TESTS... WHAT CAN BE TESTED?

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It can be overwhelming to know what kind of evaluation/assessment your child needs, especially when there seems to be a test for everything. There are tests for behavior, intellect, math, speech and language, reading, spelling, writing, ELL, Transition and a handful of other areas. The goal of these evaluations and assessments is to help the student, teacher and parent figure out why the student is struggling in school - whether it be behaviorally, socially and/or academically. In future posts we'll look closer at all of these areas that can be evaluate and/or assessed.  

Today, it is important for you to know  you should speak up and ask questions of your child's teacher/therapist/etc when your child is not making effective progress or is just struggling -behaviorally, socially and/or academically.  After speaking with the appropriate person, send a written request (emails are fine) asking that the school evaluate your child in the areas that are most appropriate based on your concerns.  Most schools will ask that you sign their 'consent form.' You should know that nothing will happen until this 'consent form' is signed and returned to the school.  You should put a note on the 'consent form' that you are requesting that any and all written reports and/or results be sent to you at least two days prior to any meeting to discuss the evaluation.

Be sure you read these reports carefully. It is sometimes helpful to make a copy of any report given to you so that you retain a clean copy. You should then highlight sections that do not make sense to you, make notes in the margins and if there are any mistakes be sure you point this out to the team  so that it can be corrected. While you are at the meeting, refer to your notes and ask as many questions as you need to. Special Education has its own 'terminology' so if something doesn't make sense ask for clarification. 

We will be sharing some blogs over the next few months that focus on different academic skills and/or areas. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC
10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com
@emcurranlegal

 

 

 

 

FOUR SPECIAL EDUCATION TERMS EVERY PARENT SHOULD UNDERSTAND

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There is a lot to know as a parent  of a child receiving Special Education Services but there are four key terms that are apply in almost every instance so you should be familiar with them. They are:

1. Special Education

The term “special education” is defined as "specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including— (A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and (B) instruction in physical education." 20 U.S.C. s. 1401 (29)  Special Education Law is a needs based law. Everything in Special Education is based on data and assessment. 

2. Related Services

The term “related services” means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services. This includes, but is not limited to , speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, physical and occupational therapy, social work services, counseling services as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children. 20 U.S.C. s. 1401 (26) 

3. Free Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE")

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) provides that each eligible child is entitled to a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE). This terms is defined as: 

special education and related services that— (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and (D )are provided in conformity with the individualized education program...

4. Least Restrictive Environment ("LRE")

"Least Restrictive Environment" means that a child must be educated to the extent possible and appropriate in the least-restrictive setting possible when determining where and how services are to be delivered. 

The list below shows you in order the least restrictive to the most restrictive types of placements used in Massachusetts:  

  1. Regular Education Classroom (least restrictive)
  2. Resource Classroom
  3. Part self-contained 
  4. Self-contained classroom
  5. Day School
  6. Residential School
  7. Home-bound placement (most restrictive)

When we put all of these terms together the bottom line is …

School districts must provide a free appropriate public education for students enrolled in their districts. An appropriate education is an education and related services designed to meet the individualized educational needs of a child with a disability as adequately as the needs of non disabled children are met. 

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

SOME SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO ORGANIZE AN IEP BINDER

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Over the years, I have tried several different ways to organize a student’s IEP data and other academic related information. The one tool that always works regardless of the amount of paper I’ve accumulated is a 3-ring binder. It may sound like a lot of work but once you have it set up, you can re-use the binder and its set-up year after  year.

What do you to get started: 

  1. 3-ring binder. I usually get a 2 or 3 inch binder but the size depends on how much paperwork you think your student will generate in the year.
  2. Some tabbed section dividers. I buy a set of 6 dividers, as well as two sets of the 8 dividers.
  3. A three hole punch, if you don’t have one.
  4. Some lined post-it notes. I like the medium sized ones but you should use whatever fits your needs best. 

First step:

Put the 6 sections dividers into the binder and label them. These are the labels I use:

  1. Current IEP
  2. Evaluations
  3. Communication
  4. Report cards/Progress Reports  
  5. Behavior/Discipline  
  6. Sample work
  • I divide Communication, Report cards/Progress reports, Behavior/Discipline and Sample work into the four school quarters using the section dividers from the two sets of 8 dividers I have already bought. 

Second step:

I gather all my paperwork together and sort into each of the sections. I file all documents in reverse chronological order - the most recent document on top. I also hand write in light pencil, bottom right of each document, the date I received/sent the document. 

Current IEP

In this section, I file the most current IEP, any meeting notices and my goal tracker sheet. I update the goal tracker sheet each quarter after I've received the progress report. 

Evaluations

If you are new to the process the first two documents will be your request for evaluation followed by your consent to evaluate. Again I keep this section in chronological order with the most recent report on top.  I sometimes forget what reports say in meetings so I usually create a table of contents for this section and will include a blurb or two of the key points in each report. I do NOT write on these reports. If a blurb is not enough I will put post-it notes with my notes in/on the section that is important.

Communication

In the first week or so of the new school year, I’ll reach out to my student’s classroom teacher and discuss what would be the most efficient way to have consistent communication regarding my student’s successes and difficulties. I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters, so whatever is agreed to, I print out copies of all communications and keep them in this section with the most current one on top.

If I find myself calling the school/teacher/etc. frequently; I will create a phone log and keep track of who I spoke with, the date/time and a summary of the discussion. I would file this phone log in this section too. I would also break the log up into the four academic quarters. 

Report cards/Progress Reports  

I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters. I file each report card and progress report accordingly in this file. I sometimes will put  my goal tracker in this section too just because it related to the progress reports. Either section is appropriate and you need to put it in a section that makes the most sense for you. 

I frequently review this section asking myself:  What is the data telling me? What data is missing?  What doesn't make sense that I need to follow up on. 

Behavior/Discipline  

My student's disabilities often come hand-in-hand with behavior/discipline issues. I keep a log for each academic period. The log tells me how often the student is escorted and/or restrained. How often the student is out of class, for what reason and what the resolution was of the issue. I also use these logs to help me understand if the student is making effective progress and whether or not the placement is appropriate. 

Sample work

I like to either ask the teacher for sample work or I collect papers that are sent home each quarter. I tried to have a couple of pieces of work from each class. I do not collect all bad or all good work. I try to collect work that reflects my student's strengths/weaknesses. This way I can have my own insight into their successes and/or difficulties that I can discuss with their teacher. 

Third Step - Optional Step:

Your binder should be individualized to your student and their needs. Here are some other sections and/or pages you could include in your binder....

Medical Section

If your child has a medical issue you should create another section and label it medical. In this section you could  include names/address/contact info for each doctor, a list of medications (as well as dosage and what it is for), doctors notes if  your child was sick etc

Summary Sheet

This sheet includes the student’s name, dob , grade, teacher’s name and contact info, Aides/Supports/etc. will also be listed here, the Team Chair’s name/contact info

Table of Contents

This sheet is exactly what it sounds like. I create a table of contents that breaks down each section and what documents are in each section. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com 

ARE YOU LEAVING YOUR CURRENT SCHOOL DISTRICT?

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, it is time for some parents to think ahead to where their child will be living and educated in the fall.

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I frequently get asked what to do if you are moving your child to a new school district, so I think its a topic that needs a quick answer:

Whether you move to another town in the same state or a whole new state, your child's new school has a responsibility to obtain  your child's school records promptly. Some school districts allow you to pick up your child's records and bring them to the new school yourself - this is not allowed in every district. When you request that the documents be sent to the new school, ask how long this process usually takes and then schedule a call to the new school to confirm their receipt. 

The new school should review the child's current Individualized Education Plan (i.e. the IEP) to understand the child's diagnosis, special education services, related services etc that your child currently has in place to provide him or her with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). The new school needs to provide your child with services, placement, aids etc that are similar or comparable to what is stated in the child's existing IEP.  The new school cannot tell you that they "do not do that in their district." 

Tips:

  1. If you are moving to a new state, visit the state's Department of Education website and review that state's special education policies and laws. 
  2.  Your child's new school MUST  continue to provide your child's services with no delay, gap or other interruption.
  3. If your child's current IEP is going to expire at or near the time you plan to move, ask for the team to meet earlier to write the new IEP. (The new school would then have to adopt this IEP).
  4. Yes, your child's new school may do their own evaluation but they cannot unilaterally change the contents of the current IEP. 
  5. It might be helpful for your child's new teachers and aides to have an overview of  your child's strengths and weaknesses. Ask your child's current teachers and/or aides to if they would be willing to write a letter that you can share with the new staff. *Remember you should allow your child's new teachers/aides to get to know the child on their own. If you do get a letter do not use it as a 'weapon' when you disagree with the new staff.
  6. Schedule a visit to the school over the summer so that your child has time to get to used to the new building, layout and people. 
  7. Look into the district's parent supports: SEPACs, support groups, PTA, etc. Get involved so that you can build a network of people that you can look to for advice and feedback. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

Yes, there's a test for that...

MCAS.jpg

It can be overwhelming to know what kind of evaluation/assessment your child needs, especially when there seems to be a test for everything. There are tests for behavior, intellect, math, speech and language, reading, spelling, writing, ELL, Transition and a handful of other areas. The goal of these evaluations and assessments is to help the student, teacher and parent figure out why the student is struggling in school - whether it be behaviorally, socially and/or academically. In future posts we'll look closer at all of these areas that can be evaluate and/or assessed.  

Today, it is important for you to know  you should speak up and ask questions of your child's teacher/therapist/etc when your child is not making effective progress or is just struggling -behaviorally, socially and/or academically.  After speaking with the appropriate person, send a written request (emails are fine) asking that the school evaluate your child in the areas that are most appropriate based on your concerns.  Most schools will ask that you sign their 'consent form.' You should know that nothing will happen until this 'consent form' is signed and returned to the school.  You should put a note on the 'consent form' that you are requesting that any and all written reports and/or results be sent to you at least two days prior to any meeting to discuss the evaluation.

Be sure you read these reports carefully. It is sometimes helpful to make a copy of any report given to you so that you retain a clean copy. You should then highlight sections that do not make sense to you, make notes in the margins and if there are any mistakes be sure you point this out to the team  so that it can be corrected. While you are at the meeting, refer to your notes and ask as many questions as you need to. Special Education has its own 'terminology' so if something doesn't make sense ask for clarification. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC
10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com
@emcurranlegal

 

 

 

 

Sign up for a Special Education Workshop

The best thing a parent/guardian of a special needs child can do is educate themselves so that they know what their child's rights are as related to Education matters.  Attend a free workshop offered by our experienced staff. 

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Some of the workshop topics we could cover include:

1. What are your rights as a parent/guardian in Special Education?

2. Is your child with an IEP being Suspend or Disciplined? 

3. Transition Planning - Who, When, How and Why

4. The "Nuts & Bolts" of an IEP

5. Early Intervention vs. Special Education - The Importance of Turning Three

Please let us know which topic you would be interested in and we will let you know the dates/times/locations of future workshops. 

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

 

When was the last time your child's IEP had a check-up?

To meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.
— Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County Schools, March 22, 2017.
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What is an IEP?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for every child receiving special educations services. The IEP is meant to address each child’s individual and unique learning issues and include specific educational goals. It is a contract, so it is a legally binding document. The school must provide everything it promises in the IEP to the student.  

What must an IEP include, by law:

By law, the IEP must include certain information about the child and the educational program designed to meet his or her unique needs. Here is a brief overview of what this information is:

Current performance. The IEP must state how the child is currently doing in school. This statement is based on data obtained from classroom tests and assignments, individual tests given to decide eligibility for services or during reevaluation, and observations made by parents, teachers, related service providers, and other school staff. The statement about "current performance" should explain how the child's disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum.

Annual goals. These are goals that the child can reasonably accomplish in a year. The goals are broken down into short-term objectives called benchmarks. Goals may be academic, address social or behavioral needs, relate to physical needs, or address other educational needs. The goals must be measurable-meaning that it should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Special education and related services. The IEP must list the special education and related services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child. This includes supplementary aids and services that the child needs. It also includes modifications or changes to the program or supports for school personnel-such as training or professional development-that will be provided to assist the child.

Dates and places. The IEP must state when services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last. This information is often broken down on a ‘service grid.’

Measuring progress. The IEP must state how the child's progress will be measured and how parents will be informed of that progress.

The IEP must also address the following areas/topics:

  • Participation with non-disabled children
  • Participation in state and district-wide tests
  • Transition service needs
  • Needed transition services
  • Age of majority

The IEP and your child:

The IEP should not be identical year in and year out. It should reflect where the child is currently. Goals should be reviewed and changed as the child’s needs and achievements change. This is usually done once a year at the Annual Team Meeting but if you believe the IEP is no longer addressing your child’s needs, you may request a Team Meeting sooner.

What can E.M. Curran & Associates LLC do for you and your child(ren)? 

After an initial consultation, we will perform an in-depth review of your child's most current IEP as well as the past two years’ worth of IEPs, any and all current school or independent evaluations, as well as any other significant records/reports/etc.

We will then schedule either a meeting, either in person or telephonic; whichever is most convenient for you to discuss our findings and recommendations. The cost of this service is dependent upon the age of your child and the amount of materials that need to be reviewed. 

Contact Attorney Curran to see how we may be able to help you:

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

It's Back to School Time!

 

Here are some tips and suggestions to start the school year off on the right foot:

1.      Review your child’s current IEP

The IEP is the foundation of your child's educational program, so it's important that you have a clear understanding of it. Take the time to review your child’s IEP before the school year begins to make sure it still ‘fulfills’ the needs of your child. If you are unsure, contact the school and ask for a TEAM Meeting to discuss how the child has progressed and/or regressed since the writing of the IEP. Be sure that you mark on the calendar when the IEP expires and if your child is up for re-evaluation this year so that you can plan ahead and be prepared.

2.     Set up routines

With some children, just talking about the upcoming year and changes can help reduce some of that back-to-school anxiety! While other children, they would benefit from a clearly established routine to help alleviate their anxiety. You can even begin practicing your new schedule, focusing on morning and evening routines, and begin implementing them well in advance of the first day of school.

3.     Introduce yourself   

Make sure you introduce yourself to each individual who will be working with your child and not just the classroom teacher – the aide, speech/language, OT/PT, job coaches etc. Share with each individual, a “3-Minute” overview of your child. What are the child’s strengths, likes, positives? What are some interventions that work with your child? Share your contact information and willingness to be a partner and support in your child’s success in school. Be involved in school events such as Open House, Fundraiser/Community events, and parent-teacher conferences to help you and your child get a feel for the school and meet the teachers, other staff, students, and families.

 4.     Start a communication log

Keeping track of all phone calls, e-mails, notes home, meetings, and conferences is important. Create a "communication log" for yourself in a notebook that is easily accessible. Be sure to note the dates, times, and nature of the communications you have.

Also ask the teacher how they usually communicate with families. Do they send home a log (how frequently)? Do they send out weekly emails?  Find out what they are able to do and establish a clear request for that to happen regarding your child. Remember, teachers are busy so they cannot report on everything. You should expect highlights, summaries and when appropriate concerns.

Contact Attorney Curran to discuss any school related issues your child may have.

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com