Special Education Process - For Teachers



What are interventions and why do we need them?

Interventions are simply the "tricks" you have tried to help the student succeed. Before you refer a child to be tested for a possible Special Education program, make sure you (and anyone else working with the student) have documented the different interventions attempted with the student.

Interventions are needed to ensure that the student is a good candidate for testing. It would be great having testing information on every student, but testing takes a long time. Because of the amount of time needed to complete an evaluation (and the cost involved), only students whom the team feels that interventions have not worked and may be a good candidate for Special Education, are tested.

Interventions may be waived if the team determines that the student's needs for assessment are urgent.

Intervention Examples

What are some examples of good interventions that I could try with my students?

The type of interventions are only limited to your imagination. Interventions may include:

  • changing the child's seat
  • peer-tutoring
  • adjusting the curriculum
  • computerized instruction
  • meeting with the parents
  • use of manipulatives, tutors, one-on-one instruction
  • individualized homework/class work.

Many schools have teams (Student Services Teams) that meet together and "brainstorm" ideas to help the teacher meet the needs of individual students. These teams may offer other intervention ideas that may help.

Student Services Meeting

What is a Student Services meeting, what happens there, and who is included in this meeting?

A Student Services meeting is another name for the pre-referral/referral meeting. The actual name of this meeting or group will vary from school to school.

Members of this team may include the Special Education teacher, Classroom teacher, Principal, counselor, previous classroom teacher, or anyone else who could provide vital information about the student.

During this meeting, the referring teacher, usually the class room teacher, will present a student whom he or she is concerned about. The teacher will explain his or her concerns and which interventions were attempted and their outcome. The team will then discuss the student and interventions and decide if this student is a likely candidate for Special Education services. If they feel that the student is a good candidate, then the Referral is filled out and the process for testing begins.

Sometimes the team may feel that more information or interventions are needed before a referral can be made. If so, then more intervention ideas are suggested and the team will schedule another meeting sometime in the future to discuss the outcomes and whether or not a referral will be made.

The team may also decide that a student is not a likely candidate for Special Education and that no referral will be made at that time. This doesn't mean that the student can not be referred again at a later date.

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Parent Permission

Before any testing can begin, the student's parent or legal guardian must give their written consent for evaluation. Under no circumstances can the Special Education teacher or School Psychologist begin testing until the Consent for Evaluation form has been signed and turned into the school.

A parent has the right to refuse testing on their child. If the parents refuse, then the school is not allowed to examine the student. If a parent informs you that they do not wish for their child to be tested , document the conversation (date/time/what was said)and ask them to mark that they do not consent for evaluation on the form, have them sign their name and then return the form to school.

It is appropriate to discuss your concerns with the parent as to why you feel an evaluation is important. Let them know that an evaluation in no way means that their child will become a Special Education student. It is simply an evaluation to gather more information about the student's strengths and weaknesses. Always keep in mind that ultimately the choice is up to the parent.

How long will it take?

How long will it take before the evaluation process is completed?

The length of time for the entire evaluation process will vary. Depending upon the age of the student, school attendance of the child, what testing is needed and which specialists need to be involved, the process could last anywhere from a week up to over a month.

Testing is always completed as soon as possible, but be aware that sometimes it can take awhile.

Even though you may be in a hurry and want the child to receive services as soon as possible, a student can not be officially serviced in a Special Education program until all of the evaluations are completed and a team convenes with the parent.

Types of Evaluations

What are the types of evaluations used in Special Education?

There are two basic types of evaluations given to students who are referred to Special Education.

The first type is called a cognitive evaluation. A cognitive evaluation is essentially an exam that determines a student's IQ (what a child is cognitively able to do).

The second type of evaluation is called an achievement test. An achievement test measures where the student is performing academically. This type of test would show, for example, that a student is reading on a 3.5 grade level (3 grade, 5th month).

Depending upon what the concerns are for the student, different tests or checklists are also given. For example, if a student is being considered for a possible behavioral handicap, behavioral checklists and observations in the classroom/school are needed. Visual/motor integration, speech and language and large/fine motor evaluations are just some of the other evaluations that may be administered.

Children that have English as a second language (ESL) will need to be evaluated in English and in their primary language.

What will the tests show?

After the evaluation, what will the tests show?

Most cognitive tests are broken down into areas of strengths and weaknesses. Not only will the cognitive tests tell us the student's strengths and weaknesses on the sub-tests, but also the student's IQ score. The IQ score allows us to determine if the student is functioning in a superior, above average, below average, or significantly below average range.

IQ scores below 70-75 are considered significantly below average and could qualify a student as having an Intellectual Disability. Students with Learning Disabilities (LD), Communication Disorders (CD) and Behavior Disorders (BD) have IQs ranging 75 and above. The average IQ is 100.

The second thing we look at is the student's achievement scores, particularly in how they relate to the student's cognitive score. When classifying someone Learning Disabled , there must be a significant discrepancy between the student's IQ and achievement score. For example, a student with a 100 IQ and a reading standard score of 75 may qualify has having a Learning Disability because there is a significant discrepancy between the 2 scores. However, a student with an IQ of 80 and a reading score of 75 might now qualify as LD because the student is performing closer to his given ability then a student with a 100 IQ. Even though both students are performing at a 75 standard score in reading, the reason for the low reading score is not because of a Learning Disability, but possibly because of the lower IQ score.

Communication Disorders are characterized by below average expressive or receptive language scores.

A Behavior Disordered student exhibits behavior that interferes with his or her own learning or the learning of others. Behavioral checklists, observations and failed interventions (over a significant period of time) must support this finding.

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After the Evaluation

Now that the evaluation is over- what next?

After all of the evaluations are completed, the next step is to score the tests and review the results. Depending upon the results, the student may qualify as having a handicapping condition, or may not qualify for any special education classification.

Learning Disabled

What is a Learning Disability and how does a student qualify as Learning Disabled?

A person with a Learning Disability (L.D.) is someone who learns differently than most people. Learning is usually more difficult for that person. A Learning Disability can effect anybody, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.

In order to be classified as Learning Disabled, there must be a significant discrepancy between their cognitive ability (IQ) and achievement (performance in an academic area such as reading or math).

These discrepancies must not be the result of any other condition such as race, language differences,economic situation, lack of education, or other handicapping condition such as a visual or hearing impairment, intellectual disability, head injury such as epilepsy, or physical disability. The above mentioned conditions can not be the primary cause of the underachievement, however, they can be secondary to the Learning Disability.

Behavior Disorder

What is a Behavioral Handicap?

According to Ann E. Golden of Ohio State University, a child with a behavioral handicap exhibits behaviors that interfere with his or her school work. The student also has extreme difficulty getting along with others.

Students with behavioral handicaps have also been referred to as emotional handicaps or disturbances, behavior disorders, conduct disorder, social maladjusted delinquency, or psychological disorder. These terms describe a person whose behavior is significantly different from what is expected of someone at a particular age.

Causes of severe behavioral problems have not been adequately determined. Some factors such as heredity, diet, brain disorder, family functioning, and stress may be possible causes, but research had not found any of these factors to be the direct cause of behavioral problems.

Golden, Ann E. Severe Behavioral Handicap (SBH). [Online] August 4, 1999.

Communication Disorder

What is a Communication Disorder?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), there are two main categories of communication disorders.

The first are people with hearing disorders. These people do not hear sounds clearly. These disorders range from hearing speech sounds faintly to profound deafness.

The second category is speech and language disorders that affect the way people talk and understand language. This type of disorder may range from simple sound substitutions to not being able to use speech and language at all.

Some of the signs of speech and language disorders might be a person's speech or language is different from that of their peers, when their speech/language is hard to understand, or when a person avoids communication with others.

Speech disorders may include stuttering (speech characterized by hesitations, repetition or prolonged sounds), articulation disorders (difficulty with the way sounds are formed), or voice disorders (inappropriate pitch, loudness, or quality of speech).

American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Recognizing Communication Disorders. [Online], 1999.

Intellectual Disability

What constitutes an Intellectual Disability?

Before a student can be classified as having an intellectual disability, it must be shown (through assessment) that the student is functioning at 75-70 or below on their IQ tests.

The student's adaptive capabilities should also be examined to determined if significant disabilities are occurring in two or more areas. Some of the areas in which adaptive capabilities are measured, include communication, self-care, home living, self-direction, community use, health and safety, work, leisure and functional academics.

The age onset of the intellectual and adaptive disability must occur prior to age eighteen.

Health Impairment

What is a Health Impairment?

The classification of Health Impairment differs from state to state, along with which health impairments qualify a student for services. Basically, a student qualifies a having a health impairment when a student's health impairs their ability to succeed in their classroom.

Check with your local school district to see how they qualify student's under this classification.

Does not qualify

What happens if a student does not qualify for Special Education services?

Occasionally, after all of the evaluations have been completed, a student is found not to qualify as having a handicapping condition. This does not mean that a student will never qualify for any special education services in the future. All this shows, is that at the present time, the student does not qualify as having a handicapping condition. An evaluation may be conducted at some future date, if the school team feels that further testing is needed.

If a student does not qualify as having a handicapping condition, then that student is not eligible to receive special education services. Having the school team meet again, may offer you suggestions as to which other services may be offered to the student, or possibly some other interventions may be suggested.

Internet Resources

Here is a list of some of the many resources available on the internet.

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The Placement Form

What is a Permission for Placement form?

The Permission for Placement form is a legal form that needs to be signed by the parent before any initial placement in special education may begin. It is illegal to service a child in any special education placement, including Resource, with out prior permission of the parent or guardian.

Examples of Placements

What are the different types of placements available for special education students?

Students are placed in special education programs based on a concept of least restrictive environment . Least restrictive environment means that a student will be placed in a setting in which a student is able to succeed that is closest to the regular classroom setting as possible.

One of the most common (and least restrictive) placement option for students with mild to moderate handicaps is the Resource setting. This is where the student receives some type of special education service while they remain primarily in their regular classroom. This can be done on a consultation basis where the Resource and classroom teacher "consult" on ideas to help the student succeed. This may also be done using a traditional "pull-out" model. This is where the student goes down to the Resource room for some type of extra instruction such as reading and math. Students could be "pulled-out" from as little as 15 minutes to over half of the school day. Resource services can also include teacher team-teaching together to combine their skills and expertise. Resource services could also include the use of assistance in the regular classroom to provide support to the student.

If a student requires more services than can be provided using the regular classroom with Resource assistance, then a self-contained (cluster) classroom setting may be an option. This is where the student spends the entire day in a classroom with children who have similar handicapping conditions. Many times, the students are slowly mainstreamed back into the regular classroom as their skills improve. This classroom may be in the student's home school, or it may be located at a different school.

An even more restrictive placement would be a special education school. This is a school composed entirely of special education students. One example of this may be a school for the blind.

Another even more restrictive environment may be that a student receives services will in a hospital or institutional setting.

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Individualized Education Program

What is an I.E.P.?

What is an I.E.P. and what do the letters stand for?

An I.E.P., or Individualized Education Program , is a term that you will become very familiar with as a classroom teacher. Basically an I.E.P. is a form that states the amount of time a student will be serviced, their current level of academic and/or behavioral performance, and the goals that will be worked on with the student.

This form must be re-evaluated and completed every year. Although the I.E.P. is "due" once a year, it can be changed or added to as many times as needed.

Who is on the IEP Team?

Who is invited to be a member of a student's I.E.P. team?

An I.E.P. team can contain any number of members. Anyone directly working with the student may be invited.

Parents are always invited and are encouraged to attend. The parent may also bring along someone of their choice. This may include a doctor or attorney.

The classroom teacher and special education teacher are required to be on the I.E.P. team.

A member of the school, usually the principal or another special education teacher, must serve as the L.E.A. The L.E.A. serves as a representative of the school to insure that the services listed on the I.E.P. and Placement form are available to the student and are carried out.

School psychologist or district representatives are also possible members of the I.E.P. team.

What information is on the IEP?

The Individualized Education Program contains much information about the student. Some of the main areas include:

  1. Student Information: This includes the student's name, birthdate, classification, date of I.E.P. and school.
  2. Amount of time in special education and areas serviced: For example, reading for 1 hour a day, speech or 30 minutes a week.
  3. Current Placement: Which type of placement the student is currently in. For example: Resource vs. self-contained placement.
  4. Testing exemption: Whether or not the student will take standardized testing such as the S.A.T.s.
  5. I.E.P. renewal date: If the I.E.P. will be renewed in one year from the date, or sooner.
  6. Current Level of Performance: Where the student is currently performing at. This may include the current reading level, how the student is performing in the regular classroom, or behavioral observations.
  7. Annual Goals & Short Term Objectives: Which areas the student will be work with (reading, math, social skills, etc.) and the objectives in which these goals will be measured. For example: Improve Math skills on a third grade level may be the Goal for the student and the short term objective may be Will be able to see/say/write all the 2 times tables with 90% accuracy.
  8. Team Members' signatures: All of the members on the I.E.P. team must sign the I.E.P. If a member does not agree with the decision of the team, then they may attach a letter stating their concerns.

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Parental Safeguards

Parental Safeguards are another name for Parental Rights. Parents have many rights under the laws. Some of these laws are Public Law 94-142 and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

There far too many safeguards to list on this site, however, some of the ones that may involve the classroom teacher are:

  1. A parent or legal guardian are the only ones eligible to sign any of the student's special education forms. An aunt, grandparent, or friend that a student may be living with does not have the legal rights to sign any forms unless they have legal custody of the student.
  2. A parent has the right to refuse any special education testing or placement. No evaluation or services will be given unless the parent has given their prior consent.
  3. Parents and guardians have the right for Due Process . Due Process is when a parent and a school have a disagreement (about placement, services, etc.) and their disagreement can not be solved with out the help of a court appointed mediator.

If you would like to see all of the Parental Safeguards, ask your school's special education teacher(s) and they would be glad to provide you with a copy of the rights. Parents are always given copies of their rights to keep and are given an explanation of them. Back to Top