Aha! I know y'all are reading this just to see what I could have possibly come up with for the "X" in our ABCs of SPED series. I did cheat a bit, as this topic doesn't start with X... but it includes an X and sounds like "X" so it's pretty darn close!
Today's topic is EXtra Considerations in the IEP process.
If you've been in the special education world long enough, you've likely realized that there is a page of the IEP dedicated to "special considerations," "special factors," or "consideration of special factors" in the development of the IEP. Here in TN, this is on page 2-3 (depending on how long you've made your parent concerns).
I can't tell you how often I see IEP teams rush through this page. Typically as it approaches, someone on the team says "special factors, no no no, okay..." and they move on. THAT is why it's important that you know what these special considerations are and why they matter.
The special considerations page covers five criteria that may impact your child's ability to learn. These criteria include:
Here's what I.D.E.A. says about what the team must consider in development of the IEP if your child falls into one (or more) of these categories:
"The IEP Team must--
(i) Consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior (in the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others);
(ii) Consider the language needs of the child as those needs relate to the child’s IEP (in the case of a child with limited English proficiency);
(iii) Provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child’s future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child (in the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired);
(iv) Consider the child’s language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode (In the case of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing or who has communication needs);
(v) Consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services.
What does this mean for you?
First, look at your child's IEP. Does it say "Yes" for any of these 5 special considerations? If so, read the I.D.E.A. outline above and familiarize yourself with what the school team is supposed to be considering in that area. For example, if your child has a "Yes" for behavioral concerns, has the team developed positive behavioral interventions and supports (typically through a BIP, or Behavior Intervention Plan)? Ask them to demonstrate HOW they have done so.
If your child has "No" for any of these criteria and you think that's not correct, familiarize yourself with what the law says and be prepared to advocate for inclusion of one of these special factors. This resource has excellent information about each of these 5 factors and how to interpret the law (which is great as I am NOT a lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice!).
Lastly, use this discussion of Special (or EXtra) Considerations as a training ground for being a more authoritative part of your IEP team. This is a great place to practice saying:
"Wait, could you explain how you decided on this answer?" (whether it's a yes or no)
"I'd like to spend more time here, let's not move on just yet."
"I'm not sure I understand that. Can you explain?"
"I'd like to know whether my child's need for direct communication with peers was considered before the team decided "no" for communication needs."
And here's the most important thing-- these Yes/No decisions on special considerations should not be made without your input. They shouldn't be decided on by the team of teachers before you arrive. Fear not...we'll get into this in detail next week when we discuss YOUR role as a parent (the Y in our ABCs of SPED series)!