[ABCs of SPED] C is for Consent

abcs of sped Mar 14, 2018

Welcome to week 3 of our ABCs of SPED series! Today we're talking about consent.

It seems like it should be obvious that you, as a parent, have a right to give or withdraw consent on behalf of your child. After all, they're a minor! 

But do you really know, within the special education process, what you must give consent for and what the school is able to do without your approval? And what you need to do to withdraw consent?

After this post, you will!

First and foremost, please know that all of your rights and responsibilities surrounding consent in the IEP process are outlined in your Procedural Safeguards packet. I'm going to use this as yet another opportunity to state the obvious: you must read your procedural safeguards. Read them, know them, love them. Nothing will help you more in the IEP process than knowing your rights. I also need to include a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, and that the content presented in this blog post is solely meant to be informational.


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[ABCs of SPED] B is for Benchmarks..alternatively titled, My Discussion of MapQuest

abcs of sped Mar 09, 2018

Do y'all remember MapQuest? It was a startling innovation at the time. Having a computer program to give you turn by turn directions and an estimated time of arrival? The future had arrived! (And yes, for the sake of this blog post I went and looked-- www.mapquest.com is still operational)

So what did you do before big trips? You logged on, input your starting addresses, input your destination address, and printed the plan. You might have even had one of those cool holders to put on your dash that held the printed directions for you. It took a fraught process (getting someplace you'd never been before) and made it relatively fool proof.

But here's the thing: MapQuest (or Google Maps now) only works if you have both points of data: where you're starting from and where you're going. 

Can you imagine trying to figure out how to get to Hershey, PA if you don't know where you're starting from? Your path would certainly look different if you were coming from Philadelphia than if...

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[ABCs of SPED] A is for Access

abcs of sped Feb 28, 2018

Hooray! It's the first installment of our new weekly series, The ABCs of SPED. And today, we're talking Access.

Let's talk about the myriad ways you may have heard this phrased used in your special education journey:

  • A student's access to assistive technology may make or break his ability to communicate.
  • You have a right to access your child's educational records (see your procedural safeguards!).
  • "The education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom." IDEA 2004
  • Accommodations and modifications can be used to allow children with disabilities to access grade-level content at a developmentally-appropriate level. 
  • Inclusion provides access to social opportunities with typically-developing peers.
  • Universal Design for Learning is a researched-based method that increases accessibility for children with and without...
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Do You Know the ABCs of SPED? You Will Soon!

abcs of sped Feb 21, 2018

Sometimes I feel stuck in a rut. I've got a bunch of knowledge circling around my head about all sorts of special education topics but I don't know what is really helpful for you guys, my dear readers. There are a million directions I could take...but I want to make sure I'm giving you content that is useful, digestible, and interesting! 

To help achieve this goal I'm starting a new series next week:

The ABCs of SPED!

That's right, the ABCs of Special Education-- a weekly email blast AND weekly Facebook Live series to help you understand common concepts in the special ed process.

Here's what we're going to cover:

A is for Access to Educational Records
B is for Benchmarks 
C is for Consent 
D is for Due Process
E is for Eligibility
F is for F.A.P.E. 
G is for Gifted (and Twice-Exceptional students)
H is for Homeschooling + Alternate schooling 
I is for Independent Education Evaluations
J is for Jargon
K is for Knowledge Transfer
L is for Least Restrictive Environment

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What does "Appropriate" Education Really Mean? A Look at Endrew F. vs. Douglas County

advocacy Feb 14, 2018

I'm hoping, if you've been in this special education world for a while, that you've followed the trajectory of one of the most important court cases in years:

Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District

There are LOTS of things that I go round and round about with parents, teachers, coworkers and peers. But one, more than any other, has been this:

What does it mean when the law says a child with a disability is entitled to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE)?

For me as an advocate, what I think is "appropriate" tends to be a much higher bar than what the school team thinks is "appropriate." And for years there was never really an answer to this discrepancy. Until recently.

The Endrew F. case finally gives us a benchmark for how to define "appropriateness" under the law. 

Here's the summary (taken from the U.S. Dept. of Education-- full F.A.Q. document here):

"The Court held that to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP...

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Why (and How!) Inclusion Benefits All Learners

inclusion Feb 09, 2018

Sometimes I talk with parents who aren't sure about their child with a disability being an inclusive classroom.

They're worried that their student won't get the level of attention that they need, that she or he may be a distraction to other students, that their student may participate in unsafe behavior because of the materials that are available, or that she or he will feel left out if they cannot understand the content being taught.

As such, I want to take some time to address why and how inclusion benefits children with disabilities as well as those without disabilities.

A quick disclaimer here-- I know that a fully inclusive environment is not possible and/or not the right placement for every student. That said, I do believe that every child can benefit from inclusive experiences, even if they are not spending their school day in a general education classroom.

So let's get to it! How does inclusion benefit children with disabilities?

Most notably, inclusion benefits...

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The 3 "Ps" You Need to Become a Paid Advocate/IEP Coach!

advocacy Jan 31, 2018

I feel like it is past time for me to write this post. 

One of the questions I get most frequently after training parents in how to advocate for their kids is:

"Gosh, there's so much I didn't know. I didn't even realize how much I didn't know! Is there a way for me to help other families that are in this boat now that I have this knowledge?"

And the answer is YES

If you've got the "3 Ps" (as I call them), it is absolutely possible to monetize your skills and become a paid educational advocate/IEP coach...which will lead you to the best P-- profit! 

Did you know that there is no accrediting body for advocates? There is no national board, no formal training required, and no certifying program. This means that it is possible for anyone with the right set of skills to become an advocate.

It also means there is not a lot of direction out there if you want to get started-- and that's why I'm here! 

So what do you need to become a paid educational advocate or IEP...

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What is ESY? 5 Things You Need to Know about Extended School Year

what is Jan 22, 2018

There are SO many acronyms in this world of special education! IEP, LRE, FAPE...and those are just the basics! Today we're going to talk about a lesser-known acronym: ESY, which stands for "Extended school year," and it's exactly what its name betrays.

First, some background. What is ESY? Extended school year is the provision of educational services for a student with a disability beyond what's typically provided in a school year. Nearly always, this refers to the provision of services over the summer when the majority of students have their months-long break.

In order to quality for ESY, a student must be eligible for special education services and have a current IEP in place. ESY services are intended for students who fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • They showed substantial regression during the previous school year
  • They have emerging skills that are determined to need the consistency of ESY to "break through"
  • Their rate of progress is such that they are...
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Why Volunteer? Benefits of Community Service for Families with Special Needs

strengths-based Jan 09, 2018

If I had a megaphone and 10 seconds to stand in front of every parent of a child with a disability to say one thing, it would be this:

Volunteer with your kids.

Huh? You may be thinking, "After years of experience, being a teacher/administrator/advocate, and getting your M.Ed you're going to use that time to talk about volunteering?"

And I'm here to say: YES.

In my opinion, there are few opportunities that are as beneficial for kids than volunteering (side note: this is true for kids with and without special needs, but we'll focus on those with disabilities for the purpose of this post).

Here's why:

  • Volunteering builds job skills: Have you ever tried to convince a company to let your child shadow, or even work for free, so that they can gain skills? It's like pulling teeth. Volunteering is the opposite-- it's a low-risk opportunity for your child to "try out" certain job skills in a safe environment where (most likely) everyone is learning. Some of my favorite...
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What to Expect in Your First IEP Meeting

iep meetings Jan 05, 2018

We're bringing back the basics today, folks! I realize that some of our subscribers are totally new to this world of special education and if that's you-- this post is all yours!

Let's say that you've been through the referral process already. You (or someone at your child's school) is concerned that your child may need special education services. Some data was collected. An evaluation was conducted. An eligibility meeting took place where the team (including you!) looked at the eligibility criteria (typically a checklist) for the disability category being considered and decided that yes, your child is eligible. 

What happens next?

The team will write up a rough draft of your child's first IEP and then you'll have your first IEP meeting! 

A few things you'll need to know:

1. Who is going to be there

2. What is going to happen

3. What you'll cover in the meeting

First, there may be any number of people in the meeting. Legally, the meeting is required to include at least one...

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