Page 24-30
Students with special needs are best served when teachers collaborate and work together to provide the best options for those particular students in need.
Teams serving students with special needs serve three main purposes: assisting teachers to meet students' needs within the general education classroom, determining whether students are eligible for extraordinary services such as special education, and planning, monitoring, and evaluating the provision of special education services.
  • Assessment team: One type of mandated team that helps students with special needs; commonly known as the special education team. Their responsibilities include developing a plan for evaluating the student and determining whether or not the student meets legal criteria.
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): Team in charge of planning and monitoring the students educational plan.
  • Prereferral Intervention Team: Team in charge of assisting teachers in resolving instructional and behavioral problems within the general education classroom before referrals are made to special education or other types of services.
  • Response-to-Intervention (RTI): A pre-referral approach which centers around the study of how well students learn when provided with various types of instructional interventions; based upon an examination of the student’s ability to profit from high quality instruction in order to show progress in the school curriculum. This approach involves both assessment and instruction.
  • 504 Education Plan: Approach used to gather assessment information, make decisions about student eligibility, and develop an individualized accommodation plan.
School principals or vice principals are very important members of the teams that serve students with special needs. They are responsible for the education programs for both general and special education within their buildings.
General education teachers are aware of strengths the students may have, students’ past responses to instructional programs, and areas in which students may require the most assistance.
  • Itinerant teachers: teachers who travel from school to school; may be specialists in the education of students with speech or language impairments, visual impairments, or other special needs.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist: serves students with communication disorders.
School psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, and school nurses all serve their own important roles when it comes to assessing and administering tests for students with special needs. Other important figures include physical therapists, occupational therapists, and P.E. teachers.
  • Audiologists: contribute to the team’s understanding of hearing losses, and medical personnel may assist when students with health impairments are being considered.
  • Assistive Technology Specialists: advise the team regarding the selection, acquisition, and use of technological devices to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of students with disabilities.


Pages 30-36
Data Collection: When students experience difficulty with some aspect of the general education program, one of the first steps for teachers is collection of data to describe the instructional problem.

Collaboration with Parents and Colleagues: Once the instructional problem is described, it is often useful to confer with other professionals familiar with the student. Former teachers may be able to describe approaches that they have found effective for similar problems; current teachers can share their experiences with the student and their observations of his or her ability to meet classroom demands.

Prereferral Intervention teams: In some districts, teachers work with individual professionals such as special education resource teachers or teacher-consultants to gather ideas for modifying classroom programs to meet the needs of students not yet referred for special education.

There are 6 steps for a teacher to become a team member:
1. Entry/Goal Setting
2. Problem Identification
3. Intervention Recommendations
4. Implementation of Recommendations
5. Evaluation of the Action Plan and the Team Process
6. Follow- Up/redesign (pp. 77-78)

Classroom Modifications: A number of prereferral intervention strategies involve changes in the instructional program of the general education class. To improve student performance, modifications can be made to any aspect of the program.
Classroom curriculum
How instruction is delivered
Learning activities in which students participate
How students are graded
Physical arrangement of the classroom
Strategies for managing student behavior

Collaboration in the Identification and Prereferral Stages

Collaboration among general and special educators, other professionals, and students and their parents takes place at many points in the process from identification of a possible special instructional need to referral for assessment to program planning and the provision of services over and above those offered to all student in the general education community.

Response to Intervention (RTI) and Collaboration: Similar in purpose to the prereferral intervention approach, Ti is a newer strategy for the early solution of classroom problems.

RTI – is a process intended to help educators maximize student achievement through early identification of learning or behavioral difficulties. The RTI model is often depicted as a triangle with three tiers.

Pages 36-44
Referral
Students are referred for special education if they have special needs that interfere with their school performance and if these needs cannot be adequately met within the general educational program. When a formal referral is made, federal and state laws apply immediately and must be acted on right away otherwise penalized. Referrals can be made by parents, school professionals, physicians, but mainly it is done by the teachers who see them every day.

The area of special needs that a student usually shows falls into one or more of the following categories:
  1. Physical Needs: Difficulty with hearing, vision, mobility, motor coordination, or physical activities requiring strength and stamina.
  2. Academic Needs: Poor performance compared to peers in one or more areas of curriculum. These needs may be evident in the communication skills of listening and speaking, basic academic skill areas such as reading and mathematics, and/or content areas such as science and history.
  3. Classroom Behavior Needs: Difficulty controlling inappropriate behaviors that interfere with other students, the instruction of the classroom, or the students own study activities. Both acting out and withdrawn behaviors may be considered inappropriate.
  4. Social Needs: Difficulty establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, either with peers or with adults.

Assessment
The assessment team begins by studying the referral information (referral form and any other provided documentation). Then develops a written evaluation plan for the student and seeks the approval of students’ parents.

Three important legal requirements while assessing students:
  • Assessment focuses on educational needs.
  • Assessment is comprehensive.
  • Assessment tools are technically adequate and administrated by trained professionals. (pp. 53-54)

Tests and other procedures should only assess educational needs such as academic, performance, classroom behavior, and social skills. No single test or other measure can be used to determine a student’s placement. Once results are finished and shared with the parents it is determined whether or not the student meets eligibility requirements for special education.

Designing the Individualized Education Program
Once it has been determined that a student is eligible for special education an individualized education program (IEP) must be designed before special education can begin. When several areas of need may be identified the team determines possible annual goals for the student then ranks those goals in priority order. Once in order the team decides how to measure progress toward these goals.

IEP: A formal written plan designed for and based on the specific individual educational needs of each student with disabilities.
The purpose of the IEP is:
  • Specifies what the team is attempting to accomplish
  • Who is responsible for implementing each component of the plan
  • What evaluation procedures will be used to determine the students’ progress
  • How the students’ parents will be regularly informed of the progress

Once a plan has been written and has received parental approval no change may be made unless the IEP is modified by the team and has students’ parents’ approval. Annual evaluation of the IEP is most typical.

Pages 44-49
The IEP is created to specify what the team is attempting to accomplish, who is responsible for what components, evaluate the student’s progress, and how the student’s parents will be informed. The most important components of an IEP is the description of services. These services include: special education, related education, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school personnel. Special education is no cost to the parents and is services to meet unique needs of the students. Related services are supports to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. This is things such as transportation, speech language therapy, parent counseling and training, social work services, and psychological services. Supplementary aids and services are provided in regular education classes, other related settings in extracurricular and nonacademic settings for disabled students to be educated with nondisabled students. Program modifications and/or supports for school personnel is any type of change made in the general education program to support successful progress of the student. This can include shortened days for students or specialized training for teachers and aids to use special devices. A less restrictive class is a full-time general education class. Students in this setting will spend the entire day in the regular classroom and do not receive any direst special education services. General education class with consultation to the teacher is when the student has no direct services but the teacher does. General education class with instruction delivered by the specialist is when students with disabilities receive special education services in the classroom. General Education Class with Co-Teaching is when the general educator and the special education teacher co-teach the classroom. General Education Class and resource room and itinerant services are when special education services are provided outside of the classroom but the student spends the rest of the day in the general education classroom. Jamie Vargason