Enabling Students with Disabilities to Communicate Effectively
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that public schools provide students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in all school activities and requires that public schools ensure, through the provision of free auxiliary aids and services, that communication with students with disabilities is as effective as communication with students without disabilities.
What auxiliary aids and services should be provided to a student with a speech, hearing, or vision disability? Title II says public schools are to give ‘primary consideration’ to the aid or service requested by the student or the parent. According to Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools released by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on November 12, 12014, the public school must honor the choice of the student with the disability or the parent UNLESS the public school can prove that an alternative auxiliary aid or service provides communication that IS AS EFFECTIVE as that provided to students without disabilities and enables the person with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the service, program, or activity.
The aids and services include a wide range of services, devices, technologies, and methods to improve communication. Examples include interpreters, information technology, transcription services, taped texts, a portable device that writes or produces speech, Braille materials, and letter boards. The aid or service must permit the person with the disability to access information, must be provided in a timely manner, and must be provided in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the student with the disability.
Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-effective-communication-201411.pdf
Medication at School
The Illinois State Board of Education has guidelines for medication administration in schools. The guide can be found at http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/pdfs/medication_administration.pdf. This guide explains that medications should be limited to those required during school hours which are necessary to maintain the student in school and those needed in the event of an emergency. Each school district is to develop a policy on the administration of medication. Although teachers and other non-administrative employees cannot be required to administer medication, each district must determine WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for administering medication in the absence of a certificated school nurse or registered nurse. Teachers and other non-administrative employees MAY VOLUNTEER to administer medications.
In addition to the licensed prescriber’s order, the guide also explains that a written request is to be obtained from the parent/guardian requesting the medication be given during school hours. If the student requires long-term medication to be administered at school, a health care plan is to be developed for that student. Each dose of medication must be documented in the student’s individual medication record and include date, time, dosage, route by which the medication was administered, and the signature of the person administering the medication or supervising the student’s self-administration. Medications must be stored in a separate locked drawer or cabinet (or locked refrigerator). A student’s parent/guardian may come to the school to administer medication to his/her own child, but this action must be voluntary and may not be forced.
The federal regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act prohibit schools from requiring parents to obtain medications for a child as a condition of attending school, receiving an evaluation, or receiving services. (CFR Title 34 Part 300 Section 300.174)
If a child needs health services to receive FAPE (a free, appropriate, public education) and those services can be performed by non-physicians, then the school district is responsible for providing them as related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This right has been confirmed in two major court cases.
In 1984 the Supreme Court ruled in Irving Independent School District v. Tatro (555 IDELR 511) that the school needed to provide CEC (clean intermittent catheterization) for a student with spina bifida because CEC needed to be performed during school hours and was not required to be performed by a physician.
In 1999 the Supreme Court in Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F. (29 IDELR 966) clarified that only those services that must be performed by a physician are excluded as related services under IDEA. The student in this case had a tracheotomy, used a ventilator, and was catheterized. Medical services were needed in order for the child to attend school. Medical costs were not considered a factor in the decision because IDEA ensures access to public schools.
These court cases have outlined how schools need to respond when students have chronic health conditions including diabetes, asthma, seizures, etc. in order to ensure that the students have the same educational opportunities as do other students.
Current federal regulations define school health services and school nurse services as:
“…health services that are designed to enable a child with a disability to receive FAPE as described in the child’s IEP. School nurse services are services provided by a qualified school nurse. School health services are services that may be provided by either a qualified school nurse or other qualified person.”
New Illinois Law on Dyslexia
In Illinois, when a student is being evaluated for special education eligibility, specific rules govern the evaluation procedures and timelines. There are additional procedures for students suspected of having a specific learning disability. These procedures include the process of determining how the child responds to scientific, research-based interventions.
The federal regulations define a child with a specific learning disability as one with “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding and 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, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia”.
In October 2013, House Bill 3700 was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would change the Illinois School Code related to reading disabilities. As introduced, HB3700 would have required:
1-ISBE to distribute information on screening instruments available to identify students who exhibited potential indicators of dyslexia and other reading disabilities
2-a school board to select and implement age-appropriate screening instruments for the early diagnosis of dyslexia and other reading disabilities and to ensure that each kindergarten student enrolled in the school district was screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities
3-ISBE to develop and distribute guidance on appropriate intervention strategies for students diagnosed with dyslexia and other reading disabilities
4-that a school board ensure that students who exhibited potential indicators of dyslexia or another reading disability receive a comprehensive assessment for the learning disorder, and in the event the diagnosis was confirmed, provided appropriate intervention strategies
The proposed Bill also set forth requirements concerning professional development related to reading disabilities, the incorporation of the International Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia into Illinois Administrative Rules, and an addition of a written test for certain educator licensure candidates.
The proposed Bill was amended dramatically and Public Act 098-0705 was enacted on July 14, 2014 and went into effect immediately. Public Act 098-0705 states:
A-The State Board of Education shall adopt rules that incorporate an international definition of dyslexia into Part 226 of Title 23 of the Illinois Administrative Code.
B-Subject to specific State appropriation or the availability of private donations, the State Board of Education shall establish an advisory group to develop a training module or training modules to provide education and professional development to teachers, school administrators, and other education professionals regarding multi-sensory, systematic, and sequential instruction in reading. This advisory group shall complete its work before July 31, 2015 and is abolished on July 31, 2015.
The definition of dyslexia by The International Dyslexia Association is:
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.
For a list of actions taken on HB3700, go to:
At the end of the list of actions taken on the Bill, click on ‘Public Act 98-0705’ to see the final Law as passed by the General Assembly.
On June 26, 2014, Public Act 098-0669 was enacted. This law amends the School Code related to bullying prevention. The law continues to read that “The General Assembly finds that a safe and civil school environment is necessary for students to learn and achieve and that bullying causes physical, psychological, and emotional harm to students and interferes with students’ ability to learn and participate in school activities”. However, the Code now expands the components of the bullying policy required in each school district. Bullying policies now must include the contact information (email address and phone number) of the staff person responsible for receiving reports of bullying incidents. The policy must include a procedure for anonymous reporting. Procedures must be listed for notifying parents or guardians of ALL students involved in alleged incidents of bullying and for discussing the availability of social work services, counseling, school psychological services, other interventions, and restorative measures.
The policy in each district must include procedures for promptly investigating and addressing reports of bullying. All reasonable efforts must be made to complete the investigations within 10 school days of the report. Parents and guardians of the students who are parties to the investigation must be provided information about the investigation and have an opportunity to meet with the principal or school administrator or his or her designee. The parents or guardians must be provided information about the findings of the investigation and the actions taken to address the reported incident of bullying. The policy must be posted on the district’s website and contained in the student handbook.
An evaluation process must be in place to assess the effectiveness of the policy. This evaluation must occur every two years in each school district and include looking at the frequency of victimization, the areas of the school where bullying occurs, the types of bullying occurring, and the participation or intervention of bystanders. The results of the evaluation must be made available to parents and guardians.
To read Public Act 098-0669, go to: www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=098-0669
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) holds States accountable for educating children with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each State to submit a six-year State Performance Plan and an Annual Performance Report. After review of the report, States receive one of the following ratings:
-Meets the requirements and purposes of IDEA;
-Needs assistance in implementing the requirements of IDEA;
-Needs intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA; or
-Needs substantial intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA.
OSEP is revising how it holds States accountable. This new approach is called Results-Driven Accountability-RDA. Annual Performance Reports must now include a description of how the State will improve outcomes for children with disabilities. For the first time in 2014, both compliance AND results data were used in the determination of a rating.
This map shows how each state was rated: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/2014-chart-1-7.pdf
Illinois received a ‘Needs Assistance’ rating.
RDA begins with a premise - that the results we want to achieve need to drive the actions we take, not the other way around. Each State must now ask itself:
-What improved results for children with disabilities do we want to achieve?
-What actions must we take to achieve those results?
States will develop and implement their individual SSIP (State Systemic Improvement Plan) in three phases.
Phase 1: 2015
-Describe how the State identified the area or result to be improved.
-Identify root causes contributing to low performance.
-Analyze their infrastructure to determine if improvements are needed.
-Explain how the improvement strategies were selected; whey they are sound, logical, and aligned; and how they will lead to measurable improvement.
-Include a graphic illustration of the State’s ‘theory of actions’ (why doing X will improve Y).
Phase 2: 2016
-Identify what system improvements are needed.
-Identify how the State will support local education agencies in using the evidence-based practices identified as key to achieving desired results for children with disabilities including activities and timelines.
-Identify how the State will evaluate the implementation of its SSIP.
Phase 3: 2017
-Evaluate the extent to which strategies were implemented.
-Identify student progress.
-Make revisions to the SSIP based on data from ongoing evaluation.
Special education law requires that students identified as having a disability receive individualized educational programming. Annual goals are written for each area of deficit. Determining which goals to include and how high to ‘set the bar’ is determined on an individual basis. The goal for all students with specific learning disabilities should be to ‘close the gap’ between their current performance and grade level expectations.
Standards-based IEPs focus on alignment with what all students are expected to do. Students with specific learning disabilities should be expected to participate in general education curricula and achieve at a proficient level on state assessments when they are provided with specially designed instruction and appropriate accommodations.
Information on raising the learning expectations for students with disabilities can be found in an Advocacy Brief issued by the National Center for Learning Disabilities entitled Understanding the Standards-based Individualized Education Program.
EASY ACCESS TO ONLINE RESOURCES
Empowerment stems from knowledge. Parents of children with special education needs can more effectively advocate for individualized, appropriate educational services for their children if they have access to information on special education laws, the development of individualized plans, and evidence-based practices that lead to student achievement.
The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) serves as a central resource for all Parent Training and Information Centers, including Family Matters. Resources on their site are also directly available to parents. We invite you to visit their website at www.parentcenterhub.org and choose the ‘RESOURCES’ tab across the top of their home page, or click on the ‘RESOURCES’ block at the bottom of the page.
The ‘RESOURCES” section features information on an amazing array of topics including:
The K-12 Section includes topics such as:
Transition from School to Adult Life
Use of Data
If ‘USE OF DATA’ is chosen, parents can learn about using data in discussions related to grade retention, math progress, reading progress, etc.Topics related to Early Intervention (ages 0-3) and Early Childhood services are also available.
Facilitated IEP Meeting
IEP facilitation is a process that helps foster effective communication between parents and districts as they develop a mutually acceptable individualized education program for a child. The process promotes productive IEP meetings that are conducted in a respectful and collaborative manner. The Illinois State Board of Education is in the process of implementing facilitated IEPs to build district level capacity to develop child-centered IEPs and to decrease the number of more formal dispute resolution processes. Pilot projects will be in place next school year (2014-2015).
Parents of children with disabilities or school personnel will have the right to request state-sponsored IEP facilitation services from the Illinois State Board of Education. There will be no cost to the parent or the school district. The state-sponsored facilitator will be a neutral party and not a member of the IEP team or an advocate for any person on the team. The facilitator will promote dialog and encourage participation for decision making, but will not impose a decision upon the group. The facilitator’s role will include:
*focusing on the process of the meeting and supporting all parties full participation
*modeling effective communication
*keeping team members on task
*clarifying points of agreement and disagreement, and
*providing team members opportunities to consider alternative solutions.
Learn more about Facilitated IEP Meetings from CADRE-the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education:
Evidence Based Practices
Is your child making adequate progress? Would you like to see research about the effectiveness of instructional strategies and interventions used by educators at your child’s school? Would you like information on the level of effectiveness and the age group for which the intervention was designed? Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the IRIS Center provides educators with information on evidence-based practices. The Center has summarized research on a variety of interventions and strategies. At their website you will find a list of interventions divided into categories such as Mathematics; Reading, Literacy, Language Arts; Transition; and Behavior and Classroom Management. Under each category a number of interventions are listed in alphabetical order and it is noted whether the intervention has been ‘proven highly effective’, ‘proven effective’, ‘proven to have mixed effects’, or ‘not yet been proven effective’ for a particular age range of students. For example, under the Mathematics category, Saxon Math has been ‘proven effective’ for students in grades 1 through 5; has been ‘proven to have mixed effects’ for students in grades 6 through 8, and has ‘not yet been proven effective’ for students in grades 8 through 12.
IRIS Evidence-Based Practices
Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a report that provides evidence about which educational and therapeutic practices are effective with students diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Tables 7 and 8 in Chapter 3 list the evidence-based practices, define them, and show which age groups reported improvement after using the practice. This report was produced by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and the Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and the Institute of Education Science.
Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
DISCIPLINE AT SCHOOL
“Our goal of preparing all students for college, careers, and civic life cannot be met without first creating safe schools where effective teaching and learning can take place.” This is the opening sentence in the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from Arne Duncan on January 8, 2014 that prefaces the Guiding Principles-A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline issued by the U.S. Department of Education. The letter goes on to say that “unfortunately, a significant number of students are removed from class each year – even for minor infractions of school rules – due to exclusionary discipline practices, which disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities”.
This guidance document discusses approaches to creating safe and supportive conditions for learning. The guiding principles to improve school climate and discipline include:
1-create positive climates and focus on prevention;
2-develop clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address disruptive student behaviors; and
3-ensure fairness, equity, and continuous improvement.
Read this resource guide:
Read the ‘Dear Colleague” letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice with guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating:
Path to Transformation 1115 Waiver
The federal government has specific rules about what Medicaid funds can cover. States can apply for WAIVERS to those rules. States can ask to expand eligibility to additional individuals and to provide services not typically covered by Medicaid.
Illinois currently has nine Waiver programs. Each of the Illinois Waiver Programs has its own rules and service delivery system. These programs serve:
-people with brain injuries
-people with physical disabilities (Division of Rehab Services)
-children who are medically fragile/technology dependent
-people with HIV or AIDS
-people with physical disabilities or elderly persons who need supported housing
-adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities (home-based services)
-children with developmental/intellectual disabilities (home-based services)
-children with developmental/intellectual disabilities that need residential placement
Governor Quinn’s office is proposing to combine all nine Waiver Programs into one program. The new waiver will be called “Path to Transformation”.
Read a summary of what is being proposed here:
Path to Transformation Concept Paper
Many agencies and persons have commented on the new proposal. Read the comments at this Illinois.gov site:
Comments and Questions about the 1115 Waiver Proposal