Special Education: A primer for parents

[NOTE: Although our games focus on content typically taught in grades three through seven, about 10% of our users are two or more grades outside of this range, first grade students in gifted programs and high school students in remedial education. For the teachers and parents of students with special needs, we started this series on special education.]

When a child is first recommended for special education, parents have a lot of questions

We wrote these next few posts to provide you with answers.

Not every student who enters school is able to complete assignments and interact with peers without assistance.  Nationwide, about 11% of students are served by special education, which is a program that provides children who have disabilities with individualized attention.

For Native American students, the figures are much higher 15-20% are in special education. In the 2006 school year, 29% of children in the Spirit Lake schools were in special education, and 22% of those in high school. It is very likely that the lower percentage in secondary school is due to a high dropout rate for students with special needs.

From the mother of a child with autism.

“At the time of the writing of this article, our son was 14 years old and in 9th grade. Jon has been a victim of the ups and downs of our school system. He had good years, where the education providers adjusted their thinking and accommodated his needs. But he also had years where teachers refused to change their “ways of doing things.” These years have contributed to many paranoias and fears in my son. ….The educational system was broken into three levels – children attended a grade school (grades 1-5), then moved to a middle school (grades 6-8), and finally were transferred to a high school (grades 9-12). With each transition, Jon had new people to teach him. Each transfer to a new school brought days, weeks, even months of stress to Jonathon as my husband and I tried to “teach” the teachers methods of instructing our son. Some teachers were open to suggestions, some were defensive about their methods. “

One way to improve the odds that your child’s needs will be met is to be involved in the IEP, ITP or 504.

ABCWelcome to the alphabet soup!

We’re going to assume that your child qualifies for an IEP – Individual Education Plan – as it is the most common. We’ll discuss other plans in future posts.

What to know about the IEP

  1. It’s required by law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that requires quality services for students with disabilities, including preschool children and infants.  By law, each student in special education is provided with an Individualized Education Program Plan (IEP), through which the student, parents, teachers, and administration work together to find the best plan for this particular student in terms of a successful learning environment.
  2. Schools are legally required to work with parents. During the IEP meeting, everyone involved discusses the student’s progress, goals, and methods to reach these goals.
  3. These students should receive special help when needed, but the law also requires that they be mainstreamed into regular classes whenever possible.  Studies have shown that this inclusion in the regular classroom actually improves students’ learning, especially when it comes to social skills.
  4. The focus of special education should be just that – special, something beyond what they would receive in the regular classroom and related to the student’s specific needs. Teachers and parents can help students grow emotionally, socially, and educationally by supporting them and teaching them to adapt to whatever their disability.
  5. More than academics can be included in an IEP – Organizational skills, time management, and the ability to follow a series of directions are commonly included in IEPs for students with learning disabilities, along with the usual academic goals. These life skills will be relevant when it comes to employment options in the future.  IEP goals may also include social and communication skills, which will be needed for success in school as well as on the job and in relationships after school.Individuals with disabilities and their families must identify their needs and work with the schools to see these needs are met

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