Special Education Toolkit
What is Special Education?
Children with special needs have rights to services in school under federal and state laws. 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 results 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 IDEA Categories of Disability?
The IDEA’s disability terms and definitions guide how States define disability and who is eligible for a free appropriate public education under special education law. The definitions of these specific disability terms from the IDEA regulations are shown beneath each term listed below. Note, in order to fully meet the definition (and eligibility for special education and related services) as a “child with a disability,” a child’s educational performance must be adversely affected due to the disability.
The Categories are:
- Developmental Delay
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
- Specific learning disability
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment
1. Autism: means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3 (three), that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
2. Deaf-Blindness: means concomitant [simultaneous] hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
3. Deafness: means a hearing impairment so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
4. Developmental Delay: for children from birth to age three (under IDEA Part C) and children from ages three through nine (under IDEA Part B), the term developmental delay, as defined by each State, means a delay in one or more of the following areas: physical development; cognitive development; communication; social or emotional development; or adaptive [behavioral] development.
5. Emotional Disturbance: means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
a) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
b) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
c) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
d) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
e) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.
6. Hearing Impairment: means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of “deafness.”
7. Intellectual Disability: means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently [at the same time] with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Until October 2010, the law used the term “mental retardation.” In October 2010, Rosa’s Law was signed into law by President Obama. Rosa’s Law changed the term to be used in future to “intellectual disability.” The definition of the term itself did not change and is what has just been shown above.
8. Multiple Disabilities: means concomitant [simultaneous] impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.
9. Orthopedic Impairment: means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).
10. Other Health Impairment: means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that:
a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and
b) adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
11. Specific Learning Disability: means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of intellectual disability; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
12. Speech or Language Impairment: means a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
13. Traumatic Brain Injury: means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.
14. Visual Impairment Including Blindness: means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.
What are the types of services available to my special needs child?
There are several different setting 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:
- 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 are designated instructional services (DIS)?
There are sixteen DIS services available for parents:
- Speech and Language
- Occupational and Physical Therapy (OT)
- Adapted Physical Education (APE)
- Hearing Services (HH)
- Interpreting Services
- Vision Services (VI)
- Orientation and Mobility (OM)
- Behavior Intervention Services (ABA)
- Counseling and Guidance
- Parent Counseling and Training
- Psychological Services
- Social Worker Services
- Specially Designed Vocational Education
- Recreation Services
- Heath and Nursing Services
- Mental Health Services
- Counseling/Therapy – Individual, Group, & Family
- Parent Counseling and Training
- Psychological Services
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, outlined below:
- Parent/guardian writes a letter requesting assessment for child. In the request include child’s name, birthdate, grade level and why requesting 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 a parent is concerned about services or goals they may request a meeting and an amendment to alter services may be written.
What are the parent rights in special education?
There are several provisions within IDEA safeguarding parental involvement in education. Parents have the right to be actively involved in the development of their child’s IEP. Parents have the right to be notified of the IEP meeting early enough to ensure that one or both of the child’s parents have an opportunity to attend. Parents also have the right to have the IEP meeting scheduled at a mutually agreed time and the right to an interpreter if their native language is not English. IDEA also includes language that allows parents and the local education agency (LEA) to agree to use alternative means of meeting participation such as video conferences or conference calls.
What are the procedural safeguards for parents?
The Notice of Procedural Safeguards is required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and must be provided to you:
- When you ask for a copy of an IEP
- The first time your child is referred for a special education assessment
- Each time you are given an assessment plan to evaluate your child
- Upon receipt of the first state or due process complaint in a school year, and
- When the decision is made to make a removal that constitutes a change of placement
(20 USC 1415[d]; 34 CFR 300.504; ED 56301[d] , EC 56321, and 56341.1[g] )
What is an Individual Education Program (IEP)?
IDEA requires children to have an individualized education program (IEP), in order to receive special education services under the law. The IEP includes information about a child’s present levels of performance on various tests and measures and includes information about goals and objectives, specifically how your child’s educational problems will be addressed. The purpose of the IEP is to set reasonable learning goals for your child and to state the services that the school district will provide.
What do I bring to my child’s IEP meeting?
Parents may want to prepare a binder of materials for their child’s IEP meeting. Depending on how much material you have, parents should organize the material into sections or tabs for ease of use. The binder or folder should contain:
- All assessments and/or evaluations on your child.
- Copies of all previous IEP meetings.
- Work samples from your child.
- Any letters from the teacher and/or school board.
- Report cards and test results from previous terms and years.
- Any negative or positive feedback in writing from a teacher.
- If your child is reading and or writing, samples of the level of reading and examples of writing.
- Medical reports.
Who attends the IEP meeting?
The IEP must be developed with input from the following IEP team members:
- At least one of the child’s parents;
- At least one regular education teacher;
- At least one of the child’s special education teachers or providers;
- A representative of the school district who is qualified, knowledgeable, and authorized to commit the district to the delivery of resources to the child;
- A qualified professional who can interpret the evaluation of child; and
- Others at the discretion of the parent or the school district and, where appropriate, the child with a disability.
What is a Special Education PTA (SEPTA)?
Families with children who have special needs often seek out opportunities to meet other parents in similar circumstances. Special Education PTAs (SEPTAs) provide this opportunity and often bring together families of students who attend different schools in a district under one PTA umbrella. Becoming a SEPTA provides families with an organizational structure, resources and the opportunity to be a collective voice for their child and for all children.
My child’s school has a PTA. Do I need to form a SEPTA?
When a PTA already exists in a school, parents of children with special needs may want to see if they can form a committee within that organization for families with special needs children. This encourages inclusion and helps keep the lines of communication open to all parent groups. Families can then be a part of all school activities, ensure the inclusion of their children and still have their own format for the special supports and opportunities that they may seek.
My child attends a school that is all children with special needs. Should we form a SEPTA just for our school?
If there is not a PTA in your school, in consultation with your school principal, you will want to determine if you should be a PTA or a SEPTA. Consulting with your state PTA office will also provide you with options. If there is a SEPTA serving schools in your district, you may want to affiliate with them and form a PTA that focuses on your school. If there are no SEPTAs in your community, you may want to form one that would also welcome families from other schools in your community. If there is a PTA Council for your area, that Council will also be a great source of information and guidance.
How do I determine if there is a SEPTA in my community?
Contact your state PTA office (find the numbers for state PTA offices at: http://pta.org/jp_find_your_pta.html.
In the box on the right of this page, simply indicate your state and hit return. This will take you to the contact information for your state PTA office.
Which steps should I take if there is not a SEPTA?
- Start with like-minded people, i.e. other parents, guardians, grandparents, etc. with children with special/exceptional needs, school staff (teachers, therapists, special education directors and so on).
- Schedule a meeting with these people and call the state PTA office (see above for contact information) and ask for someone from the state PTA to come and answer questions on the benefits of SEPTAs.
- A representative from the Board of Education and the school’s district’s Special Education Director should be encouraged to participate in the formation and operation of your SEPTA.
What can a SEPTA offer to families?
One major benefit of a SEPTA is to offer support to other parents who have similar circumstances. Some SEPTA units have a business meeting then adjourn and offer a parent support time off the record. Sometimes parents like to speak on issues that concern their children and just listening to them can help other caretakers. Other things can happen during the support time, for instance, caretakers can learn about doctors and services that are a positive experience for their child such as a place to take your child for a haircut that is not stressful and a place of business that is understanding and patient.
Other benefits are that SEPTAs sponsor workshops and speakers on topics that can help better advocate for exceptional children and topics that can help parents better understand aspects of special needs and many diagnoses. Many SEPTAs start out with a general topic like understanding your child’s IEP or 504 plan, the rights of your special needs child, and the parent’s rights under IDEA. Many units offer family fun days for the whole family, such as a bowling day, a picnic and so on. This is a comfortable place for the whole family to go and be together.
How do I establish a Special Needs Committee for my PTA unit?
- Discuss idea with your local PTA president, executive board and school principal
- If the PTA board decides to form a special needs committee, the president should select a committee chairman who:
- Is knowledgeable about and sensitive to children with special needs
- Works in a constructive way with school staff and parents
- Is a PTA member
What is the IDEA?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the main federal program authorizing state and local aid for special education and related services for children with disabilities. IDEA requires states to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities so that they can be educated to the greatest extent possible along with all other children. IDEA was created to help states and school districts meet their legal obligations to educate children with disabilities, and to pay part of the extra expenses of doing so.
What is a 504 plan and how is it different than an IEP?
Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met. A 504 plan is an attempt to remove barriers and level the playing field so that those students can safely pursue the same opportunities as other students.
Section 504 states that:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
The definition of a disability is much broader under Section 504 than it is under IDEA. All IDEA students are covered by Section 504, however not all Section 504 students are protected under IDEA. An individualized education plan, (IEP), which is covered by IDEA, is personalized to the child's unique needs and must result in educational benefit. However, the Section 504 plan provides accommodations based on the child's disability, but does not require academic improvement. A 504 plan spells out the specific modifications and accommodations that will be needed for your child to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peer. A 504 plan may include such things as wheelchair ramps, frequent blood sugar monitoring, a peanut-free lunch environment, allowance for frequent visits to the bathroom, or a tape recorder or keyboard for taking notes-to name a few examples.
Other 504 accommodations examples:
- Seating assignments near the teacher or positive student role model
- Seating assignments away from distractions or stimuli, which may include windows,
- Providing extra time to complete tasks, including tests
- Reducing the reading level of the assignments
- Providing a structured routine in written form
- Giving frequent short quizzes and avoiding long tests
- Monitoring a student’s self-paced assignments (daily, weekly, bi-weekly)
- Allowing open book exams
- Reading test item to student
- Providing peer assistance with organizational skills
- Allowing student to have an extra set of books at home
- Developing a reward system for in-schoolwork and homework completion
- Using timers to facilitate task completion
- Keeping classroom rules simple and clear
An IEP, falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and provides educational services. Only certain classifications of disability are eligible for an IEP, and students who do not meet those classifications but still require some assistance to be able to participate fully in school are candidates for a 504 plan.
What questions should parents ask about special education instruction and assessment?
- What kinds of assessments are offered in my state?
- What kinds of responses does each assessment require (e.g., multiple choice, short answers)?
- What kind of instruction has my child had?
- Has my child received instruction in grade-level academic content?
- Was the instruction evidence-based and of high quality?
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. The latest version of the ADA statute can be found here.
How do I access more information and ADA materials?
The U.S. Department of Justice provides free ADA materials. Printed materials may be ordered by calling the ADA Information Line (1-800-514-0301 (Voice) or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD)). Automated service is available 24-hours a day for recorded information and to order publications. Publications are available in standard print as well as large print, audiotape, Braille, and computer disk for people with disabilities.
How do I locate special education services in my specific state?
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NDCCD) provides a way for parents to search for special education resources by state.
To locate a Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) in your state, click here.
The Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers (the Alliance) is a partnership of one national and six regional parent technical assistance centers, each funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). This system exists for the purpose of developing, assisting, and coordinating parent training under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
What is Response to Intervention (RtI)?
Response to intervention integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavioral problems. With RTI, schools use data to identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions and adjust the intensity and nature of those interventions depending on a student’s responsiveness, and identify students with learning disabilities or other disabilities.
RTI employs a multi-level prevention system that provides for the early identification of learning and behavioral challenges and timely intervention for students who are at risk for long-term learning problems. This system includes three levels of intensity or three levels of prevention, which represent a continuum of supports. Many schools use more than one intervention within a given level of prevention.
What is the difference between RtI and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)?
RtI and PBIS are related innovations that rely on a three-level prevention framework, with increasing intensity of support for students with learning or behavioral problems. For more information on PBIS, see www.pbis.org.
How do I help my child transition from preschool to Kindergarten?
This can be the most difficult transition of all because parents and infants have an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan is completely about the child and the family. The IFSP is a family model where all learning is natural and services come into the home. Once they enter Preschool all services now happen at the school not in the home.
What questions should I ask as my child tranistions from preschool to kindergarten?
- What type of school is the best setting to meet your child needs?
- Can I visit the school campus? Visit the classroom? Talk with the teacher?
- How many hours each day will your child be attending?
- How many children will be in the classroom?
- What services will your child be receiving? How will the services differ from what we are receiving now?
- How will my child get to school if it is not your neighborhood school?
- If my child is to receive transportation services what do I need to know about it?
- Where is your child going after school? Do you need daycare? Does the school have an afterschool daycare?
- Is my child ready for Kindergarten?
- How can I join the PTA?
How can I help my child transition from elementary to middle school?
If at all possible a child should go to their neighborhood school as they have connections with friends and neighbors. Hear what the school is recommending for your child. Visit the school and classrooms being recommended and if concerned talk about your concerns with the teacher.
What questions should I ask as my child transitions from elementary to middle school?
- How will services change on the IEP from Elementary to Middle school?
- How will the teacher touch base with me?
- When do I get progress reports?
- Will there be lockers?
- How will my child get to P.E.?
- Does my child qualify for transportation? If so what do I need to do?
- Is there summer school?
- Is there a school orientation?
- Does the school have counselors? When can I meet the counselor?
- My child is on medication. What are the procedures?
- Are there any school functions my child and I can attend to make him/her feel more comfortable?
- Are there after school homework clubs?
- How can I join the PTA?
How can I help my child transition from middle to high school?
Visit the school campus that is being recommended and meet with the school counselor as well as the teachers. Be sure to inquire as to the opportunities for your child while in High School.
What questions should I ask as my child transitions from middle to high school?
- What are requirements for graduation?
- How will services change on my child’s IEP from Middle to High school?
- Is there workability or vocational education at the school? How does my child get involved in this?
- How will my child be graded?
- How will we discuss my child’s transition plan that is put in place when he/she is 16 years old?
- What is the homework policy?
- What will my child need to succeed at the school?
- Do you provide a daily planner for my child to keep his/her schedule and due dates or is that something I will need to get and to teach him/her how to use?
- What happens during finals?
- When can I obtain my child’s schedule so I can show him/her around the campus in order to make easy transition?
- How does my child make up credits if he/she should get behind?
- How can I join the PTA?
- What can I do over the summer to prepare my child?
How can I help my child prepare for college?
Special education students should be preparing for transition beginning in middle school. Each student should begin to see what the requirements are in their perspective state. A transition plan should include plans for completion of school, graduation and their future either/or for career or college. To prepare for college, students need to make sure that they have fulfilled all requirements for their graduation. This should include taking all courses in the school district, achieving all credits toward graduation, taking all assessments and exit exams required for graduation and preparing to transition to college and/or career.
Applying to take the SAT and ACT exams may need to include an updated profile to have extended time to take the tests. Students and/or their parents should check on the requirements including other psychological assessments for qualification. Once the tests are taken, then make a special education file to use only for the applications to all potential colleges. It should include the most current psychological assessment, a clear diagnosis of any disability that would help a student to qualify for the “reasonable accommodations” for school; make a list of the various colleges and what their student with disabilities office may offer, the contact in each office, and what the requirements might be to apply to the program. Remember, once a student leaves the IDEA program and especially when the student turns 18 years old, the student must be the one to ask for the services at the college, take responsibility to declare to the disabilities office, and apply for services.
Is there a transition “check list” for my high schooler that will assist with his/her transition to college or career?
The following is a checklist of transition activities that students and parents should consider when preparing transition plans with the IEP team. The student’s skills and interests will determine which items on the checklist are relevant. This checklist is used to determine whether or not theses transition issues should be addressed at IEP transition meetings. The checklist can also help identify who should be part of the IEP transition team. Responsibility for carrying out the specific transition activities should be determined at the IEP transition meetings.
FOUR TO FIVE YEARS BEFORE LEAVING THE K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICT
- Identify personal learning styles and the necessary accommodations for an IEP student be a successful learner and worker
- Identify career interests and skills, complete interest and career inventories, and identify additional education or training requirements.
- Explore options for postsecondary education and admission criteria.
- Identify interests and options for future living arrangements, including supports. Learn to communicate effectively your interests, preferences, and needs.
- Be able to explain your disability and the accommodations.
- Learn and practice informed decision making skills.
- Investigate assistive technology tools that can increase community involvement and employment opportunities.
- Broaden experiences with community activities and expand friendships. Pursue and use local transportation options outside of family.
- Investigate money management and identify necessary skills.
- Acquire identification card and the ability to communicate personal information.
- Identify and begin learning skills necessary for independent living.
- Learning and practice personal health care.
TWO TO TRHEE YEARS BEFORE LEAVING THE K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICT
- Identify community support services and programs (Vocational Rehabilitation, County Services, Centers for Independent Living, Regional Centers etc.)
- Invite adult service providers, peers, and others to the IEP transition meeting. Match career interests and skills with vocational course work and community work experience.
- Gather more information on postsecondary programs and the support services offered; make arrangements for accommodations to take college entrance exams.
- Identify health care providers and become informed about sexuality and family planning issues.
- Determine the need for financial support (Supplemental Security Income, state financial supplemental programs, Medicare).
- Learn and practice appropriate interpersonal, communication, and social skills for different settings (employment, school, recreation).
- Explore legal status with regards to decision making prior to the age of majority. Begin a resume and update it as needed.
- Practice independent living skills, e.g. budgeting, shopping, cooking, and housekeeping.
- Identify needed personal assistant services, and if appropriate, learn to direct and manage these services.
TWELVE MONTHS BEFORE LEAVING THE K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICT
- Apply for financial support programs. (Supplemental Security Income, Independent Living Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Personal Assistant Services.)
- Identify the post-secondary school you plan to attend and arrange for accommodations.
- Practice effective communication by developing interview skills, asking for help, and identifying necessary accommodations at postsecondary and work environments.
- Specify desired job and obtain paid employment with supports as needed. Take responsibility for arriving on time to work, appointments, and social activities.
- Assume responsibility for health care needs (making appointments, filling and taking prescriptions, etc.
- Register to vote and selective service.
What is vocation education in relation to the special education?
Vocational Education is based on an age appropriate Individual Transition Plan (ITP) which is documented in the IEP beginning on the student’s fifteenth (15th) birthday. The goals that are written in the ITP includes appropriate measurable postsecondary goals that cover the education or training, employment, community experiences and if needed independent living. These goals are to be updated annually. The transition services should reasonably enable the student to meet his or her postsecondary goals.
Workability is a program that all individuals with disabilities will successfully participate in preparation for the workplace and independent living and falls under the Vocational Education piece of the IEP. The mission of Workability is to promote the involvement of key stakeholders (students, families, educators, workforce agencies and business partners) in planning and implementing an array of services that will culminate in successful student transition to employment, life-long learning, and quality adult life.
How do I establish guardianship for my child with special needs?
A conservatorship and/or guardianship allow someone else to act for someone else. A conservatorship/guardianship cannot be created voluntarily. It is granted by a judge. A guardianship is similar to a parent/child relationship, except that a guardian is not held legally responsible for the acts of the other person and guardians do not have to use his or her own money to provide for the other. They are generally given when someone can no longer take care of themselves. For instance, if a person becomes mentally incapacitated and is no longer able to make knowledgeable decisions about his or her own welfare, a conservatorship or guardianship will need to be obtained. This involves obtaining a judgment from the court and the appointment of a caretaker by the court.
How do I create a power of attorney for my special needs child?
A Power of Attorney is a document that voluntarily creates a relationship with another and gives them the right to act as if they were you. You may limit a power of attorney to a very specific transaction or you may grant full power to someone over all of your affairs. For example, a limited power might be to allow your agent "to sell my car and deposit the sale proceeds to my bank account" or "to write checks on my bank account to pay my utility bills." A "full" power would allow your agent to transact all your financial affairs for you.
Where do I locate a glossary of special education terms?
We have created a Parent's Dictionary with definitions to commonly used terms and acronyms used in special education. View the dictionary here.
What are all of these acronyms?
Often educators and others will use an abbreviation (acronym) to describe a term such as a service, disability or agency. You can find a list of acronyms here.
Where can I find links to other resources?
Additional resources are located here.
Is there a special artist category in the PTA Reflections Program?
The National PTA has launched a fifth division of the Reflections program – the Special Artist Division. This is a non-graded division limited to students whose physical, cognitive or mental health challenges meet the guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Click here for more information on the Reflections Program and eligibility requirements.
Can my child participate in physical education classes?
Adaptive physical education (APE) is a federally mandated component of special education services [U.S.C.A. 1402 (25)] and ensures that physical education is provided to the student with a disability as part of the child's special education services. This modified, physical education program is designed to meet the individualized gross motor needs, or other disability-related challenges, of an identified student. The program can be provided one-on-one, in a small group, or within the general physical education setting. The APE instructor needs to be trained in assessing and working with special needs children. Lesson plans, rubrics, and worksheets need to be adapted for the needs of the children. The APE teacher is a direct service provider, as contrasted with physical or occupational therapists. These therapies are considered related services and are provided to the child with disabilities only if he/she needs them to benefit from instruction.
Are there other athletic programs to assist my child?
Special Olympics provide many opportunities for children with special needs. Click here to locate the closest Special Olympics program. Please contact your child’s local school district to see what programs are provided in your area.
This toolkit was compiled by the dedicated members of the National PTA Special Needs Committee: Melissa Johnson, Chair, Enrique Escallon, Stephanie Fehr, Theresa Mayfield, and Cory Sanfilippo.
Disclaimer language: Material presented on the National PTA website is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as professional advice and should not be construed as such. National PTA is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional services by posting said material. Professional services should be sought if legal or other specific expert assistance is required.