Advice for families and caregivers
What's included in an IEP?
What if a parent isn't happy with the IEP?
How should I prepare for my child's IEP meeting?
How should I work with the school system to develop an IEP?
How does the school system generally handle children with autism?
What kind of Special Education is there for children with cerebral palsy?
What helps Special Education be effective for children with Fragile X?
How does Special Education help children with Down syndrome?
How can I find someone to care for my child with special needs?
Conditions that impair a child's ability to learn qualify for Special Education. These include physical disabilities such as deafness and blindness; cognitive disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism; medical conditions such as brain injuries; learning issues such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and others. In general, to be eligible for Special Education the child must have a diagnosed disability which "adversely affects educational performance" and requires special services in order to learn.
Special Education begins with a full screening and diagnosis preformed by a multi-disciplinary team. Parents must consent to this testing and the resulting placement, and can appeal if they disagree with the testing results. The parents and the team will work together to create a yearly Individualized Education Plan (IEP). People who help create this plan usually include:
- One or both of the child's parents
- The child's teacher or prospective teacher
- A representative of the local education department, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education
- The child, if appropriate
- Other individuals at the discretion of the parent or agency (which can include a physician, advocate, or therapist).
The IDEA states that children receiving Special Education are entitled to a "free and appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive environment possible."
The least restrictive environment clause usually means that, if possible, a child will be taught in a classroom with other children who aren't disabled. This may mean your child will be mainstreamed for part of the school day with other children and spend the rest of the time learning in a special classroom. If you or the school feel that your child would benefit more from a different educational setting, options include home schooling, an alternative school that works with disabled children, a private school with Special Education services, a day program in a mental health facility, or tutoring in a hospital. You'll have to negoiate these options with your public school system.
- A current assessment of the child's abilities, based on a variety of tests.
- Specific goals, both academic and behavioral, for the short and long term.
- Specific services provided to achieve those goals and a schedule of how often they will be provided.
- A means of evaluating these services, and a specification of how frequently evaluations will be performed.
- Disciplinary methods to be used, if necessary, especially if the child has emotional and/or behavioral issues.
- An individualized healthcare plan (IHP) for students requiring medication or special medical attention.
- A plan for post-high school goals once a students turns 16, along with a plan for helping the student make a successful transition out of the public school system.
- Parental input.
- Be involved in developing your child's IEP from start to finish.
- Disagree with the school system's recommendations.
- Seek an outside evaluation for your child.
- Invite anyone you want -- from a relative to your child's doctor -- to be on the IEP team.
- Request an IEP meeting at any time if you feel your child's needs are not being met.
- Receive free or low-cost legal representation if you can't come to an agreement with the school.
- One helpful option is to place pictures of the schedule for the day on a board, or on a card.
- Changes, such as an assembly, can be written out or pictured and inserted in the proper sequence.
- If you know that one of the activities will be disturbing to your child, see if it can be followed up with a calming activity. An example is a loud assembly, which would disturb your child, followed by time on a beanbag chair, or another activity that your child finds soothing.
Interventions that work for children with ADHD can also help those with FXS. These include:
- Seating your child near the teacher and far from distractions.
- Allowing your child to use a private work area at times.
- Giving your child brief tasks.
- Offering visual cues for sequences of events.
- Implementing active interactive lessons, in which your child doesn't need to just sit still and listen.
- When her child was very young, physical therapy every week helped build up muscle tone and coordination.
- Later on, speech and occupational therapy -- which helped with issues such as language skills, hand-eye coordination, and social skills -- were also helpful.
- Gradually, this family replaced physical therapy, which their child disliked, with dance class, which helped integrate her into the community. She began with ballet, jazz and tap, though she ultimately had to drop the tap because it was too difficult to move quickly enough. But she continues to enjoy ballet.
- This child also played some sports with other kids when she was young, such as t-ball and soccer (for socialization) but she stopped when they became too competitive.
- This family gave up speech therapy when they found that their daughter learned more from interacting with other children in a regular preschool. Earlier, a speech therapist helped her with feeding, social skills, speech, and hand-eye coordination.
- Hippotherapy (horseback riding) helped with balance.
- Educational therapy (tutoring) helped in public school.
National Association of Parents with Children in Special Education
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: Educate Children (3 to 22)
Special Education Resources