Topic of the Month

March 2019
Using Endrew F. Language in Determining F.A.P.E. for Your Child

Each child eligible for special education services is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education - F.A.P.E. What constitutes a "free appropriate public education" has long been debated by the courts. On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. The previous standard for F.A.P.E. was an educational program that was calculated to provide "merely more than de minimis" educational benefit. In the Endrew F. case it was determined that a school must offer an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances" and the court emphasized that "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives". The court explained that a "student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all".

The United States Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document about the case on December 7, 2017. Question 12 of that document addresses how an IEP team can ensure that every child has the chance to meet challenging objectives. The answer states that each child with a disability must be offered an IEP that is designed to provide access to instructional strategies and curricula aligned to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals, based on the unique circumstances of the child, and that the IEP must aim to enable the child to make progress. In the answer to Question 13, it is noted that "advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular clasroom" and that the IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education cirriculum. The document also emphasizes that if a child is not making progress toward his or her annual goals, the IEP team must revise, as appropriate, the IEP to address the lack of progress.

The language of this case is important to keep in mind as parents review their child's current IEP, review their child's progress reports, and plan for their child's next IEP.

Question and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Decision


February 2019
School Personnel

Each school district, or the special education cooperative of which it is a member, is to employee sufficient personnel as needed to deliver and supervise the full continuum of special education and related services needed by students who qualify for special education. The Illinois Administrative Code identifies the required education and experience required for professionals who provide instruction, career and technical coordinators, individuals assigned as teacher coordinators, business manager assistance, bilingual specialists, directors and assistant directors of special education, supervisors, chief administrators of special schools, other professional personnel, and personnel who do not hold educator licenses. The Code also identifies who can perform specific evaluations (academic, assistive tech, learning processes, neurological, psychological, etc.). Search for this information in Subpart 1: Personnel.

23 Illinois Administrative Code 226


January 2019

Sensory Processing Issues in the Classroom

Students who experience trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through their senses often struggle in the classroom. Students may be over or under responsive to sensory input. Some are oversensitive to sounds, making common sounds painful. Some are oversensitive to touch, making them uncomfotable in their own clothing and at their own desk. Some may be uncoordinated in their movements. Students may improve their ability to respond appropriately and function more normally when provided with sensory integration therapy or a sensory diet. This support can be provided by an occupational therapist and activities can be carried out by other school staff. Learn more by readin gthese articles:

All Kinds of Minds Blog Article Sensory Diet Article

December 2018

Centers for Independent Living

There are 22 Centers for Independent Living located throughout Illinois (plus some satellite sites). They offer information and assistance with housing, transportation, employment opportunities, personal assistants, sign language interpreters, and services for those with visual impairments. They provide a bridge from high school to postsecondary education or work for youth. They set up social activities that provide peer support. They advocate for independence, inclusion, equal opportunity, and civil rights. 

To access this support, locate the center that serves your Illinois county.

INCIL - Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living

CIL Locations


November 2018

Educational Services Provided in the Home

A child qualifies for home instruction if it is anticipated that, due to a medical condition, the child will be unable to attend school, and instead must be instructed at home for a period of 2 or more consecutive weeks OR on an ongoing intermittent basis. "Ongoing intermittent basis" means that the child's medical condition is of such a nature or severity that it is anticipated that the child will be absent from school due to the medical condition for period of at least 2 days at a time, multiple times during the school year totaling at least 10 days or more of absences.

In order to establish eligibility ofr home or hospital services, a student's parent must submit a written statement from a physician (gernal practice doctor, specialist, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Licensed Physician's Assistant (PA, or psychiatrist). The written notice from the physician must state the condition, how it impacts the student's ability to participate in education, and the anticipated duration or nature of the child's absence from school. 

Instruction must begin immediately upon receipt of the required physician's statement, but not later than 5 school days after the statement is received. Eligible students must receive a minimum of one hour of instruction each school day, or a minimum of five hours of instruction per school week. The goal of the instruction is to afford the student experiences equivalent to those afforded to other students at the same grade level. It is designed to enable the student to return to the classroom without having fallen behind. The instruction is to enable the student to remain on pace with the other students in his or her class. The instructor for general education students must meet the same requirements as would be required in the classroom. For students with disabilities, the instructor needs to be the type of instructor that would be fulfilling the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) requirements back at school.

Homebound Instruction

Medical Certification


October 2018

Bullying at School

Bullying involves:

  • Behavior that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally, and 
  • An inability for the target to stop the behavior and defend themselves, and
  • An imbalance of power that occurs when the student doing the bullying has more physical, emotional, or social power than the target, and
  • Repetitive behavior; however, bullying can occur in a single incident if that incident is either very severe or arises from a pattern of behavior

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center offers information for parents on helping their child deal with bullying, working with the school on this issue, and mobile and online safety.

In October 2014, as part of National Bullying Prevention Month, the U.S. Education Department's Officer for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated - including bullying against America's 6.5 million students with disabilities.

Illinois law related to protecting students from bullying include:

Bullying Prevention




September 2018
IEPs for Students with Autism

Section 14-8.02 of the Illinois School Code addresses the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students who have autism spectrum disorders. A memo from the Illinois State Board of Education was issued regarding the requirements of the IEP team in meeting the unique educational issues of these students. The memo acknowledges that students on the autism spectrum often have complex needs that can be challenging for schools to provide effective and appropriate experiences. The special considerations IEP teams must consider are set up to assist schools in framing effective supports which result in improved outcomes for a student on the autism spectrum.

IEP teams are to consider all of the following factors:

  • The verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child.
  • The need to develop social interaction skills and proficiences.
  • The needs resulting from the child's unusual responses to sensory experiences.
  • The needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines.
  • The needs resulting from engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movement.
  • The need for any positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder.
  • Other needs resulting from the child's disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development.

Development of IEPs for Students with ASD


August 2018
Building Your Child's Self-Determination

Parents of children with disabilities want their children to have the positive outcomes associated with making personal choices and directing their own life path. Being able to express preferences and make choices has been shown to decrease challenging behaviors and increase engagement in appropriate tasks.

Ideas for parents on how to develop skills in their children that can enhance self-determination - skills like choice making, goal setting, self-advocacy, and self-management - have been compiled into a guide by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Waisman Center University of Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt University. Fostering Self-Determination Among Children and Youth with Disabilities-Ideas from Parents for Parents contains ideas on offering children choices, supporting decision-making, encouraging problem solving, promoting goal setting and planning, reinforcing self-directed behaviors, fostering responsbility, promoting independence, supporting self-awareness and self-knowledge, encouraging self-advocacy and leadership, supporting communication, encouraging participation, fostering relationships and social connections, modeling important skills and behaivors, providing reinforcement and feedback, partnering with schools, and holding high expectations and positive attitudes.

This guide offers a menu of ideas to draw upon, adapt, and add to the strategies already in use by parents.

Fostering Self-Determination among Children and Youth with Disabilities-Ideas from Parents for Parents


July 2018

Section 504 and the ADA

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds. The law states "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." Students with a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities are eligible for services under Section 504. A Section 504 Plan is developed for each eligible student that includes the specific accommodations and related services that the student will need to in order to participate and benefit from educational services as adequately as other students.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a civil rights law for people with disabilities, applies to public schools. This Act defined major life activities as, including but not limited to: caring for oneself; performing manual tasks; seeing; hearing; speaking; breathing; learning; and working.

The ADA was amended in 2008 and additional major life activities: eating; sleeping; walking; standing; lifting; bending; reading; concentrating; thinking; and communicating. The additions of reading, concentrating, and thinking made it clear that students who struggle in school for reasons other than health issues were included under the law.

Unlike eligibility for Section 504 services, eligibility for special education services requires that the student need specially designed instruction and related services based on qualifying for services under a developmental delay or one of 13 other categories. However, when a student is evaluated for special education eligibility and found to be ineligible, Section 504 eligibility should be considered.

Parent Advocacy Brief from National Center for Learning Disabilities

Protecting Students with Disabilities


June 2018
Rights of Parents Who Choose to Place Their Children with Disabilities in Private Schools

Parents can voluntarily enroll their children in private schools. These private schools may only have limited supports available to students with disabilities. The public school district in which the private school is located, is responsible for providing limited services to the private school students who qualify as a student with a disability. The plan developed for those students is an Individuzlied Service Plan (ISP) rather than an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that the student would have in a public school.

The services provided in the private school will often be less than the services the student would receive in the public school. Districts are only required to spend a portion of their federal special education funds on students in private schools. An ISP is a much less detailed document that may only include the service type, frequency of the service, and location of where the student will receive the service. Annual goals are not required.

If a student attends a private school and there are concerns that the student might be eligible for special education services, but the student has not yet been determined eligible, the district in which the private school is located has a "child find" obligation to conduct any needed evaluations to determine eligibility.

Question and Answer Document on Parentally Placed Private School Students


May 2018
Graduation of Students with IEPs

Children who are eligible for special education services, those with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are eligible for special education services, those with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are eligible for school services through age 21 (through the day before the student's 22nd birthday) if they require continued public school educational experiences in order to facilitate his or her integration into society. This provision ends if the student earns a regular high school diploma.

Students with IEPs in Illinois either earn a Certificate of Completion or a regular diploma. An IEP team can delay the issuance of a student's regular diploma if continued experiences are needed. The Illinois regulations state that "If the student's individualized education program prescribes special education, transition planning, transition services, or related services beyond that point, issuance of that diploma shall be deferred so that the student will continue to be eligible for those services.

If the student is to receive a regular high school diploma, at least on year prior to the anticipated date of its issuance, both the parent and the student is to receive written confirmation that eligibility for public school special education services ends following the granting of the diploma and informing the parent or student that they may request an IEP meeting to review the recommendation that the student receive a regular diploma.

Students may participate in a graduation ceremony, but continue to receive educational services until the diploma is issued.

The IEP will determine how the student will meet the requirements of an Illinois high school diploma. Requirements can be modified as outlined in the IEP.

Illinois State Board of Education STATE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS (105 ILCS 5/27-22.05, 27-22.10) February 2016 Guidance Document


April 2018

Adapted PE

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that physical education must be made available to students with disabilities if it is available to students without disabilities of the same grade. Students with disabilities must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the regular physical education program unless the child needs specially designed physical education. Adapted or specially designed physical education must be prescribed in the child's individualized education program (IEP).

In determining if a student qualifies for adapted PE, the school should gather information from multiple sources including data from school evaluation of psychomotor, cognitive, and functional behavior. The school should be assessing how the student participates and follows directions, communications and moves in order to determine what supports or modifications to the physical education program is needed. The student's IEP should include a goal(s) related to this area if adapted PE is needed.

Specially designed PE is specially designed instruction, so it should occur in the least restrictive environment. Students are to receive adapted PE in the general PE setting as long as the supplementary aides and services needed can be provided there.

This document from SHAPE AMERICA lists the types of supports that students might dqualify for related to adapted PE and explains the associated laws and teacher qualifications required to provide the service:

SHAPE AMERICA (Society of Health and Physical Educators) Guidance Document


March 2018

Grade Retention

Many parents have questions aobut whether the school can decide not to promote their child to the next grade. This issue is addressed in the Illinois School Code at 105 ILCS 5/10-20.9a:

(a) Teachers shall administer the approved marking system or other approved means of evaluating pupil progress. The teacher shall maintain the responsibility and right to determine grades and other evaluations of students within the grading policies of the district based upon his or her professional judgment of available criteria pertinent to any given subject area or activity for which he or she is responsible. District policy shall provide the procedure and reasons by and for which a grade may be changed; provided that no grade or evaluation shall be changed without notification to the teacher concerning the nauture and reasons for change. If such change is made, the person making the change shall assume such responsibility for determining the grade or evaluation, and shall initial such change.

(b) School districts shall not promote students to the next higher grade level based upon age or any other social reasons not related to the academic performance of the students. On or before September 1, 1998, school boards shall adopt and enforce a policy on promotion as they deem necessary to ensure that students meet local goals and objectives and can perform at the expected grade level prior to promotion. Decisions to promote or retain students in any classes shall be based on successful completion of the curriculum, attendance, performance based on the assessments required under Section 2-3 . 64a-5 of this Code, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or other testing or any other criteria established by the school board. Students determined by the local district to not qualify for promotion to the next higher grade shall be provided remedial assistance, which may include, but shall not be limited to, a summer bridge program of no less than 90 hours, tutorial sessions, increased or concentrated instructional time, modifications to instructional materials, and retention in grade.

If a student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and academic grades are declining or other signs indicate that the student is not making progress or is experiencing behavior issues, a parent has a right to ask for an IEP meeting to make needed changes to the plan. Revisions to services or additions to supports can be made to an IEP throughout the year.

The National Association of School Psychologists have taken a position against grade retention as well as against social promotion.
The NASP Position Statement can be found at:


February 2018

Discipline of Students under IDEA

Students identified as having a disability and qualifying for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be disciplined in the same way as other students, with the exception of a suspension beyond 10 days. When a suspension will cause a student to be removed from education for more than 10 consecutive school days, or when the suspension would cause the student to exceed 10 school days of suspension for the school year, the school is required to hold a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) meeting. The members of the IEP team, including the parent, will decide during the meeting whether the student's disability was the primary cause of the behavior incident.

During the MDR meeting, the team answers two questions: 
-Was the conduct caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student's disability?
-Was the conduct the direct result of the school district's failure to implement the IEP?

If the team decides the student's disability IS the primary cause, the school cannot discipline the student. The team must then review the student's IEP, including the Behavioral Intervention Plan, to determine how to provide appropriate services and supports in light of the recent behavior. If the student does not have a Behavioral Intervention Plan, it may be determined that one is needed.

If the team decides the student's disability IS NOT the primary cause, a suspension may be imposed, or the student could be recommended for an expulsion hearing before appropriate school authorities if the conduct warrants this level of discipline. While serving this disciplinary action, the student with an IEP must continue to receive education services so as to continue to participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting, and to progress toward meeting goals. The student should receive an appropriate functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention services and modifications as needed to address the behavior.

In specific circumstances, a school can remove a student from the current setting REGARDLESS of whether the behavior was caused by the disability:

-the student's conduct involves a weapon
-the student's conduct involves the possession or sale of an illegal drug or controlled substance
-the student inflicts serious bodily injury on another person
In these circumstances, the student may be removed to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days, whether or not an MDR has occurred.

Federal Regulations Related to Discipline


January 2018

Residential Placement by School Districts

On rare occasions, a school district may determine that a public or private residential program is necessary to provide special education and related services to a child with a disability. When this occurs, the cost of all non-medical care, and room and board, must be at no cost to the parents. (Federal regulations Section 300.104)

Section 226.330 of the Illinois regulations also clarifies that when an IEP Team determines that no less restrictive setting on the continuum of alternative placements will meet a child's needs, the child may be placed in a State-operated or nonpublic special education facility. In such a case, use of a State-operated program is to be given first consideration. However, the district has to refer the child to the agency or facility which is most appropriate to the individual situation. This determination is to be based upon recent diagnostic to the individual situation. This determination is to be based upon recent diagnostic assessments and other pertinent evidence and made in light of such other factors as proximity to the child's home. Evidence of a condition that presents a danger to the physical well-being of the student or to other students may be taken into consideration in identifying the appropriate placement for a particular child.


December 2017

Your Child's Educational Records


Your local education agency (LEA), the home district in which you reside, 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 (Individual Educational Programs), behavior reports, etc.  You have the right to inspect and review these records. 

HOW DO I GET THEM?                   WHAT DO I ASK FOR?

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 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.


You have several options for organizing your child’s school records.  Use the method that works best for you.   Keep the records in a binder, expandable file, or storage box.  You may want to highlight the date on each document to make it easier to organize the records.

In chronological order

Place your child’s school records in order of date (oldest to newest or newest to oldest).

Look for “exam date” on testing results and “conference date” on documents developed during school meetings.

By school year

Have a separate file for all documents generated during each school year. 

By type of document

Sort all records by categories such as IEPs, psychological tests, independent evaluations, therapy reports, behavior assessments and plans, grades, correspondence with school staff, etc.  Then organize items in each of these categories by date. 

Bring your copy of your child’s current IEP to the annual review meeting.  Progress toward goals will be reviewed and you will be able to follow along as team members discuss your child’s accomplishments. 


Psychological testing, educational evaluations, and therapy reports all provide the information needed to document your child’s strengths and areas of difficulty.  This information is used to determine your child’s present level of performance.  For each area of deficit noted in the IEP, one or more goals should be written to clarify what your child is expected to achieve in one year’s time.  Accommodations, modifications, and supports are then listed that will be needed in order for your child to meet the goals.  Once goals and support needs are established, your child’s educational placement will be determined.


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. 


Examples of how to use your child’s school records in planning for your child’s educational programming:

1-Read your child’s psychological reports or therapy evaluations and list strengths that were noted and list deficits that were discovered.  Then examine the IEPs to see if there are goals for each area of deficit and if your child’s strengths were considered in the development of the program.  (Ex:  Your child was noted to have difficulty with written expression but great verbal skills and auditory processing strengths.  Check the IEP to see if there are any goals for increasing writing skills. Also look to see if your child was allowed to demonstrate knowledge of subject areas orally rather than by tests or assignments requiring written work.)  Make sure your child’s IEP is individualized to meet his/her specific needs.


2-Write down the date of each IEP that has been written for your child and next to each date list the goals that were written in that IEP.  Then think about the following:  If a goal was not met one year, was the goal repeated on the next IEP or was a change made in the expectation?  Have the majority of goals been accomplished each year?  Have the goals been measurable?  (Ex:  If one goal was “Mary will increase positive social interactions with peers” and in one year’s time Mary learned to sit next to peers in the cafeteria but did not initiate any conversations, did she meet the goal?)  Ask that each goal be specific and measurable.  Know exactly what your child will need to do in order to meet the goal.


3-Chart your child’s district-wide and statewide assessment scores from different years.  Note whether your child’s scores are improving at an expected rate, or whether the gap between your child’s score and the scores of most students of the same age is widening.  (Ex:  Your child was one year behind same age peers in reading based on assessment scores.  Three years later your child’s scores indicate he/she is two years behind peers in reading even though he/she had made a small improvement in reading each year.)  Request research-based curriculums to increase your child’s rate of progress.


4-During periods when your child made progress or improvements, locate what supports were in place.  Did your child have more small group instruction that year?  Did your child receive more therapy that year?  Was there a behavior management plan in place at that time that included social skills training?  (Ex:  Your child’s verbal communication skills greatly improved the year he received individual speech therapy and group speech therapy each week.)  Make a list of what supports and related services have been most successful for your child and discuss these at your child’s IEP meeting. 

Contact our office if you would like assistance in reviewing your child’s school records: 866-436-7842


November 2017

Starting the Puberty Conversation

"If you find it uncomfortable to talk with your youth about sexuality and puberty, you're not alone. Most parents do. Those conversations are critical to your child's health and safety, however. They help your child develop self-care skills, cultivate social skills, gain an understanding of appropriate behaviors, increase personal safety, and be on the road to becoming a more independent adult." This introduction is part of Tools Parents Can Use: A Handbook for Parents of Teens with Disabilities. This handbook offers 10 tools and strategies you can use to help your child with disabilities safely navigate puberty and adolescence.

"All youth deserve information and support to get the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and skills they need to stay healthy in relationships and protected from abuse." This statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services is part of the introduction to their Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Disability Resource Guide. This guide offers resources and describes talking tips for parents of youth who have disabilities, including:

  • Starting early and talk often
  • Keeping it simple
  • Being 'askable'
  • Using correct terms
  • Trying multiple teaching techniques
  • Using 'teachable moments'
  • Not feeling like you have to have all the answers
  • Discussing your values and expectations and considering theirs
  • Modeling and teaching helpful social skills, including self-esteem
  • Seeing your son/daughter as a whole person capable of experiencing romantic love and affection
  • Encouraging independent thinking and action, decision-making skills and boundary setting
  • Exposing them to a variety of social situations and experiences
  • Teaching them about consent
  • Guiding them to access ongoing sources of information and support