Educational reform in the United States has caused a 40-year movement away from isolating students with disabilities and toward inclusion of those students in mainstream education. Inclusion has necessitated tailored plans for these students, including but not limited to transitional plans assisting them in their educational environments and post-school lives. Developed and periodically adjusted by support teams comprised of the affected students, their parents, teachers, school administrators and other appropriate professionals, the transition plans involve special consideration of the students’ knowledge, skills and interests. By reform, transition programming and consultation theory, the U.S. Educational System has significantly enhanced the educational and post-school experience of students with disabilities.
The comprehensive transition program within the U.S. educational setting is a natural outgrowth of education reform dating back to the 1970’s and now plays an important role in the educational setting. The “Mainstreaming Movement” of the 1970’s resulted in Public Law 94-142, prohibiting placement of children with disabilities in special schools or self-contained classrooms. The law required schools to place students with disabilities in teaching environments that were “as close to the normal environment as possible” and to provide those students with a “continuum of service options.” To facilitate these placements, special education professionals are charged with assisting general education teachers.
During the 1980’s, individual schools became decision makers about placement, enhancing the collaborative efforts of students, teachers and related personnel to personalize the educational environment and curricula. In addition, the 1980’s saw the first official mention of “collaboration” between special education and general education teachers to provide comprehensive education in a regular classroom setting for all students except those with the most severe disabilities. This “Regular Education Initiative” (REI) was employed to: serve students who might not otherwise qualify for special education; remove the stigma of special education placement; intervene to prevent worse learning deficiencies; and foster collaboration between parents and schools. Also, in 1986, P.L. 99-457 was passed, requiring “free appropriate education” for 3-5 year old children with disabilities and a related Individualized Family Service Plan for each of these preschoolers, which deepened the concept of educational support to the families of these children.
In 1990, continuing educational reform led to Public Law 101-476, the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA). The main provisions of IDEA are: change of the term “handicapped” to “disabilities”; addition of autism and traumatic brain injury (TBI) to enhance the teamwork of teachers and providers of associated services; and added emphasis on supplying transition services for students who are 16 or older. As education reform moved away from the isolation of children with disabilities and toward their “inclusion” in the general educational environment, their need for tailored educational plans and transition services became evident. As a result, transitional plans preparing teenaged children for their post-secondary school lives became legally required and readily developed within individual school systems.
The principle of “Inclusion” stresses, among other concepts, that “all members accept their fair share of responsibility for all children, including those with disabilities.” This shared responsibility and giftedness is facilitated through “consultation theory,” which employs a team approach to successful inclusion of students with disabilities within mainstream education. Flowing from that concept of shared responsibility, IDEA was further modified in 2010 and explained by the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Education Department to require that any student with one or more disabilities who might require special education must be given, at no cost to his/her parents and fully funded by the appropriate school district, a comprehensive evaluation by a multi-disciplinary team; furthermore, if the evaluation results show a need for special education, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for that student must be drawn up by a support team, consisting of parents, teachers, school administrators, other professional staff and the student himself/herself. This IEP is used and modified as needed by the support team, including but not limited to teachers and school administrators, to help the student receive the services he/she needs, moving as successfully as possible through his/her educational environment to prepare him/her for post-graduate life. It is the development of this IEP that fully uses the “Consultation Theory.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has developed a series of 7 (realistically, 8) steps using “Consultation Theory” for the IEP’s development:
First, the student is recognized as a possible candidate for special education and complementary services;
Secondly, he/she is evaluated by the multi-disciplinary team;
Third, a team comprised of the student’s parents and professionals, including but not limited to teachers and school administrators, reviews the evaluation results;
Fourth, the team determines whether the student requires special education and attendant services;
Fifth, a meeting between the student’s parents and school staff is set;
Sixth, the initial IEP meeting occurs between appropriate school staff and the student’s parents;
Seventh, another IEP meeting is held, this time including the student, and this collaborative team develops the IEP;
Eighth, the services mapped by the IEP are provided to the student;
Ninth, the IEP is re-evaluated and adjusted as required for every placement change, normally every year and certainly at least every three years. The collaboration of this support team, including the student, incorporates the student’s knowledge, skills and interests into the IEP, including a comprehensive transitional program for the student’s post-school life.
Focusing on the transitional aspect of the IEP, each state has laws determining the minimum age at which a student’s IEP must include transitional planning. This transitional planning is backed by IDEA of 2004, which determined areas that should be examined when planning the student’s post-school life: post-secondary school, vocational school, employment, continuing education, services for adults with disabilities, independent living and participation in the community.
The multi-person approach of “Consultation Theory” has been successfully adopted by the educational system to develop uniquely effective transitional plans for mainstreamed students with disabilities. Built on 40 years of educational reform and effective input from students, parents, teachers, school administrators and other appropriate professionals, transitional planning teams ideally prepare the student for life within and beyond school. The effects of this evolving process are beneficial, not only for the student, but also for the American society that benefits from his/her more fulfilling involvement.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.
DO realize that even children as young as 3 – 5 years old who have disabilities are legally entitled to “free appropriate education.”
DO understand that the American educational system is legally geared toward “inclusion” of children with disabilities in the mainstream of education.
DO insist that you be included in the collaboration and consultation about your child’s education.
DO insist that if your child shows a need for special education, he/she is entitled to an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
DO realize that you are fully part of a team to help your child, including: your child, you, teachers, school administrators and other appropriate professionals
DO fully participate as part of the team dedicated to serving your child with legally required steps, including:
a. recognizing your child as a possible candidate for special education and complementary services;
b. your child’s evaluation by a multi-disciplinary team;
c. review of that evaluation by a team including your child, you, teachers, school administrators and other appropriate professional;
d. a determination by your team of whether your child requires special education and attendant services;
e. scheduling of a meeting between the school staff and you;
f. an initial meeting between appropriate school staff and you to begin preparing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for your child;
g. a second IEP meeting, this time including school staff, you and your child, to develop the Individual Education Plan;
h. provision of the planned IEP services to your child;
i. re-evaluation and adjustment of the IEP for your child’s placement changes, normally every year and certainly at least every three years.
DO insist that if your child needs special education and is 16 or older, he/she receives transition services to prepare for life after high school, including:
a. post-secondary school
b. vocational school
d. continuing education
e. services for adults with disabilities
f. independent living
g. participation in the community.
By Kathy Catanzarite
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
EDUCATION LAW DOS AND DON'TS