Friday, July 22, 2011

The Blame Game

This is from a fellow advocates blog and I wanted to share it.
"The Blame Game" was printed in the morning's Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier. The full, text is below, complete with research links which were largly omitted from the column.

Why do children continue to fail in school despite being repeatedly tested? According to schools, children fail because they do not want to learn or their parents do not care. Typical school culture is to first, blame the child, and then blame the parent.

Dr. Galen Alessi, Psychology Professor at Western Michigan University researched this phenomenon by asking 5,000 school psychologists why children have learning and behavior problems. Not one psychologist mentioned inappropriate curriculum, ineffective teaching, or ineffective school management practices as a factor for student failure. Psychologists blamed parent and home factors 10-20 percent of the time and child factors 100 percent of the time.

Common sense tells us that it cannot always be the fault of the parent and the student.

Most five-year-olds are excited about starting school. We need to find out why that excitement wanes and dies.

Schools always treat parents as outsiders in educational decision-making. It’s okay for parents make copies, file records, and raise funds, but a parent who offers methodology suggestions is labeled a “helicopter” parent at best, a “nutcase” at worst and told to leave this to the experts.

We never hear about parents who spend hours helping their child or who pay expensive tutors, only to see their child fail. Nor do we hear about parents who go to school unsuccessfully begging for help for their child.

Some parents never learn they have a right to have the school test their child for conditions that interfere with learning. Children placed in special education programs may spend their entire school career there without learning to read. They were either identified too late, after the window of opportunity had closed, or, they received “accommodations,” not appropriate reading instruction. Instead of learning to read, their assignments and tests were read to them. They are unprepared for further education, employment, and independent living.

According to the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR), schools can identify children with reading disorders in preschool or kindergarten. Serious reading difficulties are preventable with the right kind of intensive instruction provided early in a child’s development. That window of opportunity closes early. After first grade, a student can still improve. However, those who do not receive early powerful interventions will always perform poorly on phonemic decoding, reading fluency, and spelling. They will never be able to close the gap.

Alessi, Galen. (1988) Diagnosis Diagnosed: A Systemic Reaction. Professional School Psychology, 3: 145-151

Torgesen, J.K., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C.A., Rose, E., Lindamood, P., Conway, T. , & Garvin, C. (1999). Preventing reading failure in young children with phonological processing disabilities: Group and individual responses to instruction. Journal of Educational Psycholog, 91, 579-593.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Transportation Issues

Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation, 53 IDELR 268 (OSERS 2009): The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued one of a series of question and answer documents to address issues raised by requests for clarification. The issue addresses questions relating to transportation.

Transportation is a related service under federal special education regulations and the student’s IEP team is responsible for determining if transportation is necessary for a student with a disability to benefit from special education and related services. OSERS also explained that the IDEA does not require school districts to transport children in isolation from their peers (such as in separate vehicles). Instead, districts should explore options for integrating children with disabilities with nondisabled students. Transportation providers, such as bus drivers, should also be informed about the students needs, while also being made familiar with protecting the confidentiality of student information.

In addition, OSERS noted that if transportation is included in the student’s IEP, a suspension from the bus is to be treated the same as if the student were suspended from instruction. If the school district transports the student through an IEP, a suspension may constitute a change in placement, especially if the district does not provide any alternative transportation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Revised regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will take effect March 15, 2011

Revised regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will take effect March 15, 2011. These revised rules are the department’s first major revision of its guidance on accessibility in 20 years.

The regulations apply to the activities of state and local government and more than seven million places of public accommodation, including stores, restaurants, shopping malls, libraries, museums, sporting arenas, movie theaters, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hotels, jails and prisons, polling places, and emergency preparedness shelters. The rules were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder on July 23, 2010, and the official text was publishedin the Federal Register on September 15, 2010.

The department is also releasing a new document, “ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business,” to help small businesses understand the new and updated accessibility requirements. In addition, the department is announcing the release of a new publication explaining when the various provisions of its amended regulations will take effect. Both documents will be available tomorrow on the department’s ADA website,

I believe that the new regulations will also apply to summer camps and programs, private schools,
day care centers, and other places of public accommodation for children.

For more information about the ADA, call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at
800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or access the department’s ADA website at

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gifted Children Should be Considered for Special Education Services

In a recent OSEP communication, Letter to Anonymous, 110 LRP 52277 (OSEP 1/13/10), the agency informed an anonymous writer that the IDEA and its regulations, although silent on the topic of gifted students, protect students who have qualifying disabilities requiring special education and related services even if they are intellectually gifted. The writer specifically referenced students with high cognition and disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's Syndrome, and specific learning disabilities related to reading, writing, and mathematics who struggle to timely complete grade-level work and have difficulties with organizational skills, homework completion, affective areas, social skills, classroom behavior, reading and math fluency, writing and math operations. OSEP responded that districts should not let a student's intellectual prowess, or even the fact that he is classified as gifted under state law, undermine their child find activities or eligibility determinations. Although a student has high cognition, the student may also have one of the disabilities listed in the IDEA, and the child may require special education and related services as a result. Even though a student may be gifted, he or she is not automatically disqualified from eligibility for special education and related services under the IDEA. OSEP observed that the IDEA does not address the topic of gifted students. However, "It remains the Department's position that students who have high cognition, have disabilities and require special education and related services are protected under the IDEA and its implementing regulations," OSEP Acting Director Alexa Posny wrote. Under 34 C.F.R. §300.8, a child must meet a two-prong test to be considered an eligible child with a disability: (1) have one of the specified impairments (disabilities); and (2) because of the impairment, need special education and related services. For example, a child with high cognition and ADHD could be considered to have an 'other health impairment,' and could need special education and related services to address the lack of organizational skills, homework completion and classroom behavior, if appropriate. Likewise, a child with Asperger's Syndrome could be considered under the disability category of autism and the individualized evaluation would address the special education and related services needs in the affective areas, social skills and classroom behavior, as appropriate.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Importance of Brown vs. Board of Education

Did you know that the rights of children with disability to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) flows directly from Brown vs. Board of Education. The Brown case was the vital Supreme Court case, which held that the segregation of people due to race was inherently discriminatory and harmful. Read the case to understand the important of LRE for our children.

Friday, October 22, 2010

US DOE Bullying Surveys and New Website

The Department of Education (ED) announced grant awards to 11 states for Safe and Supportive School programs. States will use the grant money to conduct in-depth surveys of students, family, and staff about school safety and direct dollars to the schools with the biggest problems. The 11 states are: AZ, CA, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, SC, TN, WV, and WI. The Office of Civil Rights in The U.S. Department of Education will issue guidance to schools in the next few months explaining that bullying can include racial, sexual, or disability harassment that is prohibited by law. It will also inform schools of their legal responsibilities to protect students from discriminatory harassment.

The Department has a new bullying website at:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is Specially Designed Instruction?

The Specially Designed Instruction (SDIs) section of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) is one of the most important parts of this important document. The special education teacher, with the IEP Team determines what accommodations and modifications the student will be receiving. As a legal document, the IEP not only binds the special educator but the whole school population in terms of every member of the community must deal with this child. Extended test time, frequent bathroom breaks, whatever "SDI's" are written into the IEP must be provided by the principal, the librarian, the gym teacher, the lunchroom monitor, the general education teacher as well as the special education teacher. Failure to provide those accommodations and modifications can create serious legal jeopardy for the members of the school community who ignore them.

SDI's fall into two categories: accommodations and modifications. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but legally they are not the same. Children with 504 plans will have accommodations but not modifications in their plans. Children with IEP's can have both.

Accommodations: These are changes in the way in which the child is treated in order to best accommodate the child's physical, cognitive or emotional challenges. They might include:

•Extended time for tests (the standard is one and a half times as long as allowed, but for academic tests in most general education classrooms unlimited time is not uncommon.)

•Frequent test breaks

•The ability to move around the classroom (especially kids with ADHD)

•Bathroom breaks when needed.

•Special seating (in front of class, separated from peers)

•A water bottle at the student's desk (some medications create dry-mouth.)

Modifications: These change the academic or curricular demands made of a child to better fit the child's ability. Modifications might include the following:

•Modified homework

•10 words on spelling tests

•Scribing (the teacher or an aide writes the responses as dictated by a child.

•Separate modified tests in content areas.

Alternate forms of assessment: dictating, oral retelling, portfolios
It's good to have a conversation with other teachers who sees a child as you are preparing the IEP. (See Writing an IEP) to discuss SDI's,. especially if you need to prepare that teacher to deal with an accommodation they are not going to like (like bathroom breaks without requests. Expect this request from parents, and expect general ed teachers to fight it. Some children have medications that make them need to urinate frequently.)

Once an IEP is signed, and the IEP meeting is over, be sure every teacher who sees the child gets a copy of the IEP. It is also important that you go over the SDI's and discuss how they are going to be carried out. This is one place a general educator can cause him or herself some serious grief with parents. This is also a place where that same teacher can earn the trust and support of those parents.
(Courtesy-Jerry Webster,