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Navigating the Requirements of Special Education Eligibility

Navigating the Requirements of Special Education Eligibility
Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP
July 20, 2016
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Editor’s Note: This text-based course is a transcript of the webinar, “Navigating the Requirements of Special Education Eligibility” presented by Lissa Power-deFur. Learner OutcomesAs a result of this Continuing Education Activity, participants will be able to:1)  Identify the criteria that must be met to be found eligible for special education and related services2)  Explain strategies for identifying the educational impact of a speech-language impairment3)  Describe ways to effectively collaborate with teams during eligibility meetings Introduction and Overview I had an opportunity to write an article for the ASHA Leader a few years ago, which stemmed from my work at the Department of Education. While there, I provided technical assistance on the issue of children with speech-language impairment. Why do they have a disability that we find in our own work but the eligibility team does not find them eligible for special education services? I had an opportunity to do a webinar with SpeechPathology.com shortly after that article came out and I was delighted they asked me to update it for you today. You probably have had situations where you have been frustrated that the child on your case load with articulation issues, is not found eligible for speech and language services under special education. Perhaps your eligibility team looked at developmental norms, or they determined that it’s not causing a problem in the classroom. Maybe their stance is that the student performed well on all the assessments, and they moved on from grade to grade. On the other hand, maybe you’re having a challenge with an older student. There may be a child with intellectual disabilities who you believe has plateaued. They have received great services from the special education teacher, and they are working on transition. In your opinion, you believe it’s time for that student to be dismissed, and the dismissal isn’t going smoothly. Perhaps these are some of the challenges you’ve been facing. We will address these challenges in today’s presentation.           First, I will review some federal requirements. Next, I will touch on state requirements. We will move to the evaluation process, and how to gather data about educational impact. We’ll then move on to related services. We will discuss conclusion of eligibility and working in a team. I’ll end with a couple of applications with some case studies. I have found when I talk on this topic, that I get lots of questions and many times your questions are perfect for application. Federal Requirements To begin at the federal level, we will look at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The word “education” was added with the last re-authorization. The purpose of IDEA is to find children eligible who need to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)I want to step back for a moment and review the events that occurred back in 1975 when this law was first passed. It was originally named the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. Going back even further in time to the first half of 1954, schools were still racially segregated. In the Brown v. the Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case, on May 17, 1954, it was ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Once schools became integrated, one of the arguments made before the U.S. Supreme Court was now that public schools are required to educate children of all races, we must also begin educating children with disabilities. The cases that followed involved children with disabilities who were not invited to school, who were excluded from school, and who had horrendous facilities. The civil rights that were provided to all Americans through the Civil Rights Act in 1965, was eventually extended to include the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. The entire purpose of free appropriate public education is to provide free of charge whatever education that is deemed appropriate for each child’s needs. In other words, the parents don’t need to pay tuition for their child to get special education services. This is a funding law – states are not required to participate. They can choose not to receive the funding; however, I don’t imagine that would go over very well. The reaction from parents would likely be inflammatory if states decided to pull out of this. If states and localities want to get the federal funding, they must comply with all the requirements of IDEA. It’s important to recognize that federal funding has never met the full cost of special education. It has never even met the hoped-for level of funding when the law was passed. I think it was hoped it would cover up to 40% of special education costs. It has peaked at over 20% periodically in our history, but the percentage of coverage mainly languishes in the upper teens and lower 20s. Every Student Succeeds ActI do want to mention the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). You might recognize it as No Child Left Behind. Before that, it was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It was the civil rights act which first involved the Federal Government in ensuring that all children received equal education. Early Intervention ServicesI do want to point out a couple of things that were added to the ESSA. There is stronger language on early intervention services which states that IDEA funds should be used for SLPs and other personnel to help struggling learners in the general education classroom. In other words, we can provide assistance even for children who are not eligible. Up to 15% of IDEA funds can be used for children at risk of being identified with a disability and referred for special education. LiteracyThe literacy section of Every Student Succeeds Act replaces some of the Early Reading First that was found in IDEA and No Child Left Behind. Again, it allows all professional staff (including SLPs and audiologists) to support literacy. ESSA funds can be used for collaboration to plan comprehensive literacy instruction. I just received an email this morning that ASHA has now produced a policy document on understanding this particular act. If that’s...

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lissa power defur

Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP

Lissa Power-deFur teaches at Longwood University where she has taught public school methods and supervised school-based services.  Previously, she worked at the Virginia Department of Education as state consultant in speech-language and hearing, as special education/student services director, and as a policy analyst.  She received the ASHA Leader Outstanding Services Award in 2012, for her article “When is a child with a speech-language impairment a child with a disability? Special education eligibility criteria.”   She is a regular volunteer in the profession, serving both the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  She is serving as the Vice President of Standards and Ethics in Speech-Language Pathology, 2014-16 for ASHA.  



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