Yes, School Districts Do Hold IEP/504 Meetings and Do Evaluations During Summer

Well, summer is flying by, and if your child doesn’t have an appropriate placement at school, don’t lose hope. If the IEP/504 Plan isn’t right, many school districts seek to “protect their staff” from the instrusions of working with parents and administrative issues during summer because they are working with reduced staff. No school district is exempt from this tactic, to my knowledge. They all seem to say, “It can wait until Fall.”

Well, the first day of school with an inappropriate IEP is not an It-Can-Wait item, is it? So let’s get with it and see what we can do.

First, moderate to large school districts don’t shut down their administrative offices, and it is in these administrative offices that anything can be done for an IEP change and evaluations that might be done during school months at local schools.

How do we get that done? Letters. Phone calls. Find out who is in charge of special education at your child’s school during summer months and make it clear by phone, personal visits, and writing that your child’s issues can’t wait. Explain on the phone that your child’s access to education doesn’t exist with an inappropriate IEP or without adequate evaluations to know what is really needed. On paper, write the district that your child’s IEP is inappropriate and this is denial of equal access to his education under both IDEA and Section 504. Go ahead and use the law to back up what you say. It’s what makes them move during summer. Write that without an immediate evaluation, no appropriate IEP could be drawn up because the data doesn’t exist to make placement decisions correctly.

If your child is one who learns slowly and will have great difficulty catching up after missing months of appropriate instruction, say so bluntly. “My child will suffer a loss of opportunity to learn and will require months of remedial efforts to catch up. This does not represent equal access to learning, equal opportunity to learn, nor equal effectiveness in education.”

One of my clients went so far as to say, “Andy is not receiving FAPE with his current IEP. Continuing with this inappropriate IEP isn’t exactly child abuse, but it is mentally and emotionally abusive to keep a child in a regimen of demands he can’t cope with until he becomes emotionally ill. This is what I see happening to my child and I will use every social, administrative and legal means I can find to stop it, including complaints to the State DOE and the Office for Civil Rights.” Her child was being damaged emotionally by a do-nothing administration that had put off evaluations and appropriate IEP provisions for two years. The month she wrote this letter, there was action.

A complaint to Office for Civil Rights involves vast amounts of data collection and proof of appropriate action or justification of why no action was taken. Hundreds of man hours, hundreds of papers, forms, etc. take man hours away from their daily duties in the school district. When that threat exists, many school districts take another, harder look at what needs to be done for the child, and it is often cheaper to serve appropriately in education than to defend against a complaint to Office for Civil Rights.

I’m NOT recommending you automatically throw out such threats. If they are warranted, don’t delay. But put your self in the district’s shoes. Your child’s needs must be presented to them in such a way that it is impossible to deny what is needed. Use the law and regulations. Get your district’s procedures and quote their own rules and procedures at them. These must comply with federal and state laws, so what you need will be there. Find it and use it.

The fact that it is summer does not justify delaying implementation of special education policy and procedures.

Tell them simply: “Jason’s education is negatively impacted every day he goes to school with an inappropriate IEP. Jason is entitled an appropriate IEP every day that he goes to school, including the first day of school in September, 2014.” Then tell them when you will be in their office to sign the consent for evaluation (give them 3 or 4 business days to prepare it for you) or give them 2 options when you can be available for IEP meetings in 7 to 10 business days. Give your contact information and then mail the letter so someone must sign for its receipt–certified or registered. Or hand carry it with a notation on YOUR copy that this letter was “Hand delivered to _____ on (date)” to be signed by the person who accepts it from you.

School districts do function in the summer. If you don’t know whether your district is open in summertime and no one answers the phone, call your state’s Department of Education special education office. They will tell you if it is open for business. If it is, you just have to put your child’s case on their list of priorities.

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Coming to NEW IEP Time

Dear Parents,

For this blog entry, IEP plan and IEP will also mean Section 504 plans.  It isn’t even Easter yet and here I am talking about the new IEPs and Section 504 Plans that will be generated by the thousands at the end of the school year.  There must be a reason for that.  Actually, there are a few reasons.
1.  It is time to make your own evaluation of whether there is a need to make any major changes in the IEP.  If your child is in transition between K-6 and middle school or middle school and high school, it is time to start checking how the next school serves children like yours.  Do they have the teachers with appropriate training for mainstream, inclusion, or special education classrooms?  If your child’s disability is truly unique or has outstanding medical needs, now is the time to start figuring out where and how your child will best be served for FAPE.  If you wait for the school to do it, your child will simply go to the neighborhood school in most cases, and if that isn’t right, it’s harder to change it and extremely more difficult for your child to try to cope with inappropriate placement while adults scratch their heads.  My advice:  start scratching now and get it over with!
2.  Other changes in the IEP to consider at K-6 to middle school is whether your child is college-capable.  Even the under-achiever can be college-capable if we do the next 6 years right.  Even the child who is carrying a list of grades from A to F with total inconsistency may be college-capable IF we do it right now.  Currently 80% of our children with disabilities never finish college because we parents never get what we need to know to help our children become independent learners at the college level.    If you have a child who can do everything well except school, you may have a college-capable child who has never had a way to understand how his teachers are teaching, or he may not have had his attention focused sufficiently, or he may not have been given an IEP that really covered all the bases.  Do your own evaluation of your child and remember that the coursework toward college begins in 6th grade.  If your child can build a model without the instructions, build a dog house without plans, grafitti an entire wall (or a good part of it) with a mural that makes sense and actually has composition and style, understand the workings under the hood of a car or truck, find out anything HE wants to know using libraries and/or computers, you have a child who is more than likely capable of getting through college IF he gets what he needs to learn now.
3.  Now is the time to consider whether a summer course to catch up in a subject where he has fallen behind is in order–or a summer course to introduce an upcoming subject he’s interested in.
4.  If you and your child think college is simply out of the question, then consider whether putting some vocational goals into the IEP would give a boost toward becoming a wage-earner or an entrepreneur.  I know several students who started their own small “trading companies” in 6th grade who are now business owners, two are internetpreneuers, and one has just made a microloan to somebody to help her get started in her own business.  NEVER discount what your child might be capable of if we assume the best and support the development of everything possible to bring the best right up front.  Ask yourself, what would be the IEP items that do this for the upcoming year?  You’ll need to call your school district’s admins to find out what they offer and whether your child is eligible at his own school or at another school where some special program might be just his cup of tea.
5.  There are differences between elementary and middle school that are obvious–now instead of 2 or 3 teachers, your child will have 6-9 teachers, and will move between classes.  I want you to take a moment to think about that.  Is your child ready for this?  There are developmental things that have to happen before a child can even think of handling this mix, and if your child isn’t ready, it will spell disaster.
First, if your child has difficulty with social skills, being thrown into a setting with a new group of people every hour will be extremely confusing and overwhelming.
Second, if mobility is an issue, it will take time to work it all out.
Third, if your child is disorganized, this is a freight train coming down the tunnel and the light is shining right into his eyes.  IF you are also disorganized, think about getting a coach to help both of you put those skills in place.
Fourth, learning takes a big jump in the classroom and homework takes a big jump at home.  If homework has been the Battle of the Ages at your house, the IEP must take into consideration whether it is reasonable to ask a child’s family to be held hostage on the Homework Train.  It also isn’t reasonable to think a child will spend so much time on homework that he can’t be a child and learn how people live when they’re not doing homework.  This will require some heavy-duty advocacy skills because it means you may be asking for reduced homework for a child who requires drill (a bit more work) to learn.  Maybe we haven’t really determined this child’s most effective learning style/strategies, and the IEP needs to make that happen.
6.  If your child gets lost easily, a bigger middle or high school will invite more getting lost and confusion between classes, costing your child the peace of mind he needs to use for learning when he finally finds his classroom.  If your child does not handle change well, you can imagine what 6 or 7 class changes per day will do to his mood/emotional stability/learning ability during the day.  He needs time to accommodate these changes.  These are the perfect reasons for summer school at the new school–and don’t let anyone convince you that the ONLY way a child can attend summer school in your district is if he’s failing.  Remind them that the IEP is the tool invented by legislators and educators for the purpose of bending the rules and making necessary accommodations for disability.
7.  Here’s another rule-bender:  if your child’s mobility is slow, super slow, or if pushing/shoving from other students is dangerous to him, he can be released from his classroom early to avoid crowds.  Homework assignments are given and explained at the end of class, which means your child may miss a critical part of each class. There are ways to deal with this: a) Arrange for a daily e-mail or phone call to take its place, b) get a weekly assignment sheet with instructions, or c) arrange for a class buddy (two actually, in case of absence) who will brief your child daily.  Just make some arrangment so your child has the same information the other students have so he can do his homework.
8.  DO NOT ALLOW A MASS IEP MEETING SETTING.  My children went to school in the 4th largest school district in the nation, and some of our school principals caved to the numbers and went mass production on IEPs.  In May, every SpEd parent received a letter about an IEP meeting to be held for 15 minutes in the library or the gymnasium.  I thought to myself that these are very strange places for an IEP meeting for a small group of people to be held, and 15 minutes was in no way long enough for what always took us at least an hour.  When I called to check, I was told we’d be given extra time if we needed it.
When we arrived for the IEP meeting, there was no parking for a full block away.  The hallways were full of parents, all headed for the same two rooms.  When we got into the room, there was a “traffic director” lining parents up according to some teacher’s name and appointment time.  Lines of people were told to keep an eye on the table where their meeting would be held and move to it as the family before them vacated it.  (This is confidentiality?  Privacy?  Don’t think so.  What do the people at the next table, only 3 feet away hear from your child’s case?)
When it was our turn, we were handed an IEP that had been filled out already.  It didn’t have half what our child needed on it.  Was this individualized planning?  Not at all.  Was it one-sided? Of course it was.  Where was our equal partnership in this?  In the toilet next door.  When we objected, it took 20 minutes for an assistant principal to respond because she was on another floor dealing with another IEP (or several).  People in line behind us began to chafe and get angry at us.  (Again, is this confidentiality?)  Only one of our child’s teachers was present at the beginning of the meeting.  We were told each teacher was at a table and couldn’t come to this IEP meeting–now where is that compliance with the representation of each class at the IEP meeting?  When the assistant principal showed up, someone I had considered a friend, I informed her that this meeting was over and that my complaint would be mailed to our state’s Department of Education in the morning.  There would be no stop at the Region level, no stop at the District level.  If they were holding IEP meetings like this, it was because they had DISTRICT APPROVAL to do so.  This was one of the most blatant violations of IDEA I have ever encountered, and it had to end immediately.  Students were being railroaded into inappropriate IEPs by the hundreds and it needed to end.
Now it got ugly.  The district didn’t like my complaint, but they LOVED our state’s response to it.  “You can only complain about the procedures at your own child’s IEP meeting or the others you witnessed at your child’s school.  We cannot assume this was done at any other school.”  (It was done elsewhere, too.  I just didn’t have the families as clients to make the complaint formal.)  So, while the state now knew what the district was doing, it dealt with only one school.  And my son’s school staff were angry with me because now they had to sit down with each family individually and take the time for appropriate IEPs.  And  they had to submit random samplings of IEPs for the next two years to prove they all had different times and dates, full teacher attendance, etc.
I had to settle for “Let them be upset.  It’s the law–for good reasons–and they, like the rest of us–are supposed to comply with the laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures.”  If that’s inconvenient, hey!  Disability is very inconvenient, and we just have to figure out how we’re going to live with it.
That’s enough for now.  If you start planning and doing your research now, your child’s transition to the next level can be much smoother and happier for everyone involved.
Happy IEP’ing!

Evidence In Cum Files

Hello, Parents and Advocates, Teachers, and Kid-Helpers everywhere,

Today is in that odd block of days when some school districts have not yet begun school and others are in full swing.  It is the busy time of the year for teachers who suddenly have a new crop of students they don’t know and about whom they know nothing.  It’s all learning all the time for all the people in a classroom these days!

Teachers, you are busy, but you really, really, REALLY need to take a few moments to listen to parents of your special education students, especially if you are a non-SpEd teacher.  What parents can tell you can relieve headaches, speed your paperwork, and improve your classroom management.  Not kidding, here.  Parents know things your peer from last year knew, used, and appreciated.  To ease their child’s way, they want to pass that information on to you and they should not be asked to wait until you’re dying of exhaustion 6 weeks later at Open House.

As a teacher, you don’t want to pick up on someone else’s biases about a child, but you need to proceed knowledgeably–and without information from the cum, the IEP or 504 plan and the parents, you are not exactly educated in what you need to know to be an effective teacher for these children.  The IEPs and 504 plans are available only on a need-to-know basis, and as a special education child’s teacher, you are THE ONE who needs to know what is on that IEP or 504 plan.  You do NOT need anyone’s permission to see it.

Parents, I know we all want to talk endlessly about last year and this new year and our children and their accomplishments, but busy teachers need the Condensed Book–the Comic Book–well, really at first maybe the Comic Strip is enough for starters.

For behavioral issues, concentrate on the most important issues and let little things wait for a couple of weeks. “Johnny has this, it makes him do that, and the best way to handle it at school has been….” “Annie is obsessive, and if you don’t give her time to…. she simply shuts down.  Then she agitates until you can’t do anything with anyone else until she gets settled again.”  “Oli doesn’t always pick up on general instructions to the class.  He needs you to speak directly to him if you see that he’s not on track.  It’s not that he’s unwilling–it’s that he doesn’t always focus enough to know general instructions are for him, too.”  No further discussion is necessary unless the teacher invites it.

If dealing with chronic illness and medication needs, bring a current doctor’s note about how medication and symptoms should be managed during school hours and give copies to each teacher, the principal, the school nurse, and give one specifically for inclusion in the cum.   Tell the principal that you’ll be following your child’s progress closely– both medically and academically.  Make sure everyone who needs it has information about how to contact you in an emergency.

Advocates, we’ll soon be getting complaints about how last year’s IEP doesn’t work anymore or inappropriate placements, so be ready.  Do you have your school directory handouts about school hierarchy and staff updated and ready to copy or e-mail or have you updated your general parents’ e-mail about this? Have you met the new administrators you’re most likely to deal with in the upcoming year?  Are you up-to-date with how the school administration plans to deal with bullying, drugs or guns on campus, teacher abuse of students, students’ physical contact with teachers, etc. and where are the policy and procedures for these located so you can refer parents to them?  What about staff cuts due to budget cuts–duties and responsibilities move all over the place.  Do you know who is handling what in SpEd these days?  Here’s where buddying with someone in administration is helpful.  If you don’t have such a “buddy”, find one.  Even if the general administration tone toward advocates and parents is unfriendly, individuals in the system can be very helpful and glad to be of service. (Parents, you can do this, too.)

Everyone–whoever has access to the cums–have you checked it for progress, obstacles to progress, triggers to trouble, avoidance strategies, patterns that cause concern, etc?  There is a wealth of information in cums beyond just the forms.

Forms will tell you:

if there is a pattern of student behavior that indicates the time of medication administration isn’t right

if a certain person is always involved in conflicts, and sometimes how that happens

if a child’s behaviors function to promote learning or don’t

if a child is avoiding something critical

if a teacher is trying to move mountains to find your child’s key to learning

if an administrator is diligent or lax about keeping documentation in order

if certain staff members appear to “have it in” for a student

if a student seems to be “going after” a staff member

if a student is or is not successful in presentations done in certain learning styles

if a student is being treated unfairly

if staff members need training

if administration members need training

If school staff review cums at the beginning of every school year to pick up on what worked at the end of the previous year and listen even briefly to parents of SpED students, opening days and weeks will go more smoothly. (Yes, I know, it’s about accommodations and FAPE, too, but we tend to overlook what works when it gets frantic–and it trips us up and makes things worse!)

If parents review cums at the beginning of every school year to assure that all the information that should be there IS there, the school will have the resources it needs.

If advocates have “oiled” their relationships with school staff and administration so the “gears” will be ready to move when needed, then we are good to go.

Parents, not all of us are wealthy, but when we need to get a teacher’s attention at this time of year, if you get it, use a little money to show your appreciation for the effort that requires.  If you can only spare a dollar, buy a few stickers the teacher can use for the students, a few pencils or pens, or anything usable in class.  Teachers spend a lot of their own money on our students’ needs and if you can give the smallest thing, your teacher will notice and remember that you might be an ally and therefore merit her attention. Then do nothing to spoil that impression!  And don’t forget to use your magic Thank You words–teachers need to hear them.  You could also write thank you notes to those who help you–to be included in the cum.  Can you imagine the different it makes when someone who is grumpy and upset about a lousy day is going through yet another set of troubles and finds a thank you?  Evidence of appreciation should be liberally spread around, even as a note in cum files.

Teachers, too few parents become involved with their children’s education, their teachers, the school.  No day is ever too busy to say “Thank you for thinking of me (the class, the school, etc.)” Our children are the tough ones, and too many of us don’t get many rewards from non-family members for being their parents, trust me!

Advocates, we owe as much thanks as anyone else, and because it isn’t our child, we might forget to say the words out loud.  Here’s my shortest story.  Once I almost walked out of a tough IEP meeting without actually saying thanks.  I stopped by the door and turned around.  “OUT LOUD,” I said rather loudly.  People stopped talking and looked at me like I was a bit crazy (they’re probably right).  “Out loud.  I was walking out of here thinking how thankful I am to all of you for caring about these children, your work, what we do, but I didn’t say it.  So now I’m saying it.  OUT LOUD.  Thank you.  Thank you for caring.”

You will never know how bright the rainbow of smiles was that went around that room.  It was the best-received thank you ever.  And I could joyously be seeking another like it for the rest of my life.  You look for it too.  I hope you find it soon!

 

 

Understanding and Using Cum Files – Attendance and Medication Administration

Hello, Parents!

When parents get their copy of the cumulative file for a child with disabilities, it is a pile of paper filled with words and phrases we don’t understand, forms that seem to mean nothing but we know they are important or they wouldn’t be there, etc.  And there are things we do understand–immunization records, attendance records, things we sent in ourselves.  But with a file that can grow to 4” or 5” thick by 3rd grade for some children, there’s a lot that needs explanations.  Or just some determined examination.  So what is all this?  This post will stick strictly to issues involving special education papers in your child’s cum.

Attendance:  If your child’s attendance is at issue, use your own calendar at home to double-check the school’s records.  At the end of the school year, districts count the days of absence and may tell parents the student has missed too many days of school and will not be promoted to the next grade.  

I’ve seen times where the student was an honor roll student and the form letter goes out anyway.  It’s a big mess, lots of yelling and howling, finger-pointing and all that.  In the end, a good student gets a common-sense over-ride and advances.

But what if your child is a borderline case, one day makes a difference, and you can prove your case that the school is wrong because your calendar says so?  Your calendar can win the day.

What about behavior problems in a district where principals or school staff are allowed to call parents and say, “Joey isn’t behaving appropriately today so we need you to come pick him up and take him home for the rest of the day.”  And it’s still morning.  It’s wrong, but it’s done all the time.

What’s wrong about this strategy?

School staff are not teaching Joey when they send him home. He’s being denied access to his education.  Not just equal access, but any access, is denied.

Joey isn’t learning skills and strategies for learning or appropriate behaviors that permit learning, so his Free, Appropriate Public Education is denied.

Joey is being removed from very setting he most needs to be in so he can learn how to behave properly in it!

If parents don’t know that IDEA requires schools to develop behavior modification plans and class management plans that give teachers ways to help Joey learn better school behavior and participate in learning, Joey will eventually miss so much school he can’t progress.  He is a future dropout at best.

Parent Advocacy Skill:

“I’m sorry, Ms. Principal, but Joey won’t be coming home with us today.  He needs to be at school to learn, and we need to hold an IEP meeting to develop an appropriate behavior modification plan so he can learn good learning behaviors.  I’m available Thursday at 10 a.m. and Friday at 3 p.m.  next week.”

Ms. Principal will find your written IEP meeting request on her desk tomorrow morning.  “The school continues to request that we bring Joey home before the end of the school day because he is unable to perform good learning behaviors.  I am requesting an IEP meeting to plan appropriate behavior management strategies for his IEP so he can begin to learn appropriate school behavior.  Please let me know within three working days when this IEP meeting will be held.”

If your principal responds that there must be some observations and/or evaluations done before an IEP meeting, this is good news.  IF these are done and done in a timely manner, it is good news.  It should mean that a school counselor or psychologist is checking what triggers inappropriate behaviors from your child and how to avoid them or teach your child how to manage himself.  This evaluation period should not take more than a week or two, but in larger districts, staff time allocation may take up to 30 days.  Check in periodically (not more than weekly) to see how things are going and to say thank you.

Make a list of behaviors and triggers that happen at home that school staff can discuss in this meeting with you that will help them further understand your child’s needs.

Medication Logs (Individual and school):  If your child’s grades are not what you believe she is capable of, look at medication logs, especially if medications are to help with behavior, focus and concentration, or compulsion.

Medications must be given to children at the proper time for them to be effective.  Watch out for these errors:

A.  given too early — may create an overdosing effect that temporarily impairs your child’s ability to stay awake, focus, concentrate, or participate fully in class

B.  given too late — creates a gap where lack of medication is when behavior deteriorates and learning is no longer possible; and

–worse, creates the possibility that the late dosing causes an overlap with the next dose that then becomes the overdose situation

C.  not given at all

Is it just once or is it a recurring pattern of sloppy administration?  If it’s a pattern of lax management, document it in a list of times and dates or on a calendar.   Write directly to the principal.  “Jenny’s medications were administered inappropriately as follows:  (list the times, dates and medications not done correctly).   Jenny’s medications must be given according to the following schedule:   (then give that schedule).”

Your child’s file doesn’t have any medication administration records in it?  Then you need to see the school’s medication administration log.  By law they must record every medication administered to a student, when (by date and time), and by whom.

If staff tell you they can’t let you see it for confidentiality reasons, tell them you know they can redact a copy of the log so you can see what you need to see for your child’s case.  School staff will have to black out other student’s names, but they must allow you to see that record.

If you find medication administration is sloppy, look for evidence of how your child might be affected by it, talk to teachers for their impressions, etc.  If it’s clear or even possible that your child’s education is being impaired by sloppy medication management, it’s time for another letter and phone call to your principal.

“I’ve noticed Jenny’s medications are not being administered according to the schedule the doctor has requested and it is impairing Jenny’s ability to learn and participate fully in class.  Jenny’s medications must be given according to the following schedule:   (then give that schedule).”   Don’t forget to close with a thank you for helping Jenny succeed at school.

After two weeks, ask for copies of the last two weeks of medication logs.  (No excuses about confidentiality allowed.)  Once they understand you are looking over their shoulder frequently to monitor your child’s medication administration, it should improve.  If it doesn’t improve within two weeks, call and write to the supervisor of your school’s principal.  After two weeks, if there is no improvement, go up another level.  Give each level two weeks to improve.

Consider also that if the schedule for your child’s medications is not in the IEP, it might help to put it in there–so call for an IEP meeting to do that.

However, if lax medication administration is health- or life-threatening, don’t wait–just start with a call to the principal.  If the principal is not immediately supportive, call the next level above and write if they ask you to do so.  If you can’t get better medication management, call your state’s special education monitors in your Department of Education and ask for assistance.  You WILL get help.  Nobody gets to fool around with meds.

If your child has a 504 plan, all of this post applies to your child’s case.  Just substitute 504 for IEP, and there you have it.

This is all for now.  In the next post we’ll be looking at how to use minutes of meetings about your child, behavioral records, teacher referrals, teacher/staff notes, observation records and/or anecdotes to help your child.

Summer and Summer School (or not)

Well, you’ve probably noticed that the last post was the last post for a while. Maybe you fell asleep waiting for the next one. Well, you’ve had time for a nice nap. Time to wake up–and the kids are out of school for the summer, so you can’t sleep in now, anyway! Summer. It just isn’t the same for many children with disabilities, especially those with learning disabilities who forget so much during summer that they spend months of the new school year re-learning rather than keeping pace with peers. What should summer be for those children?

As a parent of two children with disabilities, I had to decide the summer school issue for one of them, and until he was 16, he never had a summer at home. He didn’t know what a lazy summer week was like because he was always chasing the learning objectives and goals, even if we were on vacation trips. We just folded everything educational about trips (the only kind we ever did because it’s what we love) into what he was learning at school and off we went. At 16 he had a stomach ulcer due to the stress of learning and we felt he needed a break, so he got his first summer off. He refused to go to summer school again. He didn’t get the regular high school diploma, and he’ll have to get the GED if he wants to get more education, but he can do it if he chooses. He knows what he has to do to learn. That was a major point of all the extra time spent in school…just for him to know what it takes and how he has to do it so he can do it on demand.

Too many parents don’t want to fight with schools to get extended school year on the IEPs because budgets in school districts are so tight that the fight has gotten worse than it ever was. Summer school, if it isn’t all regular classes, might be an option. At the same time, ADA is clearer than ever on that point, and using it and Section 504 in addition to IDEA will make your struggle easier. If a child can’t learn in the fall because he didn’t retain enough over summer, he needs summer school or the extended school year based on implementation of his IEP, not based on whatever programming the district wants to provide for every student this year.

If your child has already shown signs of forgetting too much, it is not too late to call for an IEP meeting to place your child in an extended year program. It might not happen before this summer is over, but when the longer school breaks occur, such as at Christmas and between semesters, your child will be in school retaining and learning rather than forgetting, and for next summer, there will be no large gaps forming in his memory bank. Start that process now if you believe your child needs the extended school year on his IEP.

What can you do in the meantime? You’re using a computer to read this blog, and your child can use the computer to access summer learning (and retention-boosting) activities. The internet is full of games based on math and other learning opportunities, and you can find many of them by searching for “math games, social studies games, spelling games, etc. Electronic stores such as Best Buy, Tiger Direct carry educational software you can use to boost memory and retention during the summer.

Here are some links you may find useful to maintain learning levels during this summer.

Apples 4 the Teacher http://www.apples4theteacher.com
Covers all core content subjects, K-12

SoftSchools.com
http://www.softschools.com/
covers K-12, incudes geometry, French, Spanish

many subjects for k-12
http://www.mrnussbaum.com/
includes games that respond to student answers to create new learning opportunities
Social Studies
http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/subjects/funandgames.htm
http://classroom.jc-schools.net/basic/socst.html

Gameaquarium.com
http://www.gamequarium.com/languagearts.htm K-6 with resources for teachers, parents

Language Arts
K-8, great resource
http://games.pppst.com/languagearts.html

Language arts, middle & high school with great links to resources
http://www.internet4classrooms.com/lang_mid.htm

Math
Vedic math, game-based, ancient math based on different methods more easily learned and remembered
http://www.mathmonkey.com

CoolMath4Kids.com
Pure games and learning
http://www.coolmath4kids.com/math_puzzles/index.html

Social Studies
Multiple disciplines
http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/

You get the idea. You search for the topic and grade level you want and poof! the internet finds it and delivers it to your screen for your child’s entertainment and learning.

Now, be fair and give your child a turn!

Help for Students With ADD/ADHD

I know this Clarification of Policy letter is old–1991–but it is still 100% correct and applicable to today’s cases. It has tons of information for parents struggling to know what schools should be doing for their children. Enough blather, already. Here it is.

Clarification of Policy to Address the
Needs of Children with Attention Deficit Disorders
 within General and/or Special Education

In the 1990 Amendments to the IDEA, Congress added “autism” and “traumatic brain injury” to the categories under the IDEA. CHADD had lobbied very hard for “attention deficit disorder/ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” to be added as a category under the IDEA. The U.S. Department of Education convinced Congress that ADD/ADHD did not have to be added because it was fully covered under current law. The Congress required the U.S. Department of Education to explain how.

Under Federal statutory and regulatory law, when the Congress directs the executive branch agency that will implement a new statute to issue a written explanation, it becomes a part of the law just as much as the statute or the implementing regulations. Federal courts have recognized the following Memorandum as a part of the federal law and it is regularly cited in special education decisions…… Reed Martin

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY

DATE : SEP I 6 I99l

TO : Chief State School Officers

FROM : 
Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education
and Rehabilitative Services

Assistant Secretary
Office for Civil Rights 

Assistant Secretary
Office of Elementary
and Secondary Education

SUBJECT: Clarification of Policy to Address the Needs of Children with Attention Deficit Disorders within General and/or Special Education

I.

Introduction



There is a growing awareness in the education community that attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can result in significant learning problems for children with those conditions. (Footnote 1) While estimates of the prevalence of ADD vary widely, we believe that three to five percent of school-aged children may have significant educational problems related to this disorder. Because ADD has broad implications for education as a whole, the Department believes it should clarify State and local responsibility under Federal law for addressing the needs of children with ADD in the schools. Ensuring that these students are able to reach their fullest potential is an inherent part of the National education goals and AMERICA 2000. The National goals, and the strategy for achieving them, are based on the assumptions that: (1) all children can learn and benefit from their education; and (2) the educational community must work to improve the learning opportunities for all children.

This memorandum clarifies the circumstances under which children with ADD are eligible for special education services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part B), as well as the Part B requirements for evaluation of such children’s unique educational needs. This memorandum will also clarify the responsibility of State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to provide special education and related services to eligible children with ADD under Part B. Finally, this memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of LEAs to provide regular or special education and related aids and services to those children with ADD who are not eligible under Part B, but who fall within the definition of “handicapped person” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because of the overall educational responsibility to provide services for these children, it is important that general and special education coordinate their efforts.



II. Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services under Part B

Last year during the reauthorization of the Education of the Handicapped Act [now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], Congress gave serious consideration to including ADD in the definition of “children with disabilities” in the statute. The Department took the position that ADD does not need to be added as a separate disability category in the statutory definition since children with ADD who require special education and related services can meet the eligibility criteria for services under
Part B. This continues to be the Department’s position.

No change with respect to ADD was made by Congress in the statutory definition of “children with disabilities;” however, language was included with those conditions. (Footnote 1) While estimates of the prevalence of ADD vary widely, we believe that three to five percent of school-aged children may have significant educational problems related to this disorder. Because ADD has broad implications for education as a whole, the Department believes it should clarify State and local responsibility under Federal law for addressing the needs of children with ADD in the schools. Ensuring that these students are able to reach their fullest potential is an inherent part of the National education goals and AMERICA 2000. The National goals, and the strategy for achieving them, are based on the assumptions that: (1) all children can learn and benefit from their education; and (2) the educational community must work to improve the learning opportunities for all children.

This memorandum clarifies the circumstances under which children with ADD are eligible for special education services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part B), as well as the Part B requirements for evaluation of such children’s unique educational needs. This memorandum will also clarify the responsibility of State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to provide special education and related services to eligible children with ADD under Part B. Finally, this memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of LEAs to provide regular or special education and related aids and services to those children with ADD who are not eligible under Part B, but who fall within the definition of “handicapped person” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because of the overall educational responsibility to provide services for these children, it is important that general and special education coordinate their efforts.

II. Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services under Part B

Last year during the reauthorization of the Education of the Handicapped Act [now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], Congress gave serious consideration to including ADD in the definition of “children with disabilities” in the statute. The Department took the position that ADD does not need to be added as a separate disability category in the statutory definition since children with ADD who require special education and related services can meet the eligibility criteria for services under
Part B. This continues to be the Department’s position.

No change with respect to ADD was made by Congress in the statutory definition of “children with disabilities;” however, language was included in Section 102(a) of the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 that required the Secretary to issue a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) soliciting public comment on special education for children with ADD under Part B. In response to the NOI (published November 29, 1990 in the Federal Register), the Department received over 2000 written comments, which have been transmitted to the Congress. Our review of these written comments indicates that there is confusion in the field regarding the extent to which children with ADD may be served in special education programs conducted under Part B.

A. Description of Part B

Part B requires SEAs and LEAs to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to all eligible children with disabilities and to ensure that the rights and protections of Part B are extended to those children and their parents. 20 U.S.C. 1412(2); 34 CFR 300.121 and 300.2. Under Part B, FAPE, among other elements, includes the provision of special education and related services, at no cost to parents, in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP). 34 CFR 300.4.

In order to be eligible under Part B, a child must be evaluated in accordance with 34 CFR 300.530-300.534 as having one or more specified physical or mental impairments, and must be found to require special education and related services by reason of one or more of these impairments. (Footnote 2) 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(1); 34 CFR 300.5. SEAs and LEAs must ensure that children with ADD who are determined eligible for services under Part B receive special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs, including special education and related services needs arising from the ADD. A full continuum of placement alternatives, including the regular classroom, must be available for providing special education and related services required in the IEP.



B. Eligibility for Part B services under the “Other Health Impaired” Category



The list of chronic or acute health problems included within the definition of “other health impaired” in the Part B regulations is not exhaustive. The term “other health impaired” includes chronic or acute impairments that result in limited alertness, which adversely affects educational performance. Thus, children with ADD should be classified as eligible for services under the “other health impaired” category in instances where the ADD is a chronic or acute health problem that results in limited alertness, which adversely affects educational performance. In other words, children with ADD, where the ADD is a chronic or acute health problem resulting in limited alertness, may be considered disabled under Part B solely on the basis of this disorder within the “other health impaired” category in situations where special education and related services are needed because of the ADD.

c. Eligibility for Part B services under Other Disability Categories

Children with ADD are also eligible for services under Part B if the children satisfy the criteria applicable to other disability categories. For example, children with ADD are also eligible for services under the “specific learning disability” category of Part B if they meet the criteria stated in 300.5(b) (9) and 300.541 or under the “seriously emotionally disturbed category'” of Part B if they meet the criteria stated in 300.5(b) (8).

III. Evaluations under Part B



A. Requirements

SEAs and LEAs have an affirmative obligation to evaluate a child who is suspected of having a disability to determine the child’s need for special education and related services. Under Part B, SEAs and LEAs are required to have procedures for locating, identifying and evaluating all children who have a disability or are suspected of having a disability and are in need of special education and related services. 34 CFR 300.128 and 300.220. This responsibility, known as “child find,” is applicable to all children from birth through 21, regardless of the severity of their disability.

Consistent with this responsibility and the obligation to make FAPE available to all eligible children with disabilities, SEAs and LEAs must ensure that evaluations of children who are suspected of needing special education and related services are conducted without undue delay. 20 U.S.C. 1412(2). Because of its responsibility resulting from the FAPE and child find requirements of Part B, an LEA may not refuse to evaluate the possible need for special education and related services of a child with a prior medical diagnosis of ADD solely by reason of that medical diagnosis. However, a medical diagnosis of ADD alone is not sufficient to render a child eligible for services under Part B.

Under Part B, before any action is taken with respect to the initial placement of a child with a disability in a program providing special education and related services, “a full and individual evaluation of the child’s educational needs must be conducted in accordance with requirements of 300.532.” 34 CFR 300.531. Section 300.532(a) requires that a child’s evaluation must be conducted by a multidisciplinary team, including at least one teacher or other specialist with knowledge in the area of suspected disability.



B. Disagreements over Evaluations
Any proposal or refusal of an agency to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of FAPE to the child is subject to the
 written prior notice requirements of 34 CFR 300.504-300.505.3
If a parent disagrees with the LEA’s refusal to evaluate a child 
or the LEA’s evaluation and determination that a child does not
have a disability for which the child is eligible for services 
under Part B, the parent may request a due process hearing 
pursuant to 34 CFR §§300.506-300.513 of the Part B regulations.

IV. Obligations Under Section 504 of SEAs and LEAs to Children with ADD Found Not To Require Special Education and Related Services under Part B



Even if a child with ADD is found not to be eligible for services under Part B, the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and its implementing regulation at 34 CFR Part 104 may be applicable. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap by recipients of Federal funds. Since Section 504 is a civil rights law, rather than a funding law, its requirements are framed in different terms than those of Part B. While the Section 504 regulation was written with an eye to consistency with Part B, it is more general, and there are some differences arising from the differing natures of the two laws. For instance, the protections of Section 504 extend to some children who do not fall within the disability categories specified in Part B.

A. Definition



Section 504 requires every recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program to address the needs of children who are considered “handicapped persons” under Section 504 as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are met. “Handicapped person” is defined in the Section 504 regulation as any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (e.g.., learning).
34 CFR 104.3(j). Thus, depending on the severity of their condition, children with ADD may fit within that definition.

B. Programs and Services Under Section 504



Under Section 504, an LEA must provide a free appropriate public education to each qualified handicapped child. A free appropriate public education, under Section 504, consists of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual student’s needs and based on adherence to the regulatory requirements on educational setting, evaluation, placement, and procedural safeguards. 34 CFR 104.33, 104.34, 104.35, and 104.36. A student may be handicapped within the meaning of Section 504, and therefore entitled to regular or special education and related aids and services under the Section 504 regulation, even though the student may not be eligible for special education and related services under Part B.

Under Section 504, if parents believe that their child is handicapped by ADD, the LEA must evaluate the child to determine whether he or she is handicapped as defined by Section 504. If an LEA determines that a child is not handicapped under Section 504, the parent has the right to contest that determination. If the child is determined to be handicapped under Section 504, the LEA must make an individualized determination of the child’s educational needs for regular or special education or related aids and services. 34 CFR 104.35.

For children determined to be handicapped under Section 504, implementation of an individualized education program developed in accordance with Part B, although not required, is one means of meeting the free appropriate public education requirements of Section 504. (Footnote 4) The child’s education must be provided in the regular education classroom unless it is demonstrated that education in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 34 CFR 104.34.

Should it be determined that the child with ADD is handicapped for purposes of Section 504 and needs only adjustments in the regular classroom, rather than special education, those adjustments are required by Section 504. A range of strategies is available to meet the educational needs of children with ADD.

Regular classroom teachers are important in identifying the appropriate educational adaptions and interventions for many children with ADD.

SEAs and LEAs should take the necessary steps to promote coordination between special and regular education programs. Steps also should be taken to train regular education teachers and other personnel to develop their awareness about ADD and its manifestations and the adaptations that can be implemented in regular education programs to address the instructional needs of these children. Examples of adaptations in regular education programs could include the following:

providing a structured learning environment; repeating and simplifying instructions about in-class and homework assignments; supplementing verbal instructions with visual instructions; using behavioral management techniques; adjusting class schedules; modifying test delivery; using tape recorders, computer-aided instruction, and other audio-visual equipment; selecting modified textbooks or workbooks; and tailoring homework assignments.

Other provisions range from consultation to special resources and may include reducing class size; use of one-on-one tutorials; classroom aides and note takers; involvement of a “services coordinator” to oversee implementation of special programs and services, and possible modification of nonacademic times such as lunchroom, recess, and physical education.

Through the use of appropriate adaptations and interventions in regular classes, many of which may be required by Section 504, the Department belie

ves that LEAs will be able to effectively address the instructional needs of many children with ADD.

C. Procedural Safeguards Under Section 504

Procedural safeguards under the Section 504 regulation are stated more generally than in Part B. The Section 504 regulation requires the LEA to make available a system of procedural safeguards that permits parents to challenge actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their handicapped child whom they believe needs special education or related services. 34 CFR 104.36. The Section 504 regulation requires that the system of procedural safeguards include notice, an opportunity for the parents or guardian to examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation by the parents or guardian and representation by counsel, and a review procedure. Compliance with procedural safeguards of Part B is one means of fulfilling the Section 504 requirement. (Footnote 5) However, in an impartial due process hearing raising issues under the Section 504 regulation, the impartial hearing officer must make a determination based upon that regulation.

v. Conclusion



Congress and the Department have recognized the need to provide information and assistance to teachers, administrators, parents and other interested persons regarding the identification, evaluation, and instructional needs of children with ADD. The Department has formed a work group to explore strategies across principal offices to address this issue. The work group also p1ans to identify some ways that the Department can work with the education associations to cooperatively consider the programs and services needed by children with ADD across special and regular education.

In fiscal year 1991, the Congress appropriated funds for the Department to synthesize and disseminate current knowledge related to ADD. Four centers will be established in Fall, 1991 to analyze and synthesize the current research literature on ADD relating to identification, assessment, and interventions. Research syntheses will be prepared in formats suitable for educators, parents and researchers. Existing clearinghouses and networks, as well as Federal, State and local organizations will be utilized to disseminate these research syntheses to parents, educators and administrators, and other interested persons.

In addition, the Federal Resource Center will work with SEAs and the six regional resource centers authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to identify effective identification and assessment procedures, as well as intervention strategies being implemented across the country for children with ADD.

A document describing current practice will be developed and disseminated to parents, educators and administrators, and other interested persons through the regional resource centers network, as well as by parent training centers, other parent and consumer organizations, and professional organizations. Also, the Office for Civil Rights’ ten regional offices stand ready to provide technical assistance to parents and educators.
It is our hope that the above information will be of assistance to your State as you plan for the needs of children with ADD who require special education and related services under Part B, as well as for the needs of the broader group of children with ADD
who do not qualify for special education and related services under Part B, but for whom special education or adaptations in regular education programs are needed.
Footnotes:

1. While we recognize that the disorders ADD and ADHD vary, the term ADD is being used to encompass children with both disorders.

2. The Part B regulations define 11 specified disabilities.
34 CFR 300.5(b)(1)-(11). The Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 amended the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act] to specify that autism and traumatic brain injury are separate disability categories. See section 602(a)(1) of the Act, to be codified at 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(1).

3. Section 300.505 of the Part B regulations sets out the elements that must be contained in the prior written notice to parents:

(1) A full explanation of all of the procedural safeguards available to the parents under Subpart E;
(2) A description of the action proposed or refused by the agency, an explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action, and a description of any options the agency considered and the reasons why those options were rejected;
(3) A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the agency uses as a basis for the proposal or refusal; and
(4) A description of any other factors which are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.
34 CFR 300.505(a) (1)-(4) .

4. Many LEAs use the same process for determining the needs of students under Section 504 that they use for implementing Part B.

5. Again, many LEAs and some SEAs are conserving time and resources by using the same due process procedures for resolving disputes under both.

Advocacy Tips: 1–Educate Yourself

Hello, Parents!

This week I want to discuss some tips for how to advocate for your child’s educational needs.  We’ll use 5 topics:

1. Educate yourself.
2. Focus only on the facts.
3. Leave emotions at home.
4. Don’t make things go personal.
5. Be realistic.

Each day I’ll elaborate on each topic so you can start applying information to your child’s case in useful ways.

Educate yourself.  Schools provide special education according to:
special education laws, regulations, and procedures,
civil rights laws that help prevent discrimination,
privacy and confidentiality laws, and
accountability laws.

You can’t use a system effectively if you don’t know its rules.  These laws are the “rules of the game” for special education.  I know it looks massive that there are five different sets of law we must know and use, and we are not attorneys.  However, these laws were all written so private individuals like ourselves could read, understand and use them.  You don’t need to learn it all overnight. Just read through it now so you know what is in there.  Learn those parts that you will need for your most current issues in advocacy.  Eventually you’ll know it thoroughly.

Study the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Act that started special education in public schools.

Learn Family Rights in Education and Privacy Act (FERPA) so you will know the rules about confidentiality of all the documentation and services for children in public schools.  This is a short piece of law, and it isn’t hard to follow.

Take a look at No Child Left Behind (NCLB) so you have an idea how this act benefits children with disabilities.  The whole point of this law was to create new levels of accountability to assure that schools/school districts don’t ignore children whose education is difficult.

Know Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped Act of 1973, now renamed Rehabilitation Act.  This is where we get the phrase “equal access” and the concept that there must also be equal effectiveness and equal opportunity.

Know the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) well enough that you know how to back up what you say about IDEA and Section 504 with ADA clout.

All these laws were written in non-attorney language so average citizens can read and understand them.  Your nearest Parent-To-Parent group conducts training sessions or workshops on these laws, and even if you can’t go to one of those, they can help you.

Go to your state’s Department of Education website or telephone their offices of special education and ask for copies of the Board of Education Rules/Regulations about special education and the matching policies and procedures.  Don’t forget to specify that you want the ones related to special education or you will only get the package for regular education.

Get and know your state’s laws regarding special education.  Every state must have laws for how it plans to follow the federal laws and there will be matching laws for each part of IDEA.  (This is easier because often these laws are very similar to the federal laws.  But there will be differences, and you need to know them.)

Your ultimate power in IEP meetings will come when you carry these books with you with all your bookmarks showing, highlighting on the pages for the clauses that concern your child’s case, and you can refer to them on the spot whenever you encounter resistance to what you know your child must have in order to learn.

The website at http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm#anchor65610 contains summaries of these laws and resources for where to call for help.

Tomorrow:  Focus on Facts