Resources for Parents of Students with Special Needs
The services and quality of care for students with special needs can vary greatly from school to school. It is important to try to get a clear and honest picture of what special education services will entail and how the school will be able to support your child.
VISITING SCHOOLS FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:
A guided tour of the school will certainly give you the opportunity to get a feel for the environment and ask more in-depth questions. It is the best way to gain insight into the school’s culture and climate. You will be able to observe both student-teacher and student-student interactions. While no school is “perfect,” there may be schools that are not suitable or equipped to meet your child’s needs.
QUESTIONS TO ASK SCHOOLS: FOR FAMILIES OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
- What are the school’s/principal’s views on inclusion?
- Do students with special needs spend all or part of their time in self-contained classrooms?
- What types of modifications and accommodations can and cannot be offered or provided?
- What is the school’s behavior plan, and is it different for students with special needs?
- Are teachers and staff trained to meet your child’s needs?
- How are students identified, assessed, and evaluated at your school?
- How is progress measured and reported to parents?
STEPS TO FINDING A SCHOOL THAT BEST MEETS YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS:
- IDENTIFY your child’s educational needs that will help them learn.
- INFORM the school and ask what accommodations they can provide for your child.
- DETERMINE if the school can provide an environment that meets all or most of your child’s needs.
Special Education FAQ’s
In order to qualify for special education under the regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child needs to be a child with a disability, meaning that the child has been evaluated as having a qualifying disability, and by reason thereof needs special education. [See 34 C.F.R. § 300.8(a)]
- The child must have a qualifying disability as defined by the IDEA regulations;
- The disability must have an adverse effect on the child’s educational performance; and
- The child must need specially designed instruction in order to access and make progress in the general education curriculum.
For a list of disability categories under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) click here
To determine what professional evaluations are necessary in order to qualify click here
For important special education terms and definitions Click Here
Arizona State Board of Education rules state that “identification (screening for possible disabilities) shall be completed within 45 calendar days after entry of each preschool or kindergarten student and any student enrolling without appropriate records of screening, evaluation, and progress in school, or after notification to the [school] by parents of concerns regarding developmental or educational progress by their child aged 3 years through 21 years.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(D)(5)] “If a concern about a student is identified through screening procedures or through review of records, the public education agency shall notify the parents of the student of the concern within 10 school days and inform them of the public education agency procedures to follow-up on the student’s needs.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(D)(8)]
A 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child, with a disability attending an elementary or secondary educational institution, receives accommodations providing him/her access to the learning environment. It specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary, or postsecondary schooling. The plan ensures that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations. The plan provides educators with information about the specific needs of their students with disabilities and practical strategies to be incorporated into their lesson planning. Accommodations include wheelchair-accessible facilities, adjustable-height tables, large-print reading materials, and increased time to complete assignments and tests.
The IDEA is an education law – a grant statute that funds special education programs and entitles each eligible child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. Section 504 (part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), on the other hand, is a civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The Arizona Department of Education/Dispute Resolution can investigate allegations that there has been a violation of the IDEA, but it has no authority to investigate allegations that there has been a violation of Section 504. Allegations involving possible violations of Section 504 are investigated by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the United States Department of Education.
For more information on Section 504 and students with disabilities, visit OCR’s Section 504 FAQ.