrooms.
- What school will my child attend? Typically, your child stays in the same school and in the same classroom he or she is already placed.
- Where do services occur? This can occur in the current classroom, another classroom, or other places such as the therapist’s office.
- How is progressed assessed? Teacher-made tests, standardized tests, and observations are all used.
- Who delivers the services? The special education teacher usually delivers or helps the general education teacher with academic interventions. Other services, if needed, are delivered by specialists, such as Occupational Therapists or Speech Pathologists.
- What school activities does the student attend? Your child attends everything everyone else does such as lunch, pep rallies, recesses and after school events. Unless there is a specific reason, such a weakened immune system during chemotherapy, all students in Special Education are fully included in typical school events.
- So what can you do as a parent do in this Special Education Process?
- When you give written consent for assessment, you will receive parent materials that explain terms and procedures in a helpful way. It helps to read these before the meeting.
- Talk with parent liaisons or ombudspersons, school coordinators, and teachers ahead of the meeting. They can explain terms and procedures, and help you navigate through the system.
- Go to the meeting ready to ask questions. Write these down ahead of time. It’s easy for forget with all the hustle and bustle of meetings.
- Bring paper and pencil to jot down other questions or information as these occur.
- Be brave. Because many new terms and acronyms are used, feel free to ask what they mean during the meeting.
- Keep your paperwork in a convenient place after the meeting.
- What’s next?
- Support your child through the changes. Most adjust quickly.
- Email or call the parent liaison and teachers with questions or concerns.
- Know that meetings will become more familiar as you learn the process and vocabulary.
To learn more about the process: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/pa12/
For state Education Agency information: www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state
For information about the law: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home
Proper citation link for this blog post:
Fournier, C.J., (2017, April 10). Special Education: What Happens in those Meetings. Retrieved from http://infoaboutkids.org/blog/special-education-what-happens-in-those-meetings/