Friday, June 12, 2009

Ed e-news

June 11, 2009
Special Ed e-News

Be sure general ed accommodations don't further isolate students
Sometimes, efforts to accommodate students with disabilities in general ed classrooms can, in fact, further isolate them. So recognize that the IDEA's emphasis on inclusion does not eclipse your paramount responsibility to provide FAPE that confers educational benefit. For example, in Madison City Bd. of Educ., IDELR 86 (SEA AL 2008), an IHO held that a general ed reading class setting for an Alabama grade-schooler with a brain injury was inappropriate because he functioned below grade level, was taught a modified curriculum one-on-one by an inclusion teacher, and had little contact with fellow students in the same room. "It would appear counterproductive to have the child placed in a setting where he merely spends his time in one-on-one with teachers, leaving him more isolated than if he can interact more freely with other students," the IHO wrote. Thus, the small self-contained placement proposed by the district was the student's LRE. Julie Weatherly, a school law attorney with the Weatherly Law Firm in Atlanta, said courts have consistently ruled that "the primary concern is, first, that the student receives FAPE -- meaningful educational benefit -- and that schools don't sacrifice FAPE solely in the name of LRE." IEP teams can try to meld the "overall preference" for mainstreaming with their goal to develop individualized programs, she said. They can do this by "considering and thoroughly exploring the options on the continuum of alternative placements, beginning with regular education first and moving slowing along the continuum (to more restrictive settings) until the proper placement is reached where FAPE can be achieved," she said. School attorney Michelle C. Laubin, of Berchem, Moses & Devlin, in Milford, Conn., said IEP teams that include parents must first agree on the extent to which they want the student integrated in general ed across settings. Thus, look for inclusive opportunities in classrooms for academic instruction, activities for social skills, and self-contained programs for adaptive or remedial needs. Then, she said, establish priorities to reflect those objectives.

State autism initiatives grow with emphasis on early intervention
States are addressing the steady rise in autism diagnoses with a plethora of programs and professional development activities, according to the recent report Autism Spectrum Disorders: State Part C and Part B Initiatives to Serve a Growing Population, by Project Forum at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Out of the 43 states that responded to the organization' s survey, 40 reported having autism initiatives. Of the 37 responses about Part C agency efforts, 27 states reported an autism initiative. Of the 35 responses about Part B pursuits, 31 had an initiative. The report highlighted the initiatives of five states in greater detail. Oklahoma, for one, offers training and technical assistance for service providers and families. A two-week summer symposium features hands-on training sessions for teachers and networking opportunities for families. The state also supports a model program in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center called Early Foundations. Based on an intensive intervention model developed at the University of Washington, this approach targets toddlers on the spectrum ages 18 months through 3 years old. Your early intervention program might emulate the Early Foundations model to engage parents more deeply in their toddlers' intervention and ease children's transition to preschool. "We thought it was important when adapting the model to keep the integrity of the procedures we know are effective but put them into a developmental context," said Bonnie McBride, an assistant professor at OU and director of the program. She helped develop the original model at UW. "We've combined effective strategies with a socially valid way of interacting with young children," she said. The main components of the program are: 1) extended intensive instruction; 2) integrated play; 3) home visit; 4) service coordination; and 5) transition support. McBride and her colleagues plan to conduct an efficacy study to see if the model allows toddlers to make similar gains to young children who receive almost twice as many hours of interventions.

Recent Decisions

Student's likely reenrollment revives dispute over use of service dog
Concluding there was a good possibility that a middle schooler with autism would reenroll in a Florida district, a federal magistrate judge determined that the student's request to bring a service dog to class was not moot. The magistrate judge advised the District Court to remand the case for further proceedings before an administrative law judge. Hughes ex rel. D.W.H. v. District Sch. Bd. of Collier County, 51 IDELR 130 (M.D. Fla. 2008).
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