Navigating special education and section 504 in public schools
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Navigating Special Education and Section 504 in Public Schools. Dr. Joan Robbins Director of Special Education. Similar vocabulary Can be confusing Some children have needs but do not have a disability Some children have a disability, but do not have a need for services

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Navigating Special Education and Section 504 in Public Schools

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Navigating Special Education and Section 504 in Public Schools

Dr. Joan Robbins

Director of Special Education

  • Similar vocabulary

  • Can be confusing

  • Some children have needs but do not have a disability

  • Some children have a disability, but do not have a need for services

  • A diagnosis of a disability is not enough on its own to qualify for services.

IDEA v. Section 504

  • Disabilities are frequently diagnosed at a very young age

  • Families

  • Preschool or daycare providers

  • Doctors

  • Teachers

How are children referred?

  • Eligibility for Special Education services is a two-prong test

    • Does the child have an exceptionality?

      (A disability or giftedness)

    • Does the child have a need for services that cannot be met by general education?

How do students qualify for special Education?

  • Problem-solving process

    • General Education Interventions

    • Data collection

    • Student Improvement Team

  • The goal of intervention is to close the gap, not to get to a special education evaluation.

2 Parts: an Exceptionality and a Need?

  • Must be identified with a disability included in the federal law:

    • Autism

    • Deaf/Hard of Hearing

    • Deaf/Blind

    • Visually Impaired

    • Orthopedically Impaired

    • Learning Disability

    • Traumatic Brain Injury

    • Other Health Impaired

    • Intellectual Disability

    • Multiple Disability

    • Speech Language Disability

    • Developmental Delay

    • Emotional Disturbance

    • Hearing Impairment

  • ADA definition of disability:

    • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities

    • A record of having such an impairment

    • Being regarded as having such an impairment

What is different about a 504 Plan?

  • Cancer

  • Cerebral Palsy

  • Diabetes

  • Epilepsy

  • HIV / AIDS

  • Multiple Sclerosis

  • Muscular Dystrophy

  • Major Depression

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Obesity

  • Chronic Fatigue Conduct Disorder

  • ADD / ADHD

  • Arthritis

  • Temporary Disability

  • Chronic Migraine Headache

  • Tourette Syndrome

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Allergies

  • And many more

What is different about a 504 Plan?

  • Has been interpreted to mean:

    • unable to perform a major life activity the average person in the general population can perform . . . Or

    • Significantly restricted as to the condition, manner of duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity, as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform the major life activity.

What Does “Substantially Limits” Mean?

  • Typically, a 504 plan is provided when

    • The student requires accommodations only, or

    • The student’s needs are related to medical conditions, and

    • The student does not require specially designed instruction.

What is different about a 504 Plan?

  • Evaluation is a process, not an event.

  • The Evaluation may include:

    • Existing data

    • New data

    • Testing

  • Must include:

    • Observations and interviews

    • Input from families

    • Schools must consider the results of outside evaluations.

The Evaluation Process for Special Education

  • Parental consent required.

  • The team meets to review the evaluation report.

  • Eligibility is determined.

  • Schools have 60 school days to complete an evaluation and implement an IEP (for eligible students).

The Evaluation Process for Special Education

  • IEP

  • Designed to meet the unique needs of a child

  • Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance

  • Annual Goals

  • Accommodations and Modifications

  • Services

  • Placement

Individualized Education Program

So many people at the meetings!

  • Parent

  • School Representative

    • Principal or designee: Called Local Education Agency Representative (LEA Rep)

  • At least one Special Education provider

  • General Education Teacher

  • Student, if appropriate (required at 14)

  • A person qualified to interpret testing information

IEP Team Members

  • Other team members may include:

    • Nurse

    • Specialists (Behavior, Autism)

    • Representatives from outside agencies

    • Outside service providers

    • Parents may invite persons who have knowledge or expertise

IEP Team Members

  • IEPs are reviewed at least annually.

  • Can be updated and/or revised in between meetings.

  • Some changes require parental consent.

  • Eligibility is reviewed at least every three years.

Annual reviews and reevaluations

  • Upon written consent from the parent:

  • School staff reviews existing data and gathers any needed additional data including parent input.

  •  At an INITIAL Evaluation, the evaluation report is reviewed and eligibility is determined. IF the student is eligible:

    • A rough draft of an IEP may be presented

    •  The IEP is finalized by the team

    •  Parents must consent for services and placement    

    • The IEP is implemented

    • Quarterly updates on the goals are provided

    •  Each year, an annual IEP meeting is held and a new IEP is developed.

  • Every 3rd year, a reevaluation is conducted to determine if the child remains eligible. (Can be waived if parents and school agree.)

Simply Stated…When a child is referred for evaluation…

  • …Not by a label.

  • Example: Children with autism may have a primary concern in the area of:

    • Communication

    • Cognition

    • Behavior

    • None of the above, or a combination

Services are determined by need…

  • Can services be provided in general education settings?

  • What modifications and accommodations are needed for access to the curriculum?

  • Pullout services are utilized ONLY when services cannot be delivered in general education.

  • Children with disabilities can often be included in the general education classroom for most, if not all, of their day.

Services drive placement….

  • Resource Rooms- Typically in All Buildings

    • Students with any exceptionality whose needs can be met in this setting.

    • Service time is dependent on the needs of the student.

    • Students are included in general education to the maximum extent possible.

    • Services may also be provided by special education staff in individual or small group settings.

Services and Placement

  • Center-Based Programs serve:

    • Students with significant learning needs.

    • Students who demonstrate low verbal skills and require a language rich environment.

    • Students needing an intense level of support for behavior and/or learning.

  • Space is structured for individual and group work.

  • Opportunities to participate in general education as appropriate.

Center-Based Programs

  • Services related to academic needs are typically what we consider accommodations (quiet setting for tests, assistance with organization, break down long assignments, etc.)

  • Can be more intensive, but typically if more intensive services are needed, a student will be served through special education

  • Students typically do not have both an IEP and a 504 Plan.

  • Mitigating factors are not to be considered (i.e., medication) for eligibility.

Section 504 Plans

  • Students achieve most when the school and family has a strong partnership.

  • Ask questions, preferably at or before the meeting.

  • Please understand that we have timelines under the law and strive to meet them, BUT….

  • Do not feel pressured to sign documents or make decisions if you are not ready.

  • All members of the IEP team have a voice in the outcomes. Parents are important members.

  • Parents give consent for services and placement; not every item in an IEP requires parent consent.

Building Partnerships between schools and families

  • If you have a question or concern about a special education issue, start with the special education provider.

  • Understand the limitations of what can and cannot be done.

  • Individualized instruction does not automatically mean one-on-one.

  • Parents do not have the right to dictate methodology or staff decisions.

  • What is best for a child and what a child wants can be two different things. Make decisions based on the child’s best interests.

  • Do not make excuses for a child’s behavior. The behavior may be a manifestation of their disability, but we still must address challenging behavior. Children grow up to be adults. Adults with challenging behaviors may face problems with law enforcement.

  • Remember: WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM.

Building Partnerships between schools and families

  • School districts are required to serve eligible children with disabilities 0-21 years of age

    • In Johnson County, children 0-2 years of age are served through Infant Toddler Services.

    • We offer free screenings each month for children 3-5 years old suspected of developmental delays.

You may not know…

  • Families Together


  • KPIRC-Kansas Parent Information Resource Center


  • Kansas Department of Education


Helpful Resources for you!

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