All children deserve to experience the thrill and escapism of meaningful physical play. What’s more, it just takes a bit of thought and planning, and everyone can enjoy the exhilaration and magic that arguably only playgrounds can produce. Of course, more than anything it’s about social interaction – and in this respect no child should be left on the sidelines.
Parents of children with special needs will naturally want to read every book the hits the shelves about their child’s specific need, but who has the time for that?
Here is a list of good reference and resource books for parents, siblings and special-needs children:
Attention Deficit Disorder
“Commanding Attention: A Parent and Patient Guide to More ADHD Treatment” by Tess Messer, MPH
Written by a physician’s assistant and parent to an ADHD child, “Commanding Attention” explores the many conventional and unconventional treatment options for ADHD children and offers a personal insight into the world of ADHD from a clinical perspective while delivering the information in an entertaining and objective manner.
“A Parent’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome & High-Functioning Autism, Second Edition” by Sally Ozonoff, Geraldine Dawson and James McPartland
This guide is written for parents with children who have high-functioning forms of autism, and the text is filled with information for parents to help focus their child’s energies and talents into the appropriate channels and assist with social nuances and situations.
“Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Third Edition” by Ellen Notbohm
This book offers a hopeful perspective from an author that has first hand experience as the mother of autistic children. The text encourages working with the autistic child and their way of doing things rather than attempting to force the child to act in a manner that is contrary to their nature.
The daughter of Chinese royalty was born blind but with the help of doctors and men of magic, she will discover a new way to “see” the world without the use of her eyes. Fairy tale-like depiction for children to enjoy.
“Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Survival Guide for Parents” by Moira McCarthy, Jake Kushner MD and Barbara J. Anderson PhD
A guide for parents raising teenagers with diabetes. Includes strategies to get the teens to adhere to their diet and medication schedules and other recommendations and advice dealing with this difficult age and the disease.
“Fasten Your Seatbelt: A Crash Course on Down Syndrome for Brothers and Sisters” by Brian Skotko and Susan P. Levine
A guide written for older children and teens about their role as sibling to a person with Down Syndrome. Packed with lots of important information and provides a reference for older children with questions about their sibling in a Q&A format.
“The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children” by Ross W. Greene PhD
There are many emotional disorders and psychological issues but “The Explosive Child” covers one of the most difficult emotional problems: the angry, violent child. This book explores different strategies and approaches to dealing with, disciplining and understanding a child that is prone to outbursts and unresponsive to limitations or traditional rule obedience.
A book written for young children about a girl who loses her temper. The book helps the reader understand that becoming angry and expressing that feeling is normal, but calming down and behaving appropriately is part of the emotional journey.
“Views From Our Shoes: Growing Up With A Brother or Sister With Special Needs” by Donald Meyer
A compilation of essays written by children who are the siblings of children with a variety of special needs. The essay writers range in age from 4 to 18 and offer a unique and personalized glimpse into the world of growing up a person with special needs.
Special education, also referred to as special needs education, focuses on addressing the needs of children who experience a range of difficulties in learning, communicating, and managing their own emotions and behavior. They may also be facing challenges associated with physical disabilities, sensory impairments and development disorders.
Learning Strategies for Special Education
It’s imperative for parents, guardians, caretakers, teachers, and trainers to find both effective strategies and useful resources to help these students to do well in life. Moreover, the field of special education is far from static, new research and new laws change perspective. While a day-to-day common sense approach does help children with special needs, research-based strategies have proven time and again to be extremely effective. For this reason advanced training and certification is recommended for professional teachers.
Legal Protection for Special Education under IDEA
However, apart from improved educational methodology, there is also another component to the special education field that it is important for both parents and teachers to know well, the federal laws governing this field which is covered by the disability act known as IDEA. So, in most educational jurisdictions, special education is overseen by federal law under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Under the law, special education must provide support, services, and placements to all educational needs without any cost to the parents.
The categories under IDEA include sensory impairments like deafness, hearing impairments, blindness, visual impairments, and speech and language impairments; mental and emotional impairment like autism, developmental delays, emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, and traumatic brain injury; and physical impairments like multiple disabilities, orthopedic disabilities, and other health impairments. Additionally, some jurisdictions may include a Gifted category as children with extraordinary talent also have considerable difficulty fitting into the curriculum of regular schooling.
With that in mind, we have researched free online classes that address either educational techniques or legal issues. It wasn’t easy to find the best of ten free online classes available for parents and special education teachers from leading universities, e-learning providers, the autism society, and from online education databases but we did. Without further delay, here are the Top 10 Free Classes Available Online For Special Education Teachers and Parents of Special Needs Children:
Special Education Classes from Leading Universities
There are innumerable free online classes offered by some of the world’s best universities available at your fingertips. These cover everything that is available through the regular educational system and they are taught by leading professors. The courses are delivered through video lectures, articles, and online tests.
In the field of Special Education, we found two highly informative courses from the University of Southern Queensland and Yale University.
1. Teaching Students with Special Needs: Behavior Management from the University of Southern Queensland
The University of Southern Queensland, formerly called the Queensland Institute of Technology was established in 1967. As the name indicates, it is located in Southern Queensland, Australia. Its main campus is on Toowoomba and it has campuses in Springfield and Fraser Coast.
In Teaching Students with Special Needs: Behavior Management, students are shown a number of methods to help special needs children in different age groups and educational levels. The course explores researched teaching methods and discusses various researched techniques to maintain attention in a classroom.
This course includes the following themes and is most suitable for special education students:
• Classroom teaching, management, and procedures • Comprehensive methods to positively influence children • Cooperative learning strategies • Tutoring by peers
The course also provides in depth lectures on the following behavior management theories:
• The Kounin model • The Behavior Modification model • The Assertive Discipline model • The Reality Therapy model • The Logical Consequences model • The Social Skills training model
For more, visit Teaching Students with Special Needs: Behavior Management here.
2. The Legal Rights of Children with Autism and Related Disorders from Yale University
Yale University is ranked as one of the top private Ivy League universities in the world. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, it has developed a formidable reputation as one of the best places for students interested in advanced research.
Yale University has a YouTube Channel that offers free courses. In the field of special education it has an excellent class called, “The Legal Rights of Children with Autism and Related Disorders.”
The Legal Rights of Children with Autism and Related Disorders covers some highly important and relevant topics on legal issues in considerable depth.
The course includes the following themes:
• A brief history of how special education laws evolved over time • How the law gets involved in the life of a child after he or she is diagnosed with autism or another related disorder. It covers the law’s involvement in school, home, and adult life • What legal rights pertain to education, therapy, medical services, and social services • How parents and guardians can get assistance from local, state, and federal agencies
This course is most suitable for parents as it explains legal issues in a straightforward way without trying to comprehend complicated legal jargon.
For more, visit The Legal Rights of Children with Autism and Related Disorders here.
Special Education Course from E-Learning Providers
E-learning providers are pioneers in the field of learning education. They provide cloud-based learning solutions to thousands of people all over the world. Although not universities or colleges per se, they still offer most educational courses available through formal education.
In the field of Special Education, we found three excellent courses from Alison, Open Learning, and LD online.
3. Working with Students with Special Education Needs by ALISON
ALISON is an acronym for Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online. This e-learning provider was founded in 2007 by Mike Feerick in Galway, Ireland.
Working with Students with Special Education Needs discusses the requirements for meeting the individual needs of special education students. Teachers who work with special educational needs students need to learn certain skills and specific strategies to deliver the most effective classes.
This free course introduces teachers to the following themes:
• The core requirements of special education • Changes in educational legislature, particularly in the U.S • Teacher and trainer responsibilities • An individual educational plan (IEP)
The course also provides a description of the following disabilities:
Besides a description of each disability, it also goes into practical strategies teachers can use to assist students with each one.
The course is suited for special education teachers.
For more, visit Working with Students-with Special Educational Needs here.
4. The Nobody’s Normal Series by Open University
The Open University is a British University. It is open to people who don’t have formal academic qualification.
The Nobody’s Normal series is a collaborative venture between the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the OpenLearn team, which is a program and web team at The Open University. It is a documentary series to help educate families about the special needs and challenges of disabled people. It covers the five most significant stages in their lives, namely birth, schooling, dating, leaving home, and aging through real-life case studies.
Here are the themes covered in the series:
• Program 1 is titled, “Baby Love.” It covers birth and the early years • Program 2 is titled, “Education, education, education.” It covers the school years • Program 3 is titled, “Love is in the air.” It covers adolescent dating • Program 4 is titled, “Moving on.” It covers early leaving home as a young adult • Program 5 is titled, “Who cares.” It covers old age
This course is suitable for parents as it provides a non-academic perspective on all the social issues around raising a child with disabilities.
For more, visit The Nobody’s Normal Series by Open University here.
5. Advocacy in Special Education by LD Online
LD OnLine is an authority website on learning disabilities. It is a valuable resource for both parents and teachers.
Andrea Sherwin Ripp, Ed.M., MS, OTR/L, has created a free course on Advocacy in Special Education for parents. The program is built around her approved study doctorate thesis for research in special needs education.
The course is structured to offer:
• 2 surveys • 3 readings • Self-study questions • A short answer assignment
It provides the following lessons on Special Advocacy:
• Special education documentation • Legal rights • Practical strategies to get support and services • References to nationwide parent support networks • References to special education resources
The course is suitable for parents. Parents who complete the course receive a course certificate and a comprehensive resource list. They are also entered into a drawing for one of five Amazon.com gift certificates valued at $25 each.
For more, visit Advocacy in Special Education here.
Special Education Classes from the Autism Society of America
Dr. Bernard Rimland and Dr Ruth Sullivan founded the Autism Society of America in 1965 to support parents with children who had autism or related disorders. The Autism society offers two useful classes for parents: Autism 101 and Autism and the Environment 101.
Autism 101 is principally for parents, but may also help those working with autism as caregivers. This course covers the autism spectrum, treatment options and assistance, transition to adulthood, and what parents can do every day. Participants can download a certificate of completion in PDF format to have a reminder of their course experiences.
7. Autism and the Environment 101 by the Autism Society
Autism and the Environment 101 expands on the ideas introduced in the Autism 101 course to give a much broader understanding of Autism. This course covers a new model of autism, why there is a noticeable rise of autism spectrum disorders, and the role of government in helping children with autism. The course concludes with what parents and caretakers can do every day. Participants can receive a printable PDF certificate of completion.
For more, visit Autism and the Environment 101 here.
Special Education Classes from Open Education Database
Open Education Database (OEDb) may very well be the most comprehensive collection of both online university and free courses available in the world. Founded in 2007, it has been a pioneer in the open education movement. In fact, it offers information on as many as 10,000 free open courses. We found three course on special education offered by Liberty University. Liberty University is a private, Christian institution in Lynchburg Virginia. On campus, it has 12,600 residential students. Its online division has 90,000 students and is hosted on iTunes as part of the iTunes U course collection.
8. Current Trends in Special Education by Liberty University
Current Trends in Special Education includes the following themes:
• Legal and ethical issues • Documentation procedures • The Individual Education Plan (IEP) • The Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP) • Service delivery in school, church and community locations
For more, visit Current Trends in Special Education here.
9. Issues and Trends in Exceptionality by Liberty University
Issues and Trends in Exceptionality by Liberty University includes the following themes:
• Trends influencing special education • How to research, analyze and evaluate controversial issues when it comes to exceptionalities.
This course is most suitable for special education teachers.
For more, visit Issues and Trends in Exceptionality by Liberty University here.
10. Learning and Behavior Problems by Liberty University
Learning and Behavior Problems includes the following themes: • Characteristics of children with disabilities • Learning and behavior problems • Remediation goals
This course is suited for special education teachers.
For more, visit Learning and Behavior Problems here.
Bonus Links, Information, and Resources
In addition to these 10 free online courses there are many other helpful online resources. Classes, videos, podcasts, and articles on special education provide detailed knowledge about the characteristics of various disorders, the legal aspects of advocacy and assistance, and creative teaching methods.
Here are some additional resources for special education teachers to consider:
When you have a child with special needs, you want to make sure your child is still able to get the most out of their education. Many government programs exist to help children of all ages further their development. Children with special needs will not be able to take advantage of all of the programs that schools and the government have to offer. However, there are many programs that were created specifically for special needs children. Being aware of these programs will help you to make sure your child is included in the many beneficial services available.
1. Public or Private School
Your school will be the first resource for helping your child get the most out of his or her abilities while gaining access to education. Your special education representatives should sit down and create an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, for your child. They will take into account your particular child’s needs and challenges, and create a plan for incorporating them into the school and helping them to succeed. With your IEP, you can feel more confident that your school is going to take good care of your child.
For those who don’t know where to start in taking advantage of the services available to their special needs child, the DoD Special Needs Parent Toolkit is a great resource. While this program is especially geared towards families in the military, their website has many resources and informational documents that will help you to visualize the amount of resources available to you. On their website, they list the links to even more resources for your child, including financial resources, community support, and educational services.
To see the DoD Special Needs Parent Toolkit and more, go here .
Certain programs exist to help bring awareness for children and adults with specific disabilities. For example, the Autism Society of America (ASA) educates the public about the particulars of autism, and lets them know how they can be more aware and more sensitive to the disability. They sometimes hold activities for special needs children, where families can meet each other and develop a support network. These awareness events also bring families together with community supporters of the disability. These type of programs exist for many different disabilities.
Visit the the Autism Society’s website by going here .
4. National Organization for Rare Disorders
Even for those with disabilities that aren’t so common, the government has support networks in place for families to find one another and get access to the resources they need. The National Organization for Rare Disorders collects and distributes information relating to rarer disabilities. Their information is geared towards helping people with rare disabilities find health resources, information, and services relating to their disabilities.
Some states have developed funding programs to relieve the burden of educational costs on special needs families. Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship program is one good example of this. Similar programs exist in other states; check with your local or regional education department to see what exists in your state.
To view Georgia’s program, click the following link .
6. Opening Doors program
The national government also has programs in place to disseminate information and provide resources to children with specific disabilities. One example of this is the Opening Doors program, which was designed for children with hearing loss problems. This program maintains up-to-date information on services for hearing loss indivuals, as well as providing technology resources to help these children cope with their difficulties in communication. National programs like this one exist for many individual disabilities, and they can be found through a simple internet search.
For more information on the Opening Doors program, go here .
7. Social Security Administration
The US government is sensitive to the additional costs related to caring for a child with special needs. For those families who need it, special financial assistance is available. Extra health benefits, Social Supplemental Income (SSI), and social security benefits may be available to families who qualify for special needs assistance.
To see the requirements and to apply for this assistance, follow this link to their website.
8. Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program
Medical expenses can be a major burden for those with special needs. Fortunately there are programs to help families get help in covering these costs. The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program helps individuals with disabilities understand how health care coverage works, and allows them to find resources to help them cover their medical costs. The center is very knowledgeable about health insurance and the health care system, and they provide informational pamphlets and consultations.
9. Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy
The Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy is a resource that helps families gain access to health services and information. They have awareness programs and information for many different disabilities. They can guide you to the appropriate local resources that will help you get the best health care for your child, and help you find financial assistance for health care.
The Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy website is at this link .
Many programs exist on the local and regional level to help children with special needs to develop their leadership potential and higher functioning. The Center for Emerging Leadership is one such program. This program helps teens with disabilities to learn life skills and develop their leadership abilities. Parents can learn how to foster these qualities in their children on a daily basis.
The PACER center is an example of a regional program that helps your child make the most out of the opportunities that are available for individuals with special needs. They keep their community aware of events and opportunities that are accessible to special needs chidlren, and encourage the families to help their child participate as much as possible in local activities. While the program is based in Bloomington, MN, they can guide individuals in other locations to similar programs that may exist in your area.
Partners in Policymaking is an example of a program that wants to help families with special needs children to become more involved in helping lawmakers choose policies that will help, or at least not hinder, their children’s futures. The center offers training for parents in how to become more active in the local and national governments, how to create community support networks to advocate for their issues, and how to address regional and national policymakers to voice their concerns with the most effect.
For more information on this program, you can visit here.
13. 3E Love
3E Love is a program that was developed to help children with disabilities to feel included and to have high self esteem despite their challenges. The program fosters self-love, as well as community awareness. Their community building efforts help children with disabilities to embrace the diversity that they bring to the world, and to find others like them. To find out more about their initiative, click on the link here .
14. Team of Advocates for Special Kids
The Team of Advocates for Special Kids is another program that provides community links to programs that help children with special needs. This California based program gives referrals for health, education, and financial resources, and they also sometimes host activities for awareness and community support.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the programs available to children with special needs and their families. By contacting one of the programs above, you may also gain more information about the programs that are available to you and your family. Building a community of knowledgeable individuals is important to allowing your child to grow and take advantage of many opportunities. The programs above are a great start to getting the help and benefits that your child needs.
A child in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) has as much potential as any other student. To maximize that potential, however, it’s important to choose the right school for him or her to attend. This educational environment should be supportive and nurturing, a place where he or she will not only learn but thrive.
In order to find that right school, you’ll first need to determine what sort of classes you want for your child. A school might offer classes comprised entirely of special-education students. On the other hand, students with special needs might take classes with all other classmates. Such heterogeneous classes typically provide extra help to students who need it, such as personalized instruction from a teaching aide. Or special-needs students might be allowed one-on-one time with educators at some point during every school day.
When deciding between those options, it’s important to consider your child’s social and emotional strengths. Will your child feel more comfortable being with other students with special needs all day — would he or she make friends more easily that way? Or do you believe that being around students without disabilities will help your son or daughter learn how to adapt in various social situations?
In addition, your child’s academics will likely improve if teachers employ a variety of teaching styles. That is, teachers ought to combine lectures with individual and small-group assignments, interactive lessons, and visual presentations. That way, if your child tends to lose focus when taking notes, he or she will still be able to grasp the material by virtue of those other teaching methods.
Once you know precisely what you’re looking for, you can begin the process of choosing the right school. The first step is to compile a list of every school near your home. You can check with a services coordinator or with a nonprofit organization that specializes in a certain disability to ensure that you have a full list. Further, you should look at private as well as public options. Obviously, private school tuition can be a financial strain for many families. But if a certain private school in your area offers exceptional services, you might consider those tuition payments to be worthy investments in your child’s future. Moreover, a disabilities organization could help you find out if you’re eligible for government tuition assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which Congress passed in 1975.
Visits are key to determining which school represents the best option. On a visit, you can meet with teachers and administrators to discuss how the school would meet your child’s needs. When you visit a school, you also get a sense of the teaching styles, the class sizes — roughly speaking, the smaller the class size the better — the nutritional value of the lunches, and all sorts of other particulars. Further, meeting with teachers and principals is a way to initiate relationships with those professionals. Whenever you have a concern about your child’s progress, it’s easier and often more productive to contact an educator you know personally. Finally, if you visit a school and discover that staff members are brusque or unwilling to discuss your questions, you should definitely think twice about sending your child there.
Once you have found a great school, you can start working with its staff on formulating your child’s IEP. This IEP will list the specific academic goals that your child should meet by the end of the school year as well as the services your child will receive. Bear in mind that you have the right to disagree with what the school wants to include in the IEP. It can be difficult for parents to contradict experts, but always remember that you know your child best. Therefore, if you believe that he or she requires more personalized attention than the IEP allows for or if you feel the plan’s academic benchmarks are too challenging or not challenging enough, politely refuse those parameters. At the same time, carefully mull over the IEP team’s arguments. Perhaps they’ll raise an issue that you hadn’t considered before.
When disagreements arise, IEP meetings continue; you and the school’s team will negotiate until acceptable compromises are reached. If you find that you’re at an impasse, you can reject in writing the entire IEP. At that point, you may request a due process hearing, at which a hearing officer will listen to both points of view and arbitrate. Note that it’s helpful to employ an attorney for such a hearing.
Of course, if you find a school that accommodates the educational vision you have for your son or daughter, such IEP conflicts shouldn’t come up in the first place. That’s just one more reason why finding the ideal school is so vital.
Raising a child with special needs can be difficult enough, but thanks to the worldwide web, the Internet is full of tons of informational websites that can help you and your little one.
Below are twelve helpful sites that are loaded with useful information for parents with a special-needs child, including information on Autism, deafness, blind-deafness, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disorders, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain injuries, Down’s Syndrome, and more.
You do not have to feel alone when there are so many other parents out there going through the same thing you are. These twelve amazing sites include information about your child’s condition, stories from parents who have been through it, local help guides, forums, blog entries, and learning tools.
AutismNow.Org is hands down one of the best online resources for information on Autism. It includes latest news, information, an easy to use search engine, upcoming events, and even a local agencies map for finding help in your area. Coming in at a close second is Autism Learn , a site is dedicated to the process of teaching Autistic children how to learn. It is jam-packed with visually stimulating activities geared toward helping develop skills with people, fine motor control, creating a connected hierarchy, learning about the seasons and weather, money, and much more.
Hearing Like Me is a wonderful resource for parents who have deaf children or hearing loss. Their website is clean, easy to browse, and full of helpful information. It also has an amazing forum where you can share your story and talk with other parents. This is an excellent resource for parents who wish to share their story and communicate with other parents who are going through the same thing.
The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children has a lot of information and services for parents of children who are deaf-blind. In addition to their resources, they help parents and their children get involved in activities, as well as provide latest news and updates in the deaf-blind community.
The Hearing Loss Association of America is a great resource for any parent with a hearing-impaired child, as it not only offers support resources, news, recommended reading, personal stories, and articles, it also has a section on laws and how your child with hearing loss has rights.
Language and Speech Delays/Impairments
Created by a practicing speech and language pathologist, SpeechDelay.com is a fantastic site for anyone involved in the life of a child who has language and speech delays or impairments. The site features tips to stimulate language development, a forum to interact directly with other families and speech-language pathologists, a wealth of links to other sites, a comprehensive reading list, and even a sign language section.
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities is an excellent and resourceful website for parents with children who have dyslexia, are ADHD, or have other learning disabilities. The site focuses on empowering parents with knowledge and a strong supportive community. It also has a section on success stories for those that may be feeling overwhelmed.
Support for Families of Children with Disabilities has been around for a long time, since 1982, offering information to parents with multiple disabilities in children. It offers newsletters and resources, as well as upcoming events and services for educating parents and loved ones of children with disabilities.
Orthopedic Impairments is a friendly website project with a comprehensive mission to inform, educate, and help walk through parents, teachers, and students with orthopedic impairments. If you are finding that you are having a difficult time communicating with your child’s school, they have a special section designed to help you through any bumps along the way.
Serious Emotional Disturbance
One of the most prominent mental health websites within the U.S., Healthy Place, offers an interesting and informative blog entry detailing the long and difficult journey parents of mentally ill children travel. Although the entry is short, there are over eighty-five comments from various parents and loved ones of children who have serious emotional disturbances and disorders, each with a story to tell.
Specific Learning Disability
The Guardian has an inspiring article about a mother and her son, who has Autism. It discusses one of the biggest challenges a parent and their disabled child faces: other people. At the end of the article there are over 165 comments from others who have something to say about the issue, including information, stories people want to share, and support for those who are faced with these daily criticisms.
If your child has a specific learning disability, such as trouble reading or communicating, then this site is for you. Not only does it have a section solely for parents, but it has sections for teachers, principals, librarians, and other professions. It is also available in Spanish.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Brainline.org has an impressive guide for parents who have a child with a traumatic brain injury. It covers information on how to help your child adjust, cope, develop, and rehabilitate after an injury. It also helps parents understand cognitive changes in their child and has useful information into peer networks and gaining self-esteem.
Though a controversial site, Lifenews.com offers a highly touching and incredibly heartfelt article about the parents of a child with Down Syndrome and what they need to hear. It discusses how parents can often times slip into depression, but that it is important to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It focuses highly on the positive aspects of taking care of a child with Down Syndrome. While things may seem hopeless from time to time, it is imperative to remember that there really is no limit to what your child can accomplish, and that although he or she may be facing daily struggles that they will persevere.
Although there are many people out there who are still relatively uninformed and unfamiliar with special needs children, it is important not to let hurtful statements deter you from doing the very best you can for your little one. It is entirely okay not to always know the answer, and it is certainly okay for parents of disabled children to find communities, programs, and other forms of support in which they are able to speak with others who share similar experiences. While the above links are not comprehensive and the only ones available, they are a good start.
Just as a parent is typically the first to recognize when their child is in need of special attention, when it comes to education, the parent plays one of the most important roles in determining if the child should be eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Nothing can begin in addressing the special needs of a child without the input of a teacher, physician and parent/s initiating the IEP. This involves a parent requesting that the school evaluate their child. The school must have a parent’s written consent to perform this evaluation as it also sets the 60-day timer or the state’s time-frame constraint.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that guarantees a child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, within the least restrictive environment, or LRE. What all of that simply means is that funding and protections exist for children of special needs to guarantee an education for children with disabilities age 3 through 21.
Congress amended IDEA through Public Law 114-95, the Every Student Succeeds Act, in 2015. During the 2018-19 school year, more than 64% of children with disabilities are in general education classrooms for 80% or more of the school day, according to IDEA.
What Defines a Child with a Disability
IDEA identifies a “child with a disability” as having intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to as “emotional disturbance”), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments or specific learning disabilities.
The Evaluation Process
In addressing special needs, the child may certainly be able to articulate some level of struggling, but the effort put to discovering the subtle and sophisticated symptoms needs to follow a thorough protocol. These can best be identified through a series of tests, not just a single test. This includes taking a closer look at the child’s overall health, covering vision and hearing as well as general intelligence and performance within the school environment.
Observing how the child communicates within the social environment gives an opportunity to evaluate emotional well-being and the child’s use of his or her body in this process. Determining a child’s disability must be a full and comprehensive process in order to be fair to the individual needs of the child. This includes the parent’s right to appeal the school system’s finding a child is “not eligible.”
Parents must receive this finding in writing along with information regarding how to appeal and the various mechanisms available through which to resolve disagreements, including mediation. In addition, each state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) center is one of the many resources available to help parents learn what next steps to take. Similarly, a parent may decline services that have been approved at any time.
Suffice it to say, a parent has the right to change their mind about whether their child receives special education and related services. Reestablishing services is possible and may include another evaluation, again, in fairness to ensuring the child is receiving what is needed for them individually.
The Evaluation Team
It is important to have the right input both in evaluating the child and developing his or her IEP. Number one in this effort are the child’s parents. In addition, there must be at least one teacher from the regular education curriculum and one special education teacher. Also on the team is a special education supervisor from the school system familiar with the regular education environment who brings knowledge of the available school resources. There must also be someone capable of interpreting the results of the evaluation and communicating those results to the rest of the team.
When it is appropriate, the child may be able to contribute. Parents may invite other knowledgeable individuals or those of special expertise, a relative or a child care provider. The school can contribute specialists of their own, such as a physical or speech therapist. The school may also invite any other agency representatives that may be responsible for either paying for or providing services and only with the parent’s consent.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Once it has been determined a child is eligible for special education and related services, a meeting to develop an IEP must be held within 30 days. IDEA 2004 clearly allows for parents to contribute as equal partners on the team both in writing and implementing their child’s IEP. This plan will include the child’s present levels of academic and functional performance and in what ways the child’s disability affects this performance. Goals will be established for the upcoming year and what the team agrees upon that the child can reasonably be expected to accomplish. These goals are intended to accommodate the child’s disability while still being able to progress in the general education curriculum including the subjects of math, science, reading, social studies and physical education, among others.
Additional Student Support
The IEP must also include the provision of supplementary aids and services such as a one-on-one tutor, preferential seating or devices that aid in communication. Accessibility makes it easier for a child with a disability to better take part in school activities. The IEP also details any changes to school programs or the school personnel support that will be provided. Further, the IEP must also explain how much of the school day will have the child educated separately from other children without disabilities and whether this interaction includes extracurricular activities such as lunch time or clubs.
Reevaluation of the child’s needs are performed at least once every three years or as determined by the IEP team when there is a need for additional data. Again, there is a time clock started on this reevaluation 90 days from the IEP team meeting. It is helpful to know that IDEA 2004 provisions also apply to private or religious elementary or secondary schools in which the child is placed.