Recent News

(Posted 3/30/2015)
Educational Services for Youth in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems

Children involved in the foster care system or in the juvenile justice system experience hardships related to “trauma, changes in placement, family mobility, disabling conditions, and economic disadvantage”.  The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk lists these hardships in their new guide entitled “Quality Education Services Are Critical for Youth Involved With the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems”.  The guide is designed to assist child-serving agencies address barriers and challenges for the children and families they serve.  The guide offers policy-related recommendations and actionable items that staff can use to ensure better outcomes for youth. 

View or download the guide at:


(Posted 3/6/2015)
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act

On December 19, 2014 the ABLE Act was signed into federal law.  Regulations or guidance related to the new law will be issued by June 2015.  Each state will decide whether to offer an ABLE program. 
The ABLE Act allows families to create a savings account for their family member with a disability to save for future disability-related expenses.  These ABLE accounts resemble the 529 accounts that parents can set up to save for their children’s college tuition.  The new accounts protect eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal benefits.  The money can be used for housing, transportation, employment training, assistive technology, education, funeral and burial expenses, and other approved expenses. 

Learn more details from The Arc of Illinois:


(Posted 1/21/2015)
A Vision for the Future of the Education in the United States

On January 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined what he wants to see change as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized.  He calls for increasing the opportunity for quality preschool, increasing funding and assistance for school and educators, reducing time spent on testing, and informing parents, teachers, and students about progress toward college and career readiness. 
Find all Duncan’s comments here:


(Posted 1/9/2015)
The Arc of Illinois New Assitive Technology Program

The Arc of Illinois, through a generous donation, has developed a new Assistive Technology Program. This program will fund, or partially fund, the purchase of assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, such as an iPad, for social and communication skills.  There must be an evaluation/assessment completed by a qualified provider to prove need and reason for the requested device.

The goal of The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Program is to enhance and improve the quality of life for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities by providing opportunities for individuals to receive technology to help with education, employment, community living and independence.  With today’s technology, there are assistive features on devices, such as iPads, that can really improve learning for students with special needs.  One mom recently told us, “I am so excited about the possibility of this program especially for people like my son, who has autism.  A device like an iPad would mean such a difference to him in being able to communicate with the people in his life.”.
The maximum amount funded will be $500.00 per person or family. Upon approval, the device will be shipped directly to the applicant.  Once the device is received it is the responsibility of that person and/or family to make sure it is used in the appropriate manner and that an evaluation is filled out to assure future funding for this project. There are not many programs like this in the state of Illinois and The Arc of Illinois is overjoyed to be able to provide this much needed assistive technology for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Go here to apply: The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Application.
The Arc of Illinois is a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and has emerged as a leading advocacy organization in Illinois. The Arc is committed to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families and insuring persons with disabilities have services and supports available to them when needed.  For more information about The Arc of Illinois visit our website: or call the office at 815-464-1832.


(Posted 1/7/2015)
Equal Access At School For English Language Learners

The U.S. Department of Education and Justice released guidance on January 7, 2015 explaining how school districts can meet their obligations to English learner students.  The guidance explains the schools’ obligations to:

  • ·        Identify English learner students
  • ·        Offer them language assistance programs
  • ·        Provide qualified staff and resources
  • ·        Ensure equitable access to programs and activities
  • ·        Avoid unnecessary segregation from other students
  • ·        Monitor progress in learning English and doing grade-level classwork
  • ·        Remedy academic deficits
  • ·        Move students out of language assistance programs when they are proficient in English
  • ·        Evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs
  • ·        Provide limited English proficient parents with information about school issues in a language they understand

A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in English at:

A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in other languages at:

To view the entire guidance document, go to:


(Posted 11/18/2014)

A fact sheet issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on November 12, 2014, discusses how schools are to meet the communication needs of students.  The fact sheet explains that “Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools must, without charge, ensure that communication with students with disabilities is as effective as communication with students without disabilities, giving primary consideration to students and parents in determining which auxiliary aids and services are necessary to provide such effective communication.” 

The fact sheet lists these examples of aids and services related to communication:

For a student with a speech disability – word or letter board, writing materials, spelling to communicate, a qualified sign language interpreter, a portable device that writes and/or produces speech, and telecommunication services.

For a student who is deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing – exchange of written materials, interpreters, note takers, real-time computer-aided transcription services, assistive listening systems, accessible electronic and information technology, and open and closed captioning.

For a student who is blind, deaf-blind, or has low vision – qualified readers, taped texts, audio recordings, Braille materials and refreshable Braille displays, accessible e-book readers, screen reader software, magnification software, optical readers, secondary auditory programs, and large print materials.

The fact sheet clarifies that schools are not required to provide aids or services greater than what is needed to ensure effective communication. 

Read the fact sheet at

Read the Frequently Asked Questions document on this topic at


(Posted 10/28/2014)

The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter on October 21, 2014 about the persistence of bullying of students with disabilities.  The Department also issued letters in 2000, 2010, and 2013.  The new letter notes that in recent years, the Office for Civil Rights has received an ever-increasing number of complaints concerning the bullying of students with disabilities and the effects of that bullying on their education, including on the special education and related services to which they are entitled. 

The letter emphasizes that the bullying of a student on the basis of his or her disability may result in a disability-based harassment violation under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The letter states that “if a school’s investigation reveals that bullying based on disability created a hostile environment – i.e., the conduct was sufficiently serious to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school – the school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the bullying, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.” 

When investigating disability-based harassment, OCR considers several factors, including, but not limited to:

*Was the student with a disability bullied by one or more students based on the student’s disability?

*Did the school know or should have known of the conduct?

*Did the school fail to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the conduct, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects?

When investigating whether a student receiving IDEA FAPE or Section 504 FAPE services who was bullied was denied FAPE under Section 504, OCR considers several factors, including, but not limited to:

*Did the school know or should it have known that the effects of the bullying may have affected the student’s receipt of IDEA FAPE services or Section 504 FAPE services? For example, did the school know or should it have known about adverse changes in the student’s academic performance or behavior indicating that the student may not be receiving FAPE?

*Did the school meet its ongoing obligation to ensure FAPE by promptly determining whether the student’s educational needs were still being met, and if not, making changes, as necessary, to his or her IEP or Section 504 plan?

Read the Dear Colleague Letter at this link:


(Posted 10/14/2014)
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed into law on July 22, 2014, will become effective on July 1, 2015.  It will assist job seekers with training and education opportunities and give them more access to employers.  It promotes work-based training.  Youth with disabilities are to receive transition services needed to obtain and retain competitive integrated employment. 

Learn more at

A webinar on the legislation is available at


(Posted 10/14/2014)
Autism CARES Act

On August 8, 2014 President Obama signed Public Law 113-157, the Autism CARES Act.  The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 reauthorizes the 2006 Combating Autism Act.  This Act ensures that the gaps in services for persons with autism will be a federal priority.  The legislation supports early identification and improvements to health care.  Read a summary of the legislation at

(Posted 10/1/2014)

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon,  issued a Dear Colleague Letter on October 1, 2014.  She says “Sixty years ago the Supreme Court famously declared in Brown v. Board of Education that education ‘is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms’.”  The letter points out that schools who serve more students of color are still less likely to offer advanced courses and gifted and talented programs than schools serving mostly white populations, and students of color are less likely than their white peers to be enrolled in those courses and programs within schools that have those offerings.  Schools serving the most black and Latino students are 1.5 times more likely to employ teachers who are newest to the profession as compared to schools serving the fewest of those students.  Older buildings with inadequate or poorly maintained heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems still are more likely to house schools attended mostly by students of color.  While gaps by race and income in student access to technology are narrowing at a national level, disparities persist regarding the number of quality of computers or mobile devices in the classroom, speed of internet access, and the extent to which teachers are staff are adequately prepared to teach students using these technologies.   The letter notes that disparities in the level of access to these resources often reflect the racial demographics of schools, with schools serving the most students of color having lower quality or fewer resources than schools serving largely white populations even within the same district. 


Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, intentional discrimination in allocating educational resources on the basis of race, color, or national origin is unlawful.  The Office for Civil Rights investigates complaints and conducts proactive investigations to determine whether school districts are discriminating.  The Office looks at areas of funding; courses, academic programs, extracurricular activities; strong teaching, leadership, and support; teacher effectiveness, stability of teacher workforce; teacher qualifications and experience; school leadership; support staff; school facilities; physical environment; types and design of facilities; and technology and instructional materials.  OCR strongly recommends that school districts proactively assess their policies and practices to ensure that students are receiving educational resources without regard to their race, color, or national origin, to identify any barriers to equal educational opportunity, and to avoid unnecessary delay in taking corrective action.


Read the entire Dear Colleague Letter at


(Posted 7/29/2014)
Bullying Law Changes in Illinois

On June 26, 2014, the law about required bullying policies in Illinois school districts changed.  The bullying policies now must indicate which staff person in each district will receive bullying incident reports, must indicate how parents will be informed of each incident, must offer parents participation in the investigation process, and must describe how parents will be notified of the investigation outcome.  Social work services, counseling, school psychological services, other interventions, and restorative measures that are available are to be described to parents.  Read the new law at


(Posted 7/25/2014)
Medicaid Coverage of Services for Children with Autism

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed states to cover medical and behavioral health treatments for children with autism. All Medicaid-eligible children must receive Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) services up to the age of 21. Services can be delivered by licensed practitioners as well as appropriately credentialed non-licensed practitioners. Read the bulletin to states here: Clarification of Medicaid Coverage of Services for Children with Autism


(Posted 7/25/2014)
DSR Transition Services

Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, including the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) in Illinois, are authorized to provide eligible students with disabilities necessary transition services and can assist these youth to attain their post-school goals, including ahievement of employment in an integrated setting within their community. Youth are eligible to receive BR services if they are individuals with a disability and if VR services are needed in order to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment.
VR agency involvement helps to ensure that the vocational or employment-related provisions of the IEP provide a bridge to the VR services needed for life AFTER school. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) encourages VR agencies to engage in innovative strategies, involving students with disabilities and their families in the transition process as early as possible.
Learn more in the Techinical Assistance Circular issued by RSA on May 6, 2014 here: Transition Planning and Services


(Posted 6/17/2014)
Medicaid Reform

Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation to modernize and improve Illinois' Medicaid system on June 16, 2014. The new law will benefit Illinois' three million residents who currently receive Medicaid, as well as the state's 200-plus hospitals and 1,200 nursing homes. Protections will increase over a four-year transition period. Learn more here:


(Posted 5/30/2014)
Competitive Employment Opportunities
Congress is considering a bill to require most people with disabilities to try competitive employment before they become employed by a sheltered workshop where they would receive subminimum wages.  Learn more from Disability Scoop. 


(Posted 5/29/2014)
Employment of People with Disabilities

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs estimates that more than 45,000 companies are federal contractors or subcontractors. Due to changes in the federal Rehabilitation Act, effective March 24, 2014, these companies must recruit and eliminate barriers to the employment of people with disabilities. The companies will aspire to having 7% of their employees be veterans and people with disabilities. Learn more at Disability Scoop


(Posted 5/14/2014)
CHARTER SCHOOLS and The Rights of Children with Disabilities
Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act applies to students at all public charter schools in the United States.  Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability.  A school’s eligibility criteria for admission and disciplinary actions must be nondiscriminatory.   Affirmative steps must be taken to help English-language learners overcome language barriers.  Every student with a disability must be provided a free appropriate public education, that is, regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet his or her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met.  Charter schools must provide nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities in such a manner that students with disabilities are given an equal opportunity to participate.  A Dear Colleague Letter on this topic was issued by the U.S. Department of Education on May 14, 2014: DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER on NONDISCRIMINATION BY CHARTER SCHOOLS


(Posted 5/9/2014)
Student with Disabilities and Graduation
More Americans are graduating high school than ever before, but students with disabilities remain far behind their typically-developing peers, a new report finds.

Nationally, 80 percent of public high school students earned a diploma on time during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data released Monday from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

While the number of students with disabilities obtaining diplomas also ticked up that year, just 61 percent of those with special needs graduated, the findings indicate.

For the report, students were considered to graduate on time if they finished high school in four years. Those who completed an Individualized Education Program but did not obtain a traditional diploma and students who were held back a grade were not included.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed the progress, but said there are still far too many students dropping out.

“That 20 percent who didn’t complete high school on time in 2012 represented 718,000 young people — more teenagers and young adults than the total population in Wyoming or Vermont,” Duncan said. “Among them are a sharply disproportionate share of African-American, Hispanic and Native American students, along with students from low-income families, students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities. Not one of those groups reached a 75 percent graduation rate, let alone 80, and several have rates in the 60s or below.”

Currently, students with disabilities account for about 13 percent of the nation’s students, but their success varies dramatically by state, the report found. In 2012, for example, 81 percent of students with disabilities graduated in Montana while just 24 percent did in Nevada.

A second report, which was also released Monday by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, indicated that increasing the graduation rate of students with disabilities is one of five key areas of emphasis that need to be addressed in order to bring the nation’s overall graduation rate above 90 percent