SPECIAL EDUCATION RESOURCES
SPECIAL EDUCATION NEWSLETTERS
For more information please contact:
Patricia R. Richardson, M.Ed., M.A.
Director of Special Education
(410) 843-9477 ext. 609
Kristi Fausel, M.Ed.
Special Education Coordinator
(410) 843-9477 ext. 504
Dr. Francis Lando, Ed.D
(410) 843-9477 ext. 177
INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)
An IEP is a written document developed for a child who is eligible for special education in a public school. It outlines the student's educational needs and the supports and services that will be provided so that the student can meet educational goals.
Developing the IEP
When a parent, guardian, teacher or other concerned person suspects that a child may have a disability, that person may contact the IEP team at the child's school to request a assistance. The IEP team includes:
- General education teacher
- Special education teacher
- Social worker
- Speech pathologist
- Nurse/health-related service provider
- School administrator
- Outside agency personnel
The IEP team meets to review the request and information about the child. If the team suspects that the child has a disability and may need special education, assessments in all areas related to the suspected disability are recommended. These can usually be completed by staff at the school.
The IEP team then reviews written reports of the assessments, which include summaries of how any identified disabilities may affect the child's educational progress. The IEP team then completes the evaluation (within 60 days of receiving signed permission from the parent/guardian to assess the child or 90 days from the date of receipt of the written referral, whichever comes first). The parent is given a copy of the assessment reports, the evaluation report and the IEP team meeting summary.
The evaluation report will include a determination of whether the child is eligible for services — that is, whether:
- A disability has been determined AND
- Because of the disability, the child requires special education to be successful in the education setting
If the child has been determined to be eligible, an IEP is then developed.
What the IEP includes?
The IEP is written to meet the specific child’s educational needs. It outlines the supports and services that the IEP team agrees are required for the child, based on her or his disability and those unique needs, and includes the following components.
Present levels of educational performance
Information about the child’s strengths and needs as determined by evaluations from teachers, parents and school staff. The evaluations can include observations, written or verbal comments and assessment results. It the child requires services besides those related to academic needs (e.g., language development, behavior, social skills), these concerns will also be outlined.
Each IEP must include measurable goals that can be reasonably accomplished in one year. Goals are written based on present levels of educational performance and focus on the child’s needs that result from the disability. They can be academic, social or behavioral, or can address other educational needs — but in all cases they should be written to support the child in the general curriculum.
Special education and related services
This describes the set of services that will put the IEP into action, and how the services will be delivered. The general education classroom will be the preferred setting for delivery of services, but a range of options is available (including a self-contained classroom). Also included here will be:
- Time in which your child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and other school activities
- When services will begin, where and how often they will be provided and how long they will last
- Transition services (age 16 or the first IEP that will be in effect when the child turns 16)
- Supports and strategies for behavior management, if behavior interferes with the child's or others' learning
- Speech or language needs as related to the IEP
- Necessary accommodations (testing, modified work, etc.)
Working as partners, parents and professionals strive to deliver excellent educational opportunities for all children at SEED. National studies affirm that the interest and involvement of parents in their children’s education are the most important predictors of success for a child.
As a parent of a child with a special need, you bring historical, medical, educational, and personal understanding of your child as a whole, unique, and valuable human being. Persons working with your child for a few hours a day or even over the course of a few years cannot know the youngster as you and the family do. That is why the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stresses the role of parents in designing and monitoring their child’s educational journey. This role and responsibility combined with the student’s participation in school or training programs constitute the personal side or individual phase of the special education process. Special education ultimately is the means by which families and youngsters endeavor to achieve an independent and productive future.
SERVICE DELIVERY MODELS
The SEED School of MD is committed to educational excellence, effectiveness and equity for all students. To meet the needs of students with disabilities, we provide a continuum of services and programs. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, which includes the parent(s), determines the appropriate specialized and/or related services that are required to meet the needs of the individual student in the least restrictive environment. A hard copy of the service delivery models is available upon request.
Consultation (Indirect) Services
Provide the general educator with guidance from the special education teacher and/or related service provider on appropriate strategies for instruction, behavior management, data collection, observation, and feedback in the general education setting.
Facilitate service delivery through ongoing communication between general and special educators and related service providers.
Assistance in completing functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and developing a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) to address areas of concern.
Inside the general education setting:
Direct special education instruction within the least restrictive environment of the general education classroom through co-teaching and collaborative instructional models.
Direct support for individual students by the special education teacher, general educator and/or para-educator by making adaptations or modifications to the general education curriculum and assessments.
Individualized or small group instruction to meet the academic and behavior needs of the student, either within the general education classroom or with pullout resource services for specific skill development.
- General Education Teacher
- Special Education Teacher
- Instructional Assistants
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- School Psychologist
- School Social Worker
- Occupational Therapist
Special Education is defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and outlines the process of education for those children and youth with a disabling condition that impacts their ability to learn. Educational professionals bring expertise and experience to the process. However, only the parents and the family nurture an individual with a disability throughout the educational process. Each component depends upon the other for success in achieving mutual goals.
Understanding 504 Plans
If your child has learning and attention issues and is struggling in school, you may be curious about 504 plans. If your child doesn’t qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a 504 plan may be a good alternative.
A 504 plan can give you peace of mind. This is especially true if your child already gets informal supports at school and you want to make sure they continue. But first, you need to know what a 504 plan can provide, what your rights are, how to pursue a 504 plan and what makes a child eligible. The more you know, the better you can advocate for your child.
What is a 504 plan?
This type of plan falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the part of the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities. That includes students with learning and attention issues who meet certain criteria.
Much like an IEP, a 504 plan can help students with learning and attention issues learn and participate in the general education curriculum. A 504 plan outlines how a child’s specific needs are met with accommodations, modifications and other services. These measures “remove barriers” to learning.
Keep in mind that a student with a 504 plan usually spends the entire school day in a general education classroom. And typically, children who need modifications would have an IEP, not a 504 plan.
Who qualifies for a 504 plan?
504 plans are for K–12 public school students with disabilities. Section 504 defines “disability” in very broad terms. That’s why children who aren’t eligible for an IEP may qualify for a 504 plan. Section 504 defines a person with a disability as someone who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activity (such as reading or concentrating).
- Has a record of the impairment.
- Is regarded as having an impairment, or a significant difficulty that isn’t temporary. For example, a broken leg isn’t an impairment, but a chronic condition, like a food allergy, might be.
This definition covers a wide range of issues, including ADHD and learning disabilities. However, Section 504 doesn’t specifically list disabilities by name.
Having a disability doesn’t automatically make a student eligible for a 504 plan. First the school has to do an evaluation to decide if a child’s disability “substantially” limits his ability to learn and participate in the general education classroom.
This evaluation can be initiated by either the parent or the school. If the school initiates the evaluation, it must notify the parents and get the parents’ consent to evaluate a child for a 504 plan. If the school wants to move ahead without the parents’ consent, it must request a due process hearing to get permission to work around the parents’ refusal.
When doing an evaluation for a 504 plan, the school considers information from several sources, including:
- Documentation of the child’s disability (such as a doctor’s diagnosis)
- Evaluation results (if the school recently evaluated the child for an IEP)
- Observations by the student’s parents and teachers
- Academic record
- Independent evaluations (if available)
Section 504 requires evaluation procedures that prevent students from being misclassified, incorrectly labeled as having a disability or incorrectly placed.
What does a 504 plan contain?
There’s no standard 504 plan required by the law. Every school district handles it a little differently. In general, a 504 plan should include the following elements, all tailored to a child’s individual needs:
- Specific accommodations, supports or services
- Names of the school professional that will provide each service
- The name of the person responsible for ensuring the 504 plan is implemented
A 504 plan could include specialized instruction in a general education classroom. It can also provide related services. These could include speech or occupational therapy or even counseling.
If you’re already familiar with what an IEP includes, you’ll notice that a 504 plan is less detailed. For example, a 504 plan doesn’t include annual goals. Learn more about the difference between 504 plans and IEPs.
Who develops a 504 plan?
A 504 plan is developed by a team of people who are familiar with the student and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This group, sometimes called the 504 committee, might include:
- Your child’s general education teacher(s)
- A special education teacher
- The school principal
- You, the parent(s)
- The child (depending on his age and maturity)
You can ask to be involved in all discussions and meetings about your child’s plan. But it’s important to know that the law doesn’t require or guarantee parent participation in these meetings.
After you receive a copy of your child’s 504 plan, keep an eye on how it’s being implemented. This is especially important, because the school isn’t required to give you regular updates on your child’s progress. Don’t wait until next year’s 504 plan meeting to raise your concerns!
What happens at a 504 plan meeting?
Your child’s 504 plan must be reviewed by the 504 committee every year. Legally, parents are not guaranteed a seat at the table, but they are encouraged to attend. Here are some of the key things the committee may discuss in the annual 504 meeting:
- Your child’s strengths. This is a time for you and the team to share success your child has had in and out of school. For example, if your child struggles to pay attention and follow directions, the group might compare notes on his progress in those areas. Be sure to tell them about his wins at home and in extracurricular activities.
- Your concerns and suggestions for improving your child’s education. The meeting is a good time to share where you still see your child struggling. Is his backpack always disorganized? Does he forget to bring his homework assignments home? Let the committee know what you think might make these tasks easier for him, based on your experience.
- Whether or not accommodations (such as assistive technology) and modifications are helping. If they aren’t helping your child as expected, the group needs to discuss upgrading, discontinuing or replacing them. The team should also consider any new instruction and technology tools that might be more helpful for your child.
Based on what’s covered in the meeting, the committee may propose changes to your child’s 504 plan. Your permission is only required if the committee recommends a major change in placement, such as discontinuing educational services that are in his current plan.
What happens if you don't agree with a 504 plan?
If you disagree with the school’s decisions about your child’s education, there are several ways to dispute it. Here are the steps you can take (usually in this order):
- Request a mediator to help you and the school reaches an agreement.
- Ask for a hearing before an impartial hearing officer.
- File a complaint with the federal Maryland State Department of Education
What can make the journey easier?
Whether you’re just learning about 504 plans or your child already has one in place, there are many ways to make the journey easier.
- Know your child’s issues. Observing your child can help you better understand his strengths, weaknesses and needs.
- Explore supports. Find out about accommodations that can help students with learning and attention issues.
- Partner with teachers. Communicating with your child’s teachers is a good way to advocate for your child and find out what’s working in the classroom—and what’s not.
- Connect with other parents. Parents like you can be a source of support, understanding and helpful advice.
Stanberry, K. (2014). Understanding 504 Plans. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/understanding-504-plans