Topic of the Month

April 2017

The Members of the IEP Team

The team that will meet to make educational decisions for a student who is eligible for special education services includes:


  • The student (whenever appropriate)
    The school MUST invite the student once the child reaches the age of transition (the year in which the child will turn 14 ½ years old).  If the student does not attend, the school must take other steps to ensure that the child’s preferences and interests are considered in the development of postsecondary goals.  
  • The student’s parents
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of the student (if the student is, OR MAY BE, participating in the regular education environment)
    The regular education teacher is to participate in the development of the IEP, including the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, and the determination of supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and support for school personnel.
  • Not less than one special education teacher
  • A representative of the school who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction and who can commit to services and resources of the district
  • An individual who can interpret evaluation results
  • For students who are 14 ½ or older, to the extent appropriate, and with the consent of the parent or the student (if 18 or older), the school must invite a representative of any participating agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services
  • Other individuals, at the discretion of the parent or the school, who has knowledge or special expertise regarding the student (including related service personnel such as OT, PT, and speech therapists)


If the meeting will not be addressing a specific related service, the school and parent can agree that the service provider need not be present for part or all of the meeting.  A member can be excused when the meeting involves the member’s area of the curriculum or related services, if the parent and the school consent, and the member submits input in writing.  The parent’s agreement to this is to be in writing.


If minor additions or revisions need to be made to the IEP before the annual meeting is due, the parent and the school may agree to the amendments or modifications without a meeting of the full IEP team.  A copy of the modified IEP document is to be provided to the parent.


The parent and the school may, if necessary, agree to the use of alternative means of meeting participation, such as conference calls or video conferencing.  


March 2017

Curriculum-Based Assessment

In order to achieve social and academic competence, students need to meet the goals and objectives of a curriculum that teaches to the learning standards for their grade level. To examine whether a student is achieving this target, frequent assessment data is needed. Curriculum-based assessment is an assessment tool that allows students to be quickly and easily assessed as they engage in a typical classroom task related to reading, spelling, writing, or math. Repeated measures over time will generate information on the student's rate of progress.

In reading, assessments look at oral reading fluency (students read aloud for one minute and the number of words read and the number of errors are recorded), and maze reading (students insert correct words into a reading passage from choice of three words). For early reading assessments, students are tested on letter sound fluency (students are shown pictures and indicate which one starts with a particular letter) and word identification (reading words they are expected to master during the year).

In spelling, students may be given 12-17 words to spell that the teacher says orally. Students have 10 seconds to spell each word. The list of words corresponds to spelling words included in the spelling curriculum. 

In writing, students may be given a "starter sentence" and then have to write a passage during a three minute time period. Students are assessed on the number of words written, punctuation, spelling, and correct writing sequences.

Math skills are also assessed by looking at skills directly linked to the skills being taught in the curriculum and that the student is expected to learn by the end of the year. Assessments include the areas of early numberacy, computation, and math concepts and application.

These assessments are so brief that a student may not even realize they are being assessed to determine their skill level. The results should be graphed and compared over time. Teachers can use the information gained by the assessments to determine which students need help, which students need modified instruction, and which students no longer need specialized assistance. The scores/graphs generated by curriculum-based assessments can help parents better understand how their child is progressing and highlight strength and deficit areas that parents and teachers can discuss as they make educational planning decisions together.

IRIS STAR Progress Monitoring

Reading Rockets


February 2017
Restraint and Seclusion of Students

What constitutes seclusion
The involuntary confinement of sa student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. It does not include a timeout, which is a behavior management technique that is part of an approved program, involves the monitored separation of the student in a non-locked setting, and is implemented for the purpose of calming.

What constitutes restraint?
Physical restraint: A personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. The term physical restraint does not include a physical escort. Physical escort means a temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or back for the purpose of inducing a student who is acting out to walk to a safe location.
Mechanical restraint: The use of any device or equipment to restrict a student's freedom of movement. This term does not include adaptive devices, vehicle safety restraints, devices for medical immobilization or orthopedically prescribed devices.

In December 2016, the Office for Civil Rights issued a fact sheet explaining how the use of restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities and explained the process for requesting information or assistance from their office.

Fact Sheet: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities

In a 2012 Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document, the U.S. Department of Education maintained that every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion and that any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child's rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse. The resource document made it clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and that restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline.

The U.S. Department of Education noted that the use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior.

Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child's school or other educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws. Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child. 

Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document 2012 - U.S. Department of Education

January 2017

SAT Exam Replaces PARCC Assessment for High School Students

From 2001 to 2014, Illinois high school juniors took the ACT college readiness assessment each April to test high school achievement and to obtain a score for college admission. In 2015 and 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing was administered to both grade school and high school students. For Spring 2017, high school students will take the SAT with a writing component included. Students in grades 3-8 will continue to take the PARCC assessment.

Tony Smith, Illinois' State Superintendent of Education, explains in a July 11, 2016 Dear Colleague letter, that it is important to provide access to a college entrance exam for all Illinois students. He feels it is essential to give all students an opportunity to receive a college-reportable score at no cost that may assist with admission to an institution of higher education. The SAT will provide that opportunity and will serve as the state assessment for purposes of state and federal accountability. Smith notes that the SAT aligns with the Illinois Learning Standards.

Dear Colleague on SAT

FAQ on Replacing PARCC with SAT 


December 2016

Access to Field Trips, Sports, and Extracurricular Activities

On January 25, 2013 the Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague letter addressing extracurricular activities for students with disabilities. The Government Accountability Office had found that students with disabilities were not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public elementary and secondary schools.

The Dear Colleague letter pointed out that a school district may not rely on generalizations about what students with a type of disability are capable of-one student with a certain type of disability may not be able to play a certain type of sport, but another student with the same disability may be able to play that sport.

School districts must make reasonable modifications and provide those aids and services that are necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to participate, unless the school district can show that doing so would be a fundamental alteration to its program.

The provision of unnecessarily separate or different services is discriminatory. Students with disabilities who cannot participate in the school district's existing extracurricular athletics program-even with reasonable modifications or aids and services-should still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular athletics. When the interests and abilities of some students with disabilities cannot be as fully and effectively met by the school district's existing extracurricular athletic program, the school district should create additional opportunities for those students with disabilities.

Equal access also applies to other non-academic parts of the school experience including school clubs, assemblies, field trips, and school-sponsored after-school programs.

Extracurricular Activities and Students with Disabilities

Dear Colleague Letter on Extracurricular Activities


November 2016

Diabetes Management School

Each student with diabetes will need individualized diabetes care support at school. Some of the older students will test their own blood sugar levels, inject their own insulin or adjust their own insulin pump. Younger students may need assistance will all levels on diabetes care. The American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have helpful resources on reliable diabetes care during the school day.

A Diabetes Medical Management Plan should be developed and reviewed with the principal, teachers, school nurse, nutrition services manager, and other school staff who have responsibility for the student with diabetes during the school day. The plan should include information about target blood sugar ranges, low blood sugar management, insulin and other medications, and the management of physical activities and sports. School staff also need appropriate training as a back up to school nurse services.

Diabetes Medical Magement Plan Template

School Staff Training on Diabetes

Section 504 Plans for Students with Diabetes

American Diabetes Association - Safe at School

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Managing Diabetes at School


October 2016
Children with Special Dietary Needs in Schools

In some cases, disabilities may prevent students from eating meals prepared for the general school population. In most cases, children with disabilities can be accommodated with little extra expense or involvement. There are situations which may require additional equipment or specific technical training and expertise. The nature of the child's disability, the reason the disability prevents the child from eating the regular school meal, and the specific substitutions needed must be specified in a statement signed by a licensed physician. The U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food and Nutrition Service offers guidance to schools on this issue. Their guidance document was last updated in 2001 and is currently undergoing revisions.

The 2001 guidance clarifies that the school food service is required to offer special meals, at no additional cost, to children whose disability restricts their diet. This includes modifications to the texture of the food served (chopped, ground, pureed). In order to accommodate a child with a disability, the school must ensure that both facilities and personnel are adequate to provide necessary services. In some cases, a registered dietitian may be consulted or a nurse or trained health aid may need to feed the child. It is not the responsibility of the school food service staff to physically feed a child. For children who need assistance in eating, the determination of who will feed the child is a local school decision of the IEP team. If a child's IEP includes a nutrition component, the school should ensure that school food service managers are involved early on in deisions regarding special meals or modifications.

Schools may, but are not required to, make meal substitutions for children who have a health condition such as elevated cholesterol or are overweight, since these conditions do not meet the definition of "disability". If the school does make the accommodation, a supporting statement from a recognized medical authority needs to be on file. Schools are not required to make food substitutions based on food choices of the family such as a vegetarian diet.

2001 Guidance on Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs


September 2016

Food Allergies in Illinois Schools

Food allergies present an increasing challenge for schools.  Schools must be prepared to provide treatment to food-allergic students, reduce the risk of food-allergic reaction and to accommodate students with food allergies.  The Illinois State Board of Education published guidelines for schools to follow for creating school policies and best practices about these issues in 2010. 

The ISBE guidelines emphasize that school districts have an obligation to seek suitable means of reasonably accommodating a student upon notification and confirmation of potentially life-threatening food allergies and to keep a record indicating that the school conscientiously carried out this obligation.   Each food-allergic student is different and will require a different individualized plan based on a variety of factors.  A representative of the school must meet with the parent/guardian to develop an Individual Health Care Plan to create strategies for management of the student’s food allergy.  This IHCP will indicate what the school will do to reduce risk and to respond to any emergency that occurs during the school day, while traveling to and from school, during school-funded events and while on field trips.

Guidelines for Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Illinois Schools

In addition, the Illinois School Code outlines the rules related to self-administration and self-carry of epinephrine auto-injectors.  This most recent law became effective in 2015.  It states that schools must permit the self-administration and self-carry of asthma medication by a pupil with asthma or the self-administration and self-carry of an epinephrine auto-injector by a pupil, provided that the parent/guardian provide the school with written authorization, a physician’s authorization, the prescription label for the asthma medication or a statement listing the name and purpose of the epinephrine auto-injector, the prescribed dosage, and the time or circumstances under which the medication is to be administered. 

Illinois School Code related to Self-Administration and Self-Carry of Medication


August 2016
The Impact of Trauma on Behavior and Learning

"The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects." This is the definition of child trauma from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Children are impacted by the trauma associated with such things as abuse, witnessing abuse, the death of a family member, abandonment, poverty, divorce, natural disasters, terrorism, and violent events. Each child experiences trauma differently based on many factors including the severity of the act, the length of time the trauma took place, the relationship the child has with the person involved, and the age of the child.

When exposed to adverse childhood experiences, there is a risk of interruption of the neurodevelopment of the child's brain. Trauma also impacts children socially, emotionally and even cognitively.

The ACE-Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire is a tool to determine the level of trauma someone has experienced. It has been determined that teachers can expect that 30% of their students have experienced at least four or more of the ten traumatizing events contained in the questionnaire. This trauma can manifest as children who are withdrawn, have frequent absences due to illness, are unable to attach to adults, are unable to work in groups or make friends, react negatively to touch, are unable to focus and concentrate, disengage, are always on edge, are always on the defense, and who easily escalate and go into a fight-flight-freeze state. Having a high ACE score also impacts a child's ability to learn. Students with a score of three or more on the ACE are 2.5 times more likely to fail a grade, score lower on standardized tests, and have language difficulties. These students may struggle with organization, comprenhension, memory, the ability to produce work, and the ability to engage in learning.

In order to gain a different perspective on the behaviors of a child, check out:

The ACE-Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire and information about ACE scores

A webinar presented by Chris Wasik on Trauma: Is This a Behavior or Could This Be the Impact of Trauma?

The video First Impressions: Exposure to Violence and a Child’s Developing Brain produced by the California Attorney General’s Office


July 2016
Does your child think before acting? Stay calm under pressure? Accept feedback without getting upset? Self-regulation skills develop gradually in children. Advances in these skills lead to improved behavior and learning. Self-regulated learners ask questions, take notes, use their time wisely, and assume personal responsibility. Ida Rose Florez notes in Developing Young Children's Self-Regulation through Everday Experiences that "Three teaching strategies are critical for scaffolding children's development of self-regulation: modeling, using hints and cues, and gradually withdrawing adult support." She points out that children need adults who demonstrate appropriate behavior to them, who use simple directions, and who demonstrate appropriate behavior to them, who use simple directions, and who provide "cues about when and how to ask for help, take a break, or try a different strategy". To learn about helping children become actively engaged learners, read her article:
Developing Young Children's Self Regulation through Everyday Experiences

Time-out can be used, not to punish, but according to Tracy Mercier, "to teach students to self-regulate - to recognize when they're getting frustrated or just losing focus, and to give themselves a break so that they can regroup and return to productive learning". She helps children become aware of their triggers and know when signs of tension mean it is time to take a break. She wants children to self-regulate responses to frustration. To learn about her strategies, read: Time-Out & Teaching Self-Regulation


June 2016

Dyslexia Detailed in Illinois Regulations

In the federal regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, dyslexia is listed as one of a number of disorders included as a specific learning disability that may adversely affect a student's educational performance and result in a child's eligibility for special education and related services.

Child with a Disability (34 CFR 300.8)

(a) (1) Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with §§ 300.304 through 300.311 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

(c) (10) Specific learning disability

(i) Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

The following information has been added to the Illinois regulations under 226.125 governing specific student populations, effective January 13, 2016:

For the purposes of the Section, dyslexia means a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin.  It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Each child suspected of having dyslexia or identified as dyslexic shall be referred for an evaluation.

Revised Illinois Regulations


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