***If you would like a PDF version of this guide, please feel free to email me: Barbara_Mays@hotmail.com**
for Special Education
Covering the major exceptionalities:
· Autism spectrum disorder
· Specific learning disabilities (SLD)
· Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
· Emotional/Behavioral Disorder (EBD)
· Intellectual Disabilities (ID)
The spirit behind special education is to help a child realize his or her potential, and provide the proper support to reach his or her educational goals. However, sometimes the terminology and laws surrounding this field can cause apprehension for someone new to special education. Often times, parents may feel overwhelmed when first introduced into special education for their child.
This information guide is designed to help alleviate the anxieties and uncertainties that a parent may have, when examining the terms and laws associated with special education for their child. This guide should help parents learn about their child’s disability, as well as provide them with additional resources to help support them.
While the field of special education covers many exceptionalities, here we will provide information for autism spectrum disorder, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotional and behavioral disorders, and intellectual disabilities.
Table of Contents
Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Emotional and Behavior Disorders (EBD)
Learning Disabilities (LD)
Appendix A – Due Process Procedures
Appendix B – Steps in the Referral Process
Appendix C – Continuum of Special Education Services
There are twelve specific special
education categories of eligibility for the state of
· Emotional & Behavioral Disorder
· Severe Emotional Behavioral Disorder
· Deaf and Hard of hearing (D/HH)
· Mild Intellectual Disability
· Moderate, Severe, Profound Intellectual Disability
· Orthopedic Impairment
· Other Health Impairment
· Specific Learning Disability
· Speech-Language Impairment
· Traumatic Brain Injury
· Visual Impairment & Blindness
· Young Children with Disabilities, or Significant Developmental Delay (SDD)
Please visit the
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Rett’s Disorder is diagnosed primarily in females. Development is initially normal until 6 to 18 months, and then there is a regression of skills including speech. Indicators are meaningless gestures such as hand wringing and hand washing.
DMS – IV diagnostic criteria include: loss of previously acquired hand kills between 5 to 20 months of age; deceleration of head growth between 5 and 48 months; loss of social engagement; poorly coordinated gait or trunk movements; and severely impaired expressive and receptive language development.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is another part of the spectrum. Basically, there is a period of normal development for at least two years after birth and then a significant loss in: language (expressive and/or receptive), social skills and adaptive behavior, bowel and/or bladder control, play, and motor skills. The distinguishing component of childhood disintegrative disorder is that its characteristics are more social than physical.
Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD NOS) is for the children who don’t fully meet the criteria that clinicians use to diagnose any of the specific disorders included under the heading of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (similar to the Autism Spectrum Disorder). The diagnosis reflects a clinician’s best guess. There is no specific test for it.
“Autism is a developmental disability, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a student’s educational performance and significantly affects developmental rates and sequences, verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction and participation. Other characteristics often associated with autism are unusual responses to sensory experiences, engagement in repetitive activities and stereotypical movements and resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines. Students with autism vary widely in their abilities and behavior.”
How does a child qualify for
eligibility for autism within
1. Comprehensive psychological evaluation to include a formal assessment of intellectual functioning and an assessment of adaptive behavior.
2. Educational evaluation to include an assessment of educational performance and current functioning levels.
3. Communication evaluation to include assessment of verbal and non-verbal communication.
4. Behavioral evaluations to include assessment of social interaction and participation, peer and adult interactions, capacity to relate to others, stereotypical behaviors, resistance to change, atypical responses to sensory stimuli, persistent preoccupation with or attachment to objects and other behaviors often associated with autism.
5. Developmental history to include developmental differences and delays and age of onset. A student may be diagnosed as a student with autism after age three if the characteristics of autism are met.
But… who makes a diagnosis?
· A medical doctor, a pediatric neurologist
· Psychologist, psychiatrist
· School psychologist
· Clinics that specifically diagnose
What are some common characteristics of Autism?
There are some common traits to look for. This is by no means a means to diagnose, but these characteristics have been found to be common among those with Autism:
· Insistence on sameness; resistance to change
· Difficulty in expressing needs; uses gestures or pointing instead of words
· Repeating words or phrases in place of normal language
· Laughing, crying, showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
· Prefers to be alone; aloof manner
· Difficulty in mixing with others
· May not want to cuddle or be cuddled
· Little or no eye contact
· Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
· Sustained odd play
· Spins objects
· Inappropriate attachments to objects
· Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain
· No real fears of danger
· Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
· Uneven gross/fine motor skills
· Not responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf although hearing test in normal range
What is ADHD?
What are some general characteristics of ADHD?
Characteristics may increase or change as the child gets older. A common characteristic is sustaining little or no eye contact. Also:
· In preschoolers, they may seem restless and accident prone.
· At the elementary school age,
o Excessive talking
o Erratic performance
· In adolescents,
o Poor judgment
o Problems with peers
How does a child qualify for
eligibility for ADHD within
1. A medical evaluation from a licensed doctor of medicine needs to be done.
2. A student with ADHD will qualify under Other Health Impairment (OHI).
3. An evaluation must be done including a comprehensive developmental or educational assessment to indicate the effects of ADHD on the student’s educational performance.
4. In this information indicates significant deficits in cognitive/academic functioning, a psychological evaluation shall be given.
But… who makes a diagnosis?
A medical doctor must make the diagnosis. The school can only assist in this diagnosis by providing data collected about the student, and this data can only be if a parent/guardian requests it.
Is there a way to treat ADHD?
There are several ways to help a child with ADHD. Most commonly discussed is medication. There are various types of medications designed to treat ADHD. However, the parent has the right to decide if their child should take any medication prescribed for ADHD; this is NOT the school’s decision!
Other treatments for ADHD include behavioral interventions. These can be done at home, at school, or jointly. Finally, some believe there are nutritional approaches, such as eliminating sugar from the diet, that help “treat” symptoms of ADHD. However, there is no well-established research on this matter.
What is an Emotional/Behavior Disorder?
What are some general characteristics of children with EBD?
Following are a general set of characteristics. There are two components of EBD – emotions and behaviors. Some children only have the emotional characteristics, some show only the behavioral characteristics, while still others have both emotional and behavioral characteristics. It is important to remember that someone most people exhibit these behaviors on occasions; someone with EBD will exhibit these behaviors more frequently than their peers.
· Does not know how to make friends
· Bullies, orders, threatens
· Quits or blames other when not winning
· Excessively shy, unnoticed
· Seeks adult attention rather than peer attention
· Frequently involved in fights
· Functions academically lower than ability level
· Will acquire knowledge, then regress
· Overly perfectionist
· Makes noises in class
· Complains about work being too much or too difficult
· Displays excessive emotions
· Laughs and/or cries at inappropriate times
· Sucks thumb
· Displays mood swings
· Cruel to animals
· Does not show pleasure when praised or rewarded
· Over self-critical
· Maintains poor eye contact
· Complains of being tired, has difficulty sleeping
· Has poor posture, tends to hand head, droop shoulders
· Is overly anxious
· Complains of headaches, stomachaches
· Worries excessively about harm befalling loves ones
· Picks at nails, minor cuts, scratches
· Difficulty sleeping
How does a child qualify for
eligibility for EBD within
A student may be considered for placement in a program for students with EBD based upon an eligibility report that should include the following:
1. Documentation of any and all prereferral strategies that were implemented in the regular educational setting.
2. Psychological and educational evaluations or developmental evaluations for preschool-age children
3. report of behavioral observations over a significant period of time
4. appropriate social history
5. adequate documentation of the duration, frequency, and intensity of one or more of the characteristics of EBD (see definition in box)
But… who makes a diagnosis?
By following the above eligibility procedures, the school makes the decision of whether a student has an emotional behavior disorder, based on the data collected.
Can you “treat” EBD?
Since emotional and behavior disorders cover a wide variety of behavior, the “treatment” will depend greatly on the behaviors he or she exhibits. In some cases, medications are used. As with ADHD, it is the parents exclusive legal right to decide whether or not have their child use any medications prescribed by a physician.
Other strategies used in the schools, as well as at home, include establishing clear schedules and routines, and predictable behavior consequences for behavior for the child to follow. Self-management strategies and other forms of behavior management are commonly implemented for children with emotional and behavior disorders.
What is an intellectual disability?
What are some general characteristics of children with an intellectual disability?
There are four sub-categories of intellectual disabilities: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.
· Mild: - IQ ranges from 55 – 70
· Moderate – IQ ranges from 40 – 55
· Severe – IQ ranges from 25 – 40
· Profound – IQ is below 25
In all cases, adaptive behavior significantly limits the individual’s effectiveness in meeting the following standards that are expected of the individual’s age level and cultural group:
· Personal independence or social responsibility
· Especially school performance
Common characteristics include difficulties with
· Language development
· Articulation achievement
· Social development
· and motivation.
How does a child qualify for
eligibility for an intellectual disability within
1. Intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior are considered equally in determination of services. (evaluation)
2. A comprehensive educational evaluation is administered to determine present levels of academic functioning.
3. A written report is prepared for the student to provide an adequate description of the data collected during the evaluation and to explain why the student is eligible for services in a program for students with intellectual disabilities.
What is a specific learning disability?
A learning disability is a processing disorder in one or more of the following:
· Written expression
· Basic reading / word recognition
· Math calculation
· Math reasoning
· Oral expression
· Listening comprehension
LD is caused by a central nervous system dysfunction – NOT brain damage.
A student does not have a LD if the problem comes from visual impairments, hearing impairments, emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities, environmental factors, or cultural or economic disadvantage.
What are some general characteristics of children with a learning disability?
The characteristics of a person with a learning disability will vary greatly. Below is an attempt to break down some general, common characteristic related to types of development.
General functioning and social-emotional development
· Immature emotionally and socially
· Can’t make choices
· Distractible, impulsive
· Academic skills are very slow in developing
· Strong discrepancies in skills and knowledge
· Non-verbal reasoning is highly developed
· Know rules but does not apply
· Avoids talking or focuses mainly on adults
· Excellent vocabulary but poor production
· Wants to talk, but cannot retrieve words
· Uses incomplete sentences; mumbles; slurs
· Looses focus in group activities
· Cannot rhyme
· Cannot segment sounds in words, or blend them together to make words
· Excessively physical; touching; pushing; wrestling
· Bumps into things and people without awareness
· Lasting egocentricity
· Avoids or is uncomfortable on play equipment
· Can’t blow nose or tie shoes
· Very disorganized; can’t get ready or clean up
· Constantly losing things; can’t remember how to go, where to put things
· Pencil grip awkward
· Puzzles are challenging
The Center for the Study of Autism - www.autism.org
The Center for the Study of Autism
(CSA) is located in the Salem/Portland,
The Autism Research Centre (ARC) www.autismresearchcentre.com
Based at the
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder www.chadd.org
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) is a national non-profit organization founded in 1987 in response to the frustration and sense of isolation experienced by parents and their children with AD/HD.
- adhdclinic.com “Dr. Gavini, a pediatrician, specializes in
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has been practicing in
ADD-ADHD.org www.add-adhd.org “This web site contains many third-party articles on Attention Deficit Disorders with a special focus on the relationship between ADD/ADHD and vision.”
A division of the National Institutes of Health; a great source for ADHD, and other disabilities, particularly those with a medical diagnosis.
The Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) www.thearc.org
“The Arc is the national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and their families. It is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for people with mental retardation and their families. The association also fosters research and education regarding the prevention of mental retardation in infants and young children.”
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)- www.cec.sped.org
“The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides continual professional development, advocates for newly and historically underserved individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.”
Georgia Parent Support Network (GSPN) – www.gspn.org
GSPN “is dedicated to providing support, education and advocacy for children and youth with mental illness, emotional disturbances and behavioral differences and their families.” They assist in the referral, placement, and advocacy for children.
Parent to Parent of Georgia www.parenttoparentofga.org
Provides support to parents of children with disabilities.
Georgia Parent Mentors parentmentors.org
Their goal is to “nurture communication among parents and educators, ultimately leading to greater success for students with disabilities.”
Babies Can’t Wait www.babiescantwait.com
Their mission is “to provide practical, concrete, quality training and technical assistance services to early childhood groups everywhere.” They work in conjunction with Head Start, Early Head Start, and other programs to help ensure early intervention for young children with exceptionalities.
Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD) www.cldinternational.org
“The Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD) is an international organization that promotes effective teaching and research. CLD is composed of professionals who represent diverse disciplines and who are committed to enhance the education and lifespan development of individuals with learning disabilities. CLD establishes standards of excellence and promotes innovative strategies for research and practice through interdisciplinary collegiality, collaboration, and advocacy.”
Wright’s Law www.wrightslaw.com
This website is a HUGE source of information regarding special education law and advocacy. It covers a wide array of issues, and can serve as an amazing reference point.
Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI) www.seriweb.com
“Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI) is a collection of Internet accessible information resources of interest to those involved in the fields related to Special Education.”
LD online www.ldonline.com
This website is perhaps the most expansive, and also leading, website dedicated to learning disabilities. It has a section just for parents, at which many articles are made available to help guide a parent with their child’s education.
Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter’s Life
with Autism, and The Seige by
Thinking in Pieces, and Emergence:Labeled Autism by
Beyond the Silence and The Mind Tree by Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay
Faking It by Christopher Lee
The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child’s Learning Disabilities by Dr. Larry B. Silver
The LD Child and the ADHD Child: Ways Parents and Professionals Can Help by Suzanne H. Stevens
Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning by David H. Rose & Anne Meyer http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/
A Glossary of Common Terms
You May Hear in Special Education:
· Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – Allows for students to be placed in the most appropriate, least restrictive setting in which to receive services. Provisions for determining the LRE include: maximum freedom for the student, similar to age/peers, not harmful, not dangerous, not intrusive, most appropriate, integrated, and normalized.
· Individualized Education Plan (IEP)– An IEP is designed to help guide your students educational services. It includes: student’s present level(s) of academic performance; annual goals; short-term instructional objectives; modifications, accommodations, and other related services; plans for starting the services and the anticipated duration of the services; and approval from the parent or guardian
· Free Appropriate Education (FAPE) – In order to comply with the federal mandate (Public Law 102-119, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B (34 CFR Parts 300 and 301 and Appendix C) that all disabled children receive a free appropriate public education, a school district must provide special education and related services at no cost to the child or her/his parents.
· Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA)– Civil rights legislation for
persons with disabilities ensuring nondiscrimination in a broad range of
· Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)– IDEA, recently revised in 2004, is the body of laws governing special education within the public school system.
· Individualized family service plan (IFSP) – a plan for services for young children with disabilities (under 3 years of age) and their families drawn up by professional and parents; similar to an IEP for older children; mandated by PL 99-457
· Inclusion – The practice of including students with exceptionalities in the regular education classroom as much as possible. The spirit behind the inclusion movement is that with the least amount of peer identification, students with exceptionalities have a better chance of succeeding.
· Accommodation – The provisions made to allow a student to access and demonstrate learning. Accommodations do not substantially change the instructional level, the content or the performance criteria, but are made in order to provide a student equal access to learning and equal opportunity to demonstrate what is known. Accommodations shall not alter the content of the test or provide inappropriate assistance to the student within the context of the test.
· Modification – Changes to learning outcomes that result in students' learning outcomes being substantially different from those of the provincial curriculum. Modifications are specifically selected to address a student's special needs.
· Transition services – Schools are responsible to provide transition services to assist a child with disabilities to successfully access the adult world, through work experiences and/or through postsecondary options and related. Transition services must be individually tailored to the child's needs and skills.
· Due process – (see appendix A)
Appendix A: Due Process Procedures
Nothing happens unless the parents agree. This is regarding placement, eligibility issues, labeling, etc.
Parents have a right to all information regarding their child. This includes test results, personal files, etc.
Mediation: If the school system disagrees with the parent or vice versa, they can seek the opinion of a 3rd party
Hearing: If mediation is not effective, a hearing can be held; a lawyer acts as judge, collects evidence, and renders a decision. However, this decision does not have to be accepted by either party.
Appendix B: Steps in the
Appendix C: Continuum of
Special Education Services