Let’s Talk About Special Education

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Help Students with Special Education

I hope your family had time to rest and relax during Thanksgiving holiday. It is a good time to evaluate goals and objectives that you set in January or August. Besides, holiday times are good for family meetings that ask important questions like: How are you really doing in school? Or for the adults, how are you really doing at work, or in life.

As a parent, if you know or suspect that your child seems challenged by schoolwork, help is available. You are the best advocate, and the most significant person, in your child’s life. Make an appointment with your Child’s home room teacher. Share your concerns. This initial appointment should be followed up with the school counselor. If one wishes to seek special education services outside the public school or private school, one should be prepared to pay out of pocket. Do not expect to bill the school. Tip 1: Advocate for your child with confidence.

Get help with at least the following 3 Assessments: Find out from your child’s school the dates/deadlines to have the assessments done.

1. Medical Exam: An annual Physical Examination is a great tool used to rule out chronic disease. It is done by the Primary Care Physician. All students should have PE annually, without exception. Apply for insurance or ask for help. Children and Adolescents grow fast. It is important to keep up with their medical health needs.

2. Psychoeducational assessment: This can be done by you school psychologist, one of the most highly trained personnel in education. Of course, the assessment will include an IQ to determine the grade level and placement. Sometimes Talented and Gifted (TAG) students trouble teachers because they want their brain food. They are wired for a higher level of learning. At the same time, the mentally challenged student needs some accommodation. Both students get in trouble or instigate issues but for different reasons. The hardest thing is how to differentiate a TAG student who might also, have ADD-H (attention deficit disorder with Hyperactivity, or a student who is mentally challenged, and with a diagnosis of ODD. This then, means that the student has a primary issue and a secondary issue. Give time to the professionals to accurately diagnose.

3. Bio-psychosocial Evaluation: This is done at the request of the parent or school.  It is mostly completed by a counselor from Behavioral Services (check your State).  It is a great tool to rule out Mental Health issues like retardation, family patterns that make it hard for a student to learn. For example, a family may report that “(In my family, no one graduates from High School”). The evaluation helps to identify, or even help with diagnosis of learning disorders like, speech, and many other issues like School refusal. There are other critical adjustments for youth in middle and high school like LGBTQ, which the school staff are, trained, and have experience with helping students. The school  can issue a referral and facilitate appointments with mental health providers. Obtaining   assessments and evaluation services from your school district is much easier, and well-coordinated.   Tip 2: Build a bridge between home and school for the success of the student.  

Know Other Useful resources. Go online and take time to read about each available service.

Section 504 – of the Rehabilitation Act (www.gadoe.org)

What is a 504 b? Parents with students identified for special education should familiarize themselves with 504 b Plans. These plans are to assist students with disability. Know: (a) The Rights of the Student that requires accommodation due to disability. (b) Know the Right of the Parent who requests special education accommodations. Work Closely with your school 504 b Team as most of the assessments are likely to be completed in school.

Know what IDEA is – The Individual with Disabilities Education Act- This piece of Americans Act, ensures students with disability are provided with a free Public Education tailored to their individual needs (sites.ed.gov).

Know what SST is – This is Student Support Team, or Student Study Team.

Know what RTI is – Response to Intervention. 

Know what IEP is – Individualized Education Plan. Without exemption students with disabilities have an IEP File.

Know what SSI is – Supplemental Security Income – A government program that pays disability benefits to children and adults who are disabled, have low income and few resources (read more from dph.georgia.gov) In most states, an SSI recipient will automatically qualify for health care coverage through Medicaid. Know how SSI is determined for a child. Caution to parents-should you decide to home school your kid, you can do so, but while some states may pay a parent to home school a special need student, the State of Georgia does not pay parents to do so. Tip #3:  Parents should not be afraid that a kid has a disability or a learning challenge. Parents should be more concerned when they unintentionally fail to advocate for their child.

Are you a parent who is interested in Homeschooling? That is another area-whatever you decide, you school district is willing to work with you so that the student is not left behind.  “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.” Should you decide to home school your kid, you can do so, but while some states may pay a parent to home school a special need student, the State of Georgia does not pay parents to do so. Tip #4: No Child left Behind.

CAUTION: Child Support, is better handled by Department of Child and Family Services, not the school.

Failure is not an option: Work at least one year or one semester in advance.  Although in GA the school year is from August-May, seek help early. Any accommodations that are not put in place by March, will likely be carried forward to the next year.  Tip #5: Schedule a parent conference with your child’s teachers.

High School:  It is possible for a student to lose important academic gains as one navigates through educational experience. For Seniors graduating from High School, there is a great possibility that Government funded remedial classes for College/ Freshman who need a little push will come to an end sooner not later. What this means then is that Special Ed. students may in future have a harder time being accommodated in college. Whatever a family decides to do for their child, one must put everything in place (including Vocational Rehab) before a student is 18 years old, and by the age of 21 years. Failure to do so will mean that the future of a student may be bleak. Tip #6: Do your best to set your child on a path of success.

What next? If a student missed assessments during their educational experience from K-12, what can a parent do?  As the slogan goes, it is better late than ever. Ask for help at any point during the school years. Tip #7: REMEMBER NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. Means your child is not left behind.

Rev. Wambui/Is a freelance writer with Kenya Parents in USA. She previously worked as a Child/Adolescent & their Families Mental Health Counselor, in the GA Public School System, and Outpatient Clinic as a Family Therapist. The Information in this article has been published before in various electronic social media or shared in Email, in face-to-face contact with individual parents by the same writer/Rev Wambui Njoroge, M.Sc.

© November 2022.

Disclaimer/From working notes: Absolutely no information shared from my working notes is a substitute for school requirements for student placement, disability services or for medical requirements. Please consult with your school guidance counselor or psychologist for the necessary tests or assessments for your child. 

Email/revwambuifavored@gmail.com

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