When I was on internship, I realized how complicated special education is with all of the procedures, acronyms, labels, etc. If I was confused, I couldn’t imagine how confused parents were! How were they supposed to advocate for their child if they don’t even understand the process and what to advocate for? That’s when I started creating visuals for parents to empower them to better advocate for their child. Fast forward several years and multiple revisions, and you have my “Quick Guide to Special Education and Related Services.”
My Quick Guide to Special Education and Related Services has been my Teachers Pay Teachers best seller. I just released a major update to the guide! The significant difference is a new, clean look with simpler colors. I also reduced the amount of jargon by simplifying most of the resources (who had time to read all of that anyway?).
How do I use the guide? I use it in a presentation book and bring it to all of my meetings.
- Special Education Flowchart – I refer to this when I am explaining the special education process to parents
- IEP Meeting Agenda – I use this during IEP meetings. The districts that I have worked in invested in the Key2Ed Facilitated IEP Process. As part of the facilitated process, we agree on the norms and outcomes of the meeting before starting the meeting.
- Consent for Evaluation – In Illinois, we go through 8 different domains when we evaluate students. In each domain, we discuss what information we already have and what additional information we need to gather if any. As part of the evaluation, we need to rule out all areas of suspected disabilities. I refer to this for parents to understand the different domains and what types of information we will be discussing.
- What are the Different Types of Scores? – This may be one of the most used resources that I use. I have found that parents better understand normed scores when I take the time to show the visual and provide an example that they can “visualize.”
- 13 Categories of Eligibility – I briefly use this page when I explain that there are 13 different areas of eligibility for special education and related services. I then point out which category we will consider as a team based on the assessment data.
- NEW Differences Between a Medical Diagnosis & Determination of a Disability Condition for Education – I decided to create this after having to explain many, many times that a medical diagnosis is very different than an educational diagnosis of a disability. Too often, parents are misinformed that if they get a diagnosis, they automatically get an IEP or changed area of eligibility. It’s our responsibility to help parents understand the difference between the two and the special education process.
- Eligibility Determination Criteria – Whenever I guide a team through eligibility, I have the criteria open so that the team can follow along. This helps everyone better understand the requirements for eligibility.
- Eligibility Determination for All Categories – I think it’s important for the team to know that although once can meet the eligibility criteria, there are additional components to eligibility. The first component is that we have to rule out different factors. The second component is that we have to identify adverse effects (the disability impedes the child’s progress to the extent that educational performance is significantly and consistently below the level of similar age peers) and education needs.
- Documentation to Determine a Specific Learning Disability – In Illinois, we identify SLD by documenting the response to intervention. I LOVE this! Too often, people/professionals do not truly understand an SLD. This ensures that we don’t use one source of data to make eligibility, nor use arbitrary cut scores to determine eligibility.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP) – A brief info page on the essential components of the IEP. I tend to send this ahead of time, along with drafts of the evaluation so that parents can read on what SPED services look like.
- New Present Levels of Performance – This visual is more for my team. The present levels page is, in my opinion, the most important page in an IEP. It provides information on the current level of performance, the most recent evaluation, how the disability impacts the student’s progress in school in comparison to their general education peers, what accommodations they demonstrate a need for (related to the data), and what special education services they demonstrate a need for. The present levels are the foundation for the rest of the IEP. I should be able to pick up an IEP, read the present levels, and understand what and why the student requires special education and related services.
- Goals – Again, this is another reference for my team. It helps us double check that our goals are written to be measurable.
- Autism Considerations – Illinois has us review different considerations for students identified as having an educational diagnosis of Autism. During the IEP, I will reference this page as I guide the team on identifying the different needs the student demonstrates to ensure that we are providing accommodations and supports.
- Least Restrictive Environment – I use this visual often! When we discuss placement, I like to refer to this page for parents to understand the LRE.
- Differences between an IEP and 504 – This is a visual that I provide parents when explaining differences between an IEP and 504. I tend to reference this more when I am responding to emails to make sure that I am consistent in my message.
- U.S. Department of Education – Questions and Answers about 504 – Again, I tend to use this more when I am responding to emails. I like my responses to be consistent with the U.S. Department of Education.
- Functional Behavior Assessment – This visual is great for an “overview” of the FBA process. I reference this page every time we discuss the need for an FBA.
- NEW Competing Behavior Pathway Model (FBA) – I use this visual when I provide an overview of the FBA process. I also reference this with the team when we are determining what types of data to collect as well as after we collect the data and want to ensure that we have all of the components covered.
- NEW Defining the Consequences that Maintain Problem Behavior – It’s hard for others to understand a “function” for behavior without background knowledge of applied behavior analysis. The easiest way for others to follow is to reference this visual.
- NEW Behavior Pathway Model for Behavior Intervention Plan – This is another visual that I use to ensure that the BIP is created based on the FBA.
- NEW Examples of Matching Teaching Interventions with Replacement Behaviors That Serve the Same Function – I saw this chart in one of my favorite FBA/BIP book and HAD to include it. I like how the visual provides examples of positive interventions based on the function of the behavior.