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1. Summer Assignment for Parents
School is stressful for most kids with disabilities. Parents feel the stress too. By Spring, many parents and children are counting the days - and hours - until school ended for the summer.
School-related pressure is off. Maybe the problems will go away next year.
Not yet! Here is your Summer To Do List.
* * JOIN DISABILITIES ORGANIZATIONS * *
In workshops and seminars about "How Advocate for Your Special Ed Child," we tell parents that they need to join three disabilities organizations for one year.
Why do we make this recommendation?
All of the disabilities groups - the International Dyslexia Association, the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA), Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (Ch.A.D.D.), National Attention Deficit Disorder Association, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, the National Tourette Syndrome Association, the Autism Society, and others publish informative newsletters for their members.
These newsletters are an excellent source of information about advocacy, special education, and medical and legal issues. When parents join these groups - and read these newsletters - they learn new ways to help their child.
* * ORGANIZE YOUR CHILD'S FILE * *
Do you have a complete copy of your child's entire file? Are all documents filed in reverse chronological order?
Very few parents have a complete copy of their child's file. Because special education generates so much paper, many parents toss documents into cardboard boxes or bags. When you do this, you will not be able to find what you need!
First, get copies of all evaluations, IEPs, correspondence, medical reports, and other information. For more information about how to do this, read the "Crisis! Emergency! HELP! "article in the Advocacy Library.
You are entitled to a complete copy of your child's file from the school. The school may charge a "reasonable" photocopying fee.
Organize your child's' file in chronological order. File all documents in reverse order. When you finish, the oldest document will be on top, most recent document will be at the end.
* * LEARN HOW TO MEASURE EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS * *
Do you know if your child is benefiting from special education? Is your child making progress? Is the child falling further behind? Do you have objective evidence to support your position?
Read our article Understanding Tests and Measurements." The article is available on our website. (To master this information, you need to read this article several times.)
* * CHART OUT YOUR CHILD'S TEST SCORES * *
You need to chart out your child's test scores. If you use a spreadsheet program like MS Excel, it is easier. After you plug in your child's test scores, you can make charts of your child's progress or lack of progress.
TIP: Use the Wizard in your software program to help you create graphs of educational progress.
Here is a link to a short slide show about charting educational progress:
* * LEARN ABOUT SPECIAL EDUCATION RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES * *
Read the law and the regulations. Portions of the statute, along with Pete's comments, are on the site.
When the new special education regulations were released in March, we had them up in a few hours. You can read or print regs in html and pdf formats.
Click here for the main "Regs Page"
TIP: Use a highlighter when you read the law. You should expect to read and re-read the law several times.
Our new book, WRIGHTSLAW: SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW contains the full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and implementing regulations, pertinent text of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and FERPA along with the implementing regs.
* * LEARN TO TOUCH-TYPE * *
If your child has a disability, the child needs to learn to touch type. The process of writing by hand (or handwriting) is extremely difficult for most children with disabilities. One neurologist told us "Writing is the most complicated neurological process that a human being must perform."
Children learn from their parents, and model them. If you "hunt and peck," do you think your child will want to learn how to touch type? Of course not.
When you use a typing software program like "Mavis Beacon Teaching Typing" 5 to 10 minutes a day, 3 times a day, you will be typing 20-30 words a minute in about three months.
If you hunt and peck, your goal is to touch type at 30 wpm or more by the end of the summer. If you are learning how to touch type, you can expect and require your children to learn too.
After a week or two, they will begin to compete with you - and will try to increase their speed over yours.
Your children will thank you for being such a great role model - in about 10 years!
* * BECOME AN EDUCATED CONSUMER * *
Monitor your home state's Department
of Education website. You may be surprised at the interesting information
you can pick up.
2. Wrightslaw: Special Education Law: Pre-Publication Offer Ends Tonight!
The pre-publication offer for Wrightslaw: Special Education Law continues until midnight, July 31, 1999.
For more information about this book, reviewer comments, and a sneak preview of the first four chapters of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law.
You can order the book on our secure e commerce store. You can also order e mail, fax, or mail. For ordering information, go to
3. Letter to Wrightslaw: Retention Epidemic
HELP! MY SCHOOL DISTRICT RETAINED 25% OF K-2 KIDS THIS YEAR
Please help. I am fighting with my school district about their policy of retaining children. My child is in 2nd grade. In her class of 28 children, 7 were retained. This means 25% of these second grade children were retained!!!!
Most of these children are held back in Kindergarten through second grades. The school says the children are being retained because of "lack of maturity". When we expressed concerns about this - and the possibility that some of these children are under-performing because they have a learning disability - the school system told us "It won't do any good to have these children tested for special ed because they won't qualify!"
A few years ago, they retained my daughter in first grade. I insisted that they test her. They said it would be "a waste of time." When I insisted, they tested her, then told me that she didn't qualify for special ed. She is now in 5th grade and is still struggling.
Recently, a psychologist tested her again. He said she "may have a learning disability," is "on the edge of being borderline ADD," and that she ranks "above 95% of the girls her age in anxiety."
He didn't recommend special education or any other educational help. He wanted her to start in counseling and be re-tested after school starts.
ANSWER FROM WRIGHTSLAW:
We continue to receive lots of mail about the retention epidemic. Most parents don't realize that their local school system is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies tend to muddle along, preferring to do things "like we've always done."
How can you get an organization that has limited accountability to change course?
First, you must have facts that support your position. Next, you need to learn how to persuade the decision-makers in your school system. Who is making decisions? Who has the power to change course? How can you can influence public opinion.
Gather your facts, then write a letter to the editor. Organize a group of parents and request a meeting with your school board.
Many schools offer two "solutions" to children's learning problems: retention and referral to special education. All too often, schools fail to offer the critical third "R" - remediation.
What are the FACTS about retention? Does retention help? Does an extra year allow children to catch up?
In March 1998, the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) issued their position paper on grade retention. Below are some excerpts from "To Promote or to Retain."
"Flunking is an expensive fad that wastes taxpayer monies."
"Grade retention costs as much as $13,000 per child per year." Retained children DO NOT catch up. "Retained children fall further behind and are at greater risk for dropping out of school."
"The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does not produce higher achievement."
"Rather than flunking students, schools should provide high quality instruction for children who find learning difficult," says Sylvia Richardson, MD, Chair of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities.
"Flunking penalizes children for the failure of school systems to develop effective instructional plans for children who need more and better instruction if they are to succeed. More of the same just does not work," Dr. Richardson explained.
If you are trying to help a struggling child, what are the alternatives?
Studies show that the most effective strategy for these children is intensive tutoring by a qualified teacher. Intensive tutoring works.
"Children who find learning difficult benefit more from high quality instruction. Providing a daily period of intensive tutoring by qualified personnel could cost half as much as retention - and intensive tutoring reliably enhances achievement."
"Retaining children does nothing to address the problems that make learning difficult for some children." (From "LDA Newsbriefs," Vol. 33, No. 2, March/April 1998)
Read "Promote or Retain"
In April we posted a letter from a North Carolina school psychologist who warned about a wave of retentions and educational policy that will damage the most vulnerable children and pit parents against educators.
4. News! From Office of Special Education Programs
The U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, has created 14 Topic Briefs on changes to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act:
* General State and District-wide Assessments
* Regular Education Teachers as IEP Team Members
* Graduation with a Regular Diploma
* Discipline -- Changes from Proposed Rules
* Children with ADD/ADHD
* Use of "Developmental Delay" by States and LEAs
* Definition of "Day; Business day; School day"
* Public Charter Schools
* Parentally-placed Children in Private Schools
* Provisions of Special Interest to Parents
* Provisions of Special Interest to