Who’s “Entitled” to Services, Without “Wasting” Time and Money?

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How does an IEP team determine if a special needs student is entitled to services such as Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy? Is the school team allowed to say that because a student’s IQ is very low, they do not feel that services such as OT and Speech would be helpful? Using this reasoning, the IEP team wants to deny the student these services or offer them in very small increments.

The IEP team may say this, but it is not accurate or legal.

What the IEP team is really saying is that to provide these services to a child who has cognitive impairments or multiple disabilities is a waste of time and money because the child is incapable of benefiting or because other children will benefit more from these services.

Provision of FAPE

In the years after the law was enacted in the 1970s, schools often took the position that they didn’t have to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) (https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/fape.index.htm) because a child was severely disabled.

Courts routinely ruled against schools that used that argument.

The law says that if a child has a disability and needs special education, the school is required to provide the child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) which is a special education program designed to meet that child’s unique needs.

  • The IEP must meet all of the child’s needs that result from the disability.
  • The IEP must include the related services that the child needs.

The IDEA does not say that schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities except children who have more severe disabilities – like those who have low IQs, cognitive impairments, multiple disabilities, etc.

What the Law Says – and Where

I can tell you what the law says but this probably won’t do you much good unless you know where to find answers to your questions about the law and what it requires.

If you are advocating for a family who is dealing with these problems, and an IEP team who is providing the family with incorrect information, you need to know how to find answers to questions about what the law requires.

The IDEA and federal regulations, with commentary, and analysis of what a specific part of the law means, and decisions from the U.S. Supreme court about related services are in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd edition: https://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/selaw2/selaw2.htm

You can also go to the IDEA 2004 area of the website – this section has a great deal of information that will help you: https://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/index.htm

Severe Disabilities – Exemption from Tests?

My child has a severe disability. is he exempt from taking state and district assessments?

No. All children must take state and district assessments. Decisions about whether your child needs to take an alternate assessment will depend on your child’s unique needs, not on the category of his disability.

Most children with disabilities are able to keep up with their peers academically and take standardized tests successfully as long as they receive appropriate specialized instruction.

School Says Child “Cannot be Taught”

My child has autism and is nonverbal. He gets angry and frustrated because he cannot communicate. I want the school to teach him a way to communicate, but the school claims he cannot be taught.

Your nonverbal child with autism must have a way to effectively communicate.

Speech is a way to communicate that takes place in a social context. For children with autism, communication and social skills are interdependent.

Your child needs services from a specialist who can teach him a functional method of communication.  The IEP team must develop an appropriate communication program based on a comprehensive assessment of your child’s abilities.

If your child cannot speak, the IEP team must also consider his needs for assistive technology. The team should schedule an assistive technology evaluation to identify his needs and how to meet these needs.

Learn more about Special Factors in IEPs.

Finally, we have a page about Autism, Austism Spectrum Disorder, PDD & Asperger Syndome with FAQs, articles, legal resources, recommended books, free publications, and a short list of information and support groups: https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/autism.index.htm

Re-edited from a post originally published 03/06/2009

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Jennifer

To Beth:
My school provides OT services to children, whether they have an IEP or not. However, we cannot bill for reimbursement unless the child has an IEP.

Beth

I am a program manager on an IEP for a student that was diagnosed with CP at birth. (First grade) He is at a point where he no longer qualifies for SLP. Also, he is performing at grade level. However, his handwriting is poor due to muscle weakness, and he is unable to go to the bathroom on his own. He needs help pulling his pants up/down, zipping/snapping, etc…Does this student qualify for OT services as a “stand alone” service for handwriting deficits and toileting skills? Our OT has evaluated him and he qualifies for her services. Please advise. Beth

Denise

Where in Wright’s Law 2nd ed. can I find the information pertaining to the question presented about services being denied based on cognitive impairment? I have the book, but I cannot find the places where this is discussed and I need to read it and be able to refer to it to fight the school district. Thank you.

The question was “How does an IEP team determine if a special needs student is entitled to services such as Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy? Is the school team allowed to say that because a student’s IQ is very low, they do not feel that services such as OT and Speech would be helpful? Using this reasoning, the IEP team wants to deny the student these services or offer them in very small increments.”

My daughter is CI and autistic, she also had auditory processing disorder. But they are denying her speech, ot & Pt

Steve

Our IEP team interprets the “multiple disability” definition to mean that a child must have mental retardation (intellectual disability) plus another disability to qualify. (MR has recently been changed to “intellectual disability” in state regulations) The basis for this is that both of the examples listed include MR (now intellectual disability)

My child has two LDs, other health impairment, ADHD, emotional disability, but isn’t MR, so they won’t even consider if his needs are severe enough to receive services as multiple disability.

What can I show them to convince them to change their ruling?

Rosemary

My grandson has various learning disabilities and is in the 7th grade. For the first 5 years of schooling he was in confined special ed classrooms, but now is in a regular classroom because my daughter now lives in PA. He has been doing great, so we thought. His report cards had A’s and B’s. We just got a call from his special ed teacher who said that he is doing terrible and that she just found out that in his IEP he was suppose to be getting Speech help for the last 3 years and never did. She said he is doing so bad that there is no way he will be able to survive in High School. My daughter has an IEP meeting on 4/23/09. My daughter was in special ed classes herself growing up, so she is not very comfortable or understands too well what to do about this. What should we do?

trish

I teach in a middle school. My class is called “Learning Skills” and is designed to assist students who are identified as special ed students, w/ learning strategies. I am certified spec ed. Recently a student was dismissed from spec ed services “no longer SLD in Math” but remains in this class. I am not comfortable w/ this arrangement and believe he should be on a 504 to address his ADHD issues and failing grades. I was not his coordinator. The intervention specialist said “He is staying in this class until the end of the year because she said so”, there was no team decision and no discussion during the dismissal meeting. I was not present but two who were said no discussion on continuing him in the class took place, the IS said it did, but there are no conference notes to back up her story.
Do I have a leg to stand on? Is it a compliance/legal issue to continue to serve this student in a 100% disabled (LD/ED/OHI)environment? He is missing out on having a REAL extracurricular class. I have been trying to get a sensable answer from admin. for a month. I can not accept one person’s decision on this.
Could anyone direct me to a law / statuate/ mandate….. that can back this up? I believe it is not legal to continue to service him in this environment and have asked for a written statement to be placed in his files……..stating who made this decision. Prior to dismissal he was fully included except for the period he was/is in Learning Skills.
thanks,

Evelyn

This is a very timely topic for me. My child is multiply disabled and suffers from bi-laterial coordination issues. My child is unable to functionly write or type to demonstrate his knowledge, yet my team has refused (officially) to provide services to address his needs.

Here’s food for thought … would an IEP team ever propose to reduce or discontinue services for a child that is Deaf and also has C.P.? I mean … they will always be deaf and they might never be able to effectively use sign language? What about an SLD kid that after years of resource reading still isn’t making adequate progress? When does the school decide to stop teaching this child?

The answer is NEVER! Using a child’s disability against them as a reason to deny them an appropriate education is called DISCRIMINATION!

Chuck

Sharon,

You are right, it is no fun to make or consider these type of decisions. Related services are to help the student benefit from special ed. After years of service from an OT or PT to a child w/ cp for their non-dominate arm or speech therapy to a child with Down syndrome, does the child need it to benefit from special ed. Or is this a situation where another agency should be providing the service?

What if a football player who was in special ed, injured a leg or arm, should special ed funds provide OT/PT to help him return to play?

Yafa

Where/how can we submit a question?

Sharon

Chuck –
My personal feeling is that it is extremely difficult to judge when a student is no longer benefiting from related services. Just to think about all the reasons a child may slow down, or even stop making progress, makes my head spin. Plateaus happen often and can be long in duration. If you wait through them, you often get a surge of progress. By cutting, or eliminating services, you will never know what amount of additional progress could have been made.
Some children reach a point when progress slows – but does that mean it’s over? If we don’t continue the services the child’s true potential in an area may never be reached.
It’s a really hard call to decide when a service is no longer benefiting the child. I’m glad I don’t have to make that call. I just have to do the arguing to keep the service.

Sharon 🙂

Chuck

The staff that I worked w/ & most other special ed directors understood what you are saying. Where this came up periodically was with students who had received related & speech services for years. The feeling was that the student had reached a point where the service was no longer helping the child to be involved in or make progress in the general ed curriculum or meet other educational needs.

Sharon

In NYC, an separate evaluation must be done before a child can be mandated for related services such as OT, PT, and Speech/Lang. If the evaluator finds that the student has deficits, then the service is offered.
When the student gets older, however, services are usually reduced – NOT CUT – because the needs become more geared to life skills than to academic development. This doesn’t usually occur until the child is in the sixth grade or higher.
If a child is in a life skills program, then services are continued because that is the program designed to meet the unique needs of the child and the services would be addressing the issues that are being dealt with in the classroom.

Hope this helps.

Sharon 🙂