How do I access services for my school-aged child?
- The First Step: Instructional Support Team (IST)
If you have concerns about your child's educational needs, the first step is to contact your building principal. The principal will activate the school's Instructional Support Team. The team is comprised of your child's teacher, the school principal, the Instructional Support Teacher, the school guidance counselor and you, the student's parents. The team determines whether making adjustments to the regular education program can enhance your child's success in the classroom. What happens if the IST's classroom approach to solving the problem is not successful? The school will then seek parental permission to evaluate the student. Please note that parents may also request an evaluation at any time during this process.
- The Second Step: Evaluation
Evaluations are conducted by a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) to determine such things as the child's learning ability, behavior patterns, physical abilities and communication skills. The team is made up of the parents, teacher(s), school principal, school psychologist, and special education supervisor. The team may include a special education teacher, speech therapist, counselor and other staff as necessary. Methods used in the evaluation include observation, review of records, and group and individual testing. Information is gathered from school personnel, medical personnel and parents. Results of the evaluation are reviewed by the team to determine if special education services are needed.
Upon completion of the evaluation, recommendations will be made in a written report called the Evaluation Report. If special education placement is recommended, parents are part of the team that determines exceptionality and develops an Individual Education Program (IEP) for the child. No evaluation may be conducted without written parental permission. Parents who do not consent to an evaluation may be asked to attend a conference with the teacher, principal, psychologist and possibly other special education staff.
Once a student's disability or exceptionality has been identified, an educational plan is designed and tailored to fit the specific needs of your child. This written plan is called an IEP or Individualized Educational Program. It spells out the educational program for the student based on goals and objectives, as well as specially-designed instruction that may be necessary to achieve success. Any related services needed to assist the student in benefiting from or gaining access to a special education program will be specified. A student's IEP is revised at least once a year. However, any team member may call for a review or revision at any time. A variety of educational placements are available to meet the special needs of each student in the least restrictive environment. Placement options include: supportive intervention within the classroom, supplemental intervention in an itinerant or resource room setting; part-time or full-time placement in a special education classroom either within or outside of the regular school building or the school district. Parents are encouraged to stay actively involved in the IEP process and have the right to disagree with the IEP recommendations. In addition, parents are informed in writing of their rights during each step of the process.
What is the definition of a Free Appropriate Public Education (F.A.P.E.) for
special needs students?
Each school district provides appropriate special education programs and related services, that are:
- Provided at no cost to parents
- Provided under the authority of a school entity, directly, by referral or by contract
- Individualized to meet the educational or early intervention needs of the child
- Reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational or early education benefits and progress
- Designed to conform to an Individual Education Program (IEP)
|How is special education designed?
Special education is designed to meet the needs of each exceptional student. A student receiving special education needs specially designed instruction that isn't normally needed by other children in the general education classroom to make progress in school.
|What children are eligible for special education services?
Special education services are available to children who have one or more disabilities and are in need of specially designed instruction: AutismDeaf and Visual Impairment Deaf and Hard of Hearing ImpairmentEmotional DisturbanceMental Retardation
Multiple Disabilities Impairment
Physical Impairment Other Health ImpairmentSpecific Learning DisabilitySpeech or language ImpairmentTraumatic Brain InjuryVisual Impairment-Blindness
|What are early intervention services?
Early Intervention programs are " appropriate programs of educational development, specially designed to meet the needs of eligible young children and address the strengths and needs of the family." Programs are provided to children with needs in any of the following developmental areas: physical, sensory, cognitive, language and speech, social/emotional and self-help. Early Intervention services are provided via BLaST Intermediate Unit #17 to Sullivan County residents and are offered at no cost. Screenings and information are described in the newspaper and in letters to parents and are provided at Kindergarten registration (for younger siblings). More information can be obtained by contacting BLaST at 1-800-326-8528. Early Intervention services are available to children who are at least three years of age but less than the age of beginning school, and who have one or more of the following disabilities:
- Deaf-Visual Impairment
- Deafness and Hard of Hearing Impairment
- Emotional Disturbance
- Mental Retardation
- Multiple Disabilities
- Physical Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment-Blindness
- Developmental Delay
|What are related services?
Students who are eligible for special education services may require the additional support of a related service. A related service is a service that is required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. After a student is found eligible for special education services, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team may determine what related services, if any, are necessary for the student to benefit from the education program. Related services available to students include transportation and developmental, corrective and other supportive services that help an exceptional student benefit from special education. Examples include: speech/language and hearing services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, vision & mobility services, and assistive technology services.
|What is the referral process?
Local school districts and the BLaST Intermediate Unit #17 have procedures to identify children needing special education. Those procedures are "screening" and "evaluation." If a disability is suspected, teachers, other school personnel or parents may refer a child for screening or evaluation. Parents suspecting that their child may have a disability and need special education or early intervention services can request a screening or an evaluation by contacting the superintendent's office or any of the offices listed under contacts.
|What are screenings?
Screening of children, "using immediately available data sources such as health records, cumulative records, enrollment records and report cards," is conducted for hearing, vision, motor skills, and speech and language. The Sullivan County School District, as prescribed by Section 1402 of the PA School Code, routinely conducts the following screenings:
- Hearing Acuity - Kindergarten through 3rd grades, 7th and 11th grades
- Visual Acuity, Height, and Weight - Kindergarten through 12th grades
- Speech/Language - Kindergarten, new student enrollments, referrals/requests
- Dental - Grades 1, 3, and 7
- Physicals - Kindergarten, Grades 6 and 11 (and special needs students as needed)
Specified needs from all of these screening sources are noted within the child's official file. Screening may lead to intervention by the Instructional Support Team (IST), made up of the building principal, regular classroom teacher, support teacher and others as appropriate. The Instructional Support Team will communicate with the parents about the child's needs and the instructional support services that will meet those needs.
|What is the evaluation process?
Before evaluation, parents are told the following information:
- Who referred the child for evaluation
- Why the child was referred
- How to review the child's school records
- What procedures and types of evaluation will be used
- That parent involvement in any testing procedure is encouraged
- The schedule for the evaluation process
- The rights of the parent regarding consent for evaluation
Evaluations are conducted by a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) to determine such things as the child's learning ability, behavior patterns, physical abilities and communication skills. The team is made up of the parents, a teacher, school principal and school psychologist. The team may include a special education teacher, supervisor, speech therapist, counselor and other staff as necessary. Methods used in the evaluation include observation, review of records, and group and individual testing. Information is gathered from school personnel, medical personnel and parents. Results of the evaluation are reviewed by the team to determine if special education services are needed. If special education placement is recommended, parents are part of the team that determines exceptionality and develops an Individual Education Program (IEP) for the child. No evaluation may be conducted without written parental permission. Parents who do not consent to an evaluation may be asked to attend a conference with the teacher, principal, psychologist and possibly other special education staff.
|What records are kept and what is the confidentiality policy?
The Sullivan County School District is required by law to keep records of all students receiving special education services. Included in these records are:
- Birth date, address, telephone number and other general information
- Achievement test results
- Psychological test results
- Teacher progress reports
- Evaluation reports
- Routine medical records
As a child is reevaluated every three years (two years for students who are mentally retarded), information is added to his or her file. The Sullivan County School District has developed policies to ensure that all records are confidential. Only school personnel are permitted to see the child's file. Anyone else must have written approval of the parent to see the file or to receive copies of information in the file. Parents can review the child's file and challenge the validity of any record or report, or challenge the maintenance of information on file. All records are reviewed every summer by school personnel, and any no longer needed to plan the child's education program are destroyed. However, parents are notified first and permitted to review or copy this information. Federal regulations give both natural parents access to their child's education records unless there is a court order, state statute or legally binding document prohibiting access.
|Where can I get additional information about special education programs?
Detailed printed information about available special education services and programs and school district policies is available from all school district offices upon request. Anyone interested should contact the principal of the child's school or the school district superintendent's office. Information and communications are in English, but will be provided in the native language or other mode of communication used by the parents, if appropriate.