Topic of the Month

May 2016

Accommodations After High School

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers students with disabilities from age three until the student leaves high school.  Under IDEA, students with disabilities receive specialized instruction and related services.  Accommodations and modifications are provided based on individual needs.  Once a student leaves high school, rights to assistance with educational needs fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

Students have considerably more responsibility in postsecondary education to request their own accommodations.  Programs may request current documentation of the disability (usually data that is less than three years old).  Eligibility is based on whether there is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (walking, seeing, concentrating, listening, etc.). 

It is important that the student’s Summary of Performance (SOP) that was provided by the school district during the last year of school is shared with the college or university.  This document should include the student’s academic achievement, functional performance, and recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting his or her postsecondary goals.  
Summary of Performance

Since postsecondary programs at colleges or universities must not discriminate on the basis of disability, they must provide architectural access, and the aids and services necessary for effective communication and accommodations.  Some examples are:

·         Providing students with information about course requirements, assignments, due dates, etc. in both oral and written form

·         Providing outlines or summaries of class lectures

·         Allowing students to use note takers or to record lectures

·         Allowing extended time for test completion

·         Providing sign language interpreters

·         Rescheduling classes to an accessible location

The accommodations provided under the law are to be at no cost.  However, more intense services such as tutoring, that are not required by law, may be offered for a fee.

The ADA, Section 504 & Postsecondary Education (PACER)
Making My Way Through College-A Guide for Students with Disabilities (NCWD)


April 2016

Cognitive Behavioral Interventions

Challenging, chronic, and severe aggressive behaviors act as impediments to academic success and are threats to school completion.  One validated approach that works well to reduce physical and aggressive behaviors in youth with disabilities is cognitive-behavioral interventions.  They have shown effectiveness across educational environments, disability types, ethnicity, and gender. 

Students are given a “road map” to use as they regulate their behavior.  They receive direct teaching of specific problem-solving strategies, communication skills, and situational self-awareness. 


  • ·         Practice recognizing problem situations
  • ·         Practice describing what happened
  • ·         Are taught the steps of problem-solving through modeling, role playing, self-monitoring
  • ·         Learn to generate alternative solutions for solving problems
  • ·         Learn to identify the most effective solutions
  • ·         Rehearse and implement solutions
  • ·         Evaluate the effectiveness of their choices

Effective Interventions in Dropout Prevention - National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities


March 2016
Communicating with School Personnel

As a parent, you will need to communicate vital information about your child with the school district.  This is usually done informally through in-person contact, phone calls, or emails.  When your child has a disability, you will communicate with school staff informally but will also need to share information at educational planning meetings and possibly through comments in a daily communication log. 

Putting your thoughts in writing gives you an opportunity to take as long as you need to

-state your concerns

-think over what you have written

-make changes, and

-have someone read over the letter and make suggestions before emailing or mailing it.

Some reasons to write letters include:

-to discuss a problem

-to request educational records

-to send a follow-up message

-to provide positive feedback

-to request an evaluation you feel your child needs

-to request a meeting with school staff/the IEP team

-to discuss a need for a change of placement for your child

-to request “Prior Written Notice”


During in-person meetings, CADRE-the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, recommends focusing on “interests” rather than “positions”.  For example, instead of starting a meeting by taking the position that your child needs a one-on-one aide, start by reviewing what is working and then reviewing concerns.  These might include needs related to safety, health issues, lack of academic progress, a need for verbal or physical prompts, behavior, attention span, anxiety, etc.  Once there is acknowledgement that these issues exist, you can ask for proposals on how to address the needs.  The conversation may result in a discussion about a one-on-one aide, but there will have been an opportunity to lay out the reasons first and for all the team members to get a better understanding of one another’s “interests” without either side taking a firm “position” first.  



February 2016
Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015.  It reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replaces the previous version known as No Child Left Behind.  This federal education law applies to all public school children, including those with disabilities. 

In part, the ESSA:
-REDUCES the amount of classroom time spent on standardized testing, but maintains the requirement that States administer high-quality annual assessments in at least reading/language arts, mathematics, and science every year from third grade to eighth grade and once in high school
-PROVIDES more access to high-quality preschool programs
-ENCOURAGES States and districts to put in place new supports for teachers and school leaders, including increasing compensation
-REQUIRES goals for the progress of all students and ensures that every student subgroup (low-income families, English learners, students of color, students with disabilities) makes gains toward college and career-readiness
-MAINTAINS provisions for a cap of 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take the alternative assessment aligned to alternative academic achievement standards

Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act from these organizations:

National Center for Learning Disabilities
Education Counsel
Council for Exceptional Children


January 2016

Restorative Justice in Schools

When conduct at school damages relationships, restorative justice strategies can provide ways to effectively address behaviors without the use of suspension and expulsion.  Restorative justice involves cooperation among all people involved.  The focus is on repairing and restoring relationships.  Each person is treated with respect and parties work together for a mutually-agreeable solution. 

Implementing Restorative Justice – A Guide for Schools is a publication that introduces school personnel to the concept of restorative justice, offers tools to reduce suspensions and expulsions, and offers ways to prevent conflict and restore relationships after conflict arises.  

Implementing Restorative Justice – A Guide for Schools


December 2015
Student Medical Reviews

Federal law requires that a student who is being evaluated or re-evaluated for special education services must be provided assessment in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, the area of health.  The assessment must be comprehensive enough to identify all special education and related services needs including school nursing services and school health services.  This assessment is commonly known as the “medical review”. 

Subjective (parent concerns, student perceptions, teacher perceptions) and objective (vital signs, vision tests, hearing tests, physician or hospital records) information is collected.  Any further assessment that is needed is completed and a certified school nurse reviews the findings and reports to the IEP team. 

If there are no educationally relevant medical findings, a student may nonetheless have some medical issues that need to be addressed by the school. If there are educationally relevant medical findings though, a plan must be developed that provides for educational accommodations, educational modifications, annual goals, short-term objectives, and ongoing evaluation related to the findings.  This plan is developed by the certified school nurse but may be done in collaboration with other IEP team members. 

Illinois Rules about Medical Reviews


November 2015
Adaptations at School

Some students need accommodations or modifications to their educational program in order to be successful at school.  These should be clearly outlined in the child’s IEP. 

An accommodation allows a student to complete the same assignment as other students but permits a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response or presentation.  An accommodation does not alter what the assignment measures.  Examples include giving a test to the student in a quiet room or in large print text.

A modification adjusts the expectations for an assignment or test.  It permits a change in what a test or assignment measures.  If a child is tested at a different level of difficulty instead of the grade level standard, that child’s work is being modified.


Adapt the number of items that the learner is expected to learn or complete. Adapt the size of the information by enlarging physically.

Adapt the time allotted and allowed for learning, task completion, or testing.

Increase the amount of assistance for a specific learner - utilize a paraprofessional, another teacher, or a student partner. 

Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner. Determine HOW the student learns – visual, auditory, etc.

Adapt the skill level, problem type, or the rules on how the learner may approach the work.

Adapt how the learner can respond to instruction.

Adapt the extent to which a learner is actively involved in the task. (partial participation)

Adapt the goals or outcome expectations while using the same basic materials.  Base this on goals from the IEP. 

For INPUT and OUTPUT adaptations, consider AIM - Accessible Instructional Materials.


October 2015

The venues in which bullying can occur are increasing.  Humiliation and bullying is not only prevalent in the classroom and in the community, but also online, where many youth spend their time.  This can amplify the hurt since an entire online audience is witness to the attacks. 

Illinois law states that “no student shall be subjected to bullying;

(1)during any school-sponsored education program or activity;

(2)while in school, on school property, on school buses or other school vehicles, at designated school bus stops waiting for the school bus, or at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events or activities; or

(3)through the transmission of information from a school computer, a school computer network, or other similar electronic school equipment.

(105 ILCS 5/27-23.7)

The Illinois law on cyberstalking states that “A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:

(1)fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or

(2)suffer other emotional distress. 

Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony. 

(720 ILCS 5/12-7.5)

You may read these laws by entering the law reference numbers in an online search.

Be sure to join us for webinars on bullying this month and cyberbullying in the near future.  (Register on the EVENTS page.)  These webinars will also be archived on this website once completed.  (Archived webinars are available on the RECORDINGS page.)


September 2015

Least Restrictive Environment for ALL Ages Including Early Childhood

If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the IEP team of which you are a member, decides your child’s educational placement – where your child will receive the services written into the individualized program.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act presumes that the first placement option is the general education classroom in the school your child would attend if she or he did not have a disability.  If your child needs supports or services in that setting in order to benefit from education, then those services should be provided there. 

The federal regulations state that “Each public agency must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”  Section 300.327

Section 300.116(e) states that “a child with a disability is not removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general education curriculum”.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released guidance on September 14, 2015 related to the inclusion of children into high-quality early childhood programs with nondisabled peers. 

View the guidance here: or


August 2015

Which District is the Resident District Responsible for Serving a Student?

The rules of residency are found in the Illinois School Code.  In general:

The resident district is the school district in which the parent or guardian, or both parent and guardian, of the student reside when:

(1)The parent has legal guardianship of the student and resides within Illinois; or

(2)An individual guardian has been appointed by the courts and resides within Illinois; or

(3)An Illinois public agency has legal guardianship and the student resides either in the home of the parent or within the same district as the parent; or

(4)An Illinois court orders a residential placement but the parents retain any legal rights or guardianship and have not been subject to a termination of parental rights order.


In cases of divorced or separated parents, when only one parent has legal guardianship or custody, the district in which the parent having legal guardianship or \custody resides is the resident district.  When both parents retain legal guardianship or custody, the resident district is the district in which either parent who provides the student’s primary regular fixed night-time abode resides; provided, that the election of resident district may be made only one time per school year.

105 ILCS 5/14-1.11

But there are special circumstances:

The resident district is the school district in which the student resides when:

(1)The parent has legal guardianship but the location of the parent is unknown; or

(2)An individual guardian has been appointed but the location of the guardian is unknown; or

(3)The student is 18 years of age or older and no legal guardian has been appointed; or

(4)The student is legally an emancipated minor; or

(5)An Illinois public agency has legal guardianship and such agency or any court in this State has placed the student residentially outside of the school district in which the parent lives. 

105 ILCS 5/14-1.11a
An adult can be considered to have “legal custody” of a child if the adult has “assumed and exercises legal responsibility for the pupil and provides the pupil with a regular fixed night abode for purposes OTHER than to have access to the educational programs of the district”. 


For homeless families:

The resident district of a homeless student is the Illinois district in which the student enrolls for educational services. 

105 ILCS 5/14-1.11a

Any Illinois child has the right to finish the school year in the school he or she lawfully started the year in, regardless of whether the child subsequently moves out of the District. 


For questions regarding residency, call the Illinois State Board of Education at 217-782-4321.


July 2015
Your Child's Educational Records

By reviewing test scores and evaluation data, past IEPs, and progress reports, you will be better prepared to participate in planning for your child's educational programming. By reviewing progress toward past goals as documented in your child's educational records, you will be able to see which supports or settings have produced the most educational benefit.

Your home school district is responsible for maintaining your child's educational records. Your child's permanent record includes your child's name, date of birth, address, attendance record, grades, etc. Your child's temporary record includes all other records such as psychological test results, IEPs, behavior reports, etc. You have a right to inspect and review these records. 

         If you do not currently have a copy of all of your child's records, and wish to receive a copy, send your request in writing to your local school district and include your local school district and include your child's name, date of birth, and current attendance center.

         If you want a complete set of records, be sure to indicate that you are requesting both "permanent" and temporary" records. If you do not need your child's complete record, identify which documents you are requesting.

         You may be charged a copying fee by the district. This is not to exceed 35 cents per page. (23 Illinois Administrative Code Section 375.50)
 23 Illinois Administrative Code Section 375 

The school district must provide a copy of evaluation reports and the documentation of determination of eligibility at no cost. (34 CFR 300.613 (a)) Federal Regulations 300.306

The agency must comply with a parental request to inspect and review records without unnecessary delay and BEFORE any meeting regarding an IEP. (34 CFR 300.613(a)) Federal Regulations 300.613

The right to get copies must be granted within a reasonable time and in no case later than 15 school days after the date of receipt of such request by the official records custodian. (Illinois School Student Records Act 105 ILCS 10/5 (c)) Illinois School Student Records Act


June 2015
Summer Behavior

Top 5 Summer Vacation Problems with Troubled Children – and How to Handle Them

Choose peace as much as possible

If your child is oppositional or defiant, choose your battles carefully over the summer. Three months is a long time and if you try to change every behavior that’s annoying, it’s going to be even longer! Whenever an argument starts, ask yourself: Is this my problem or my child’s? Is it a legal or safety issue? Is it worth getting upset over? In a year or two, when I look back at this, will it be a big deal?

Asking yourself these questions can help you to determine if you’re micro-managing your child and stressing yourself out in the process or simply leading and guiding your child, which is a much more effective role to play.


1.      My teenager won’t get a summer job.

2.      During the summer, there are more opportunities for my child to get into trouble: more parties; more friends wanting to “hang out” (who are bad influences).

3.      My child has to attend summer school, but he refuses to get up in the morning.

4.      My child is supposed to attend summer school but we have a vacation planned.

5.      My kid is up all night and sleeps all day. I can’t get him to do anything!

To read the tips & suggestions to these five summer problems with troubled children, follow this link:


May 2015
Development of IEPs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

If your child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, he or she may have complex needs making it challenging for schools to provide effective and appropriate education experiences.  The IEP team must consider seven special factors when developing your child’s Individualized Education Program.  They are:


1.      The verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child.

2.      The need to develop social interaction skills and proficiencies.

3.      The needs resulting from the child’s unusual responses to sensory experiences.

4.      The needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines.

5.      The needs resulting from engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements.

6.      The need for any positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder.

7.      Other needs resulting from the child’s disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development.

By assessing these needs, schools are better able to frame effective supports which result in improved outcomes for students on the autism spectrum. 

Read the details of each of these seven factors in an Illinois State Board of Education memo sent to all district superintendents and directors of special education at