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Helping Your Child with Special Needs Succeed in School

Helping Your Child with Special Needs Succeed in School
Posted on September 16, 2016 by CHS

Are you concerned that your child may require special education services, but are unsure of how to get help? Learning that your child has special needs can be challenging, even frightening. You may feel alone and uncertain of where to turn for help. The good news is that your child is entitled to assistance and getting the services he needs to succeed. And, you do not have to go through this alone!

Who is a child with special needs?

A child with special needs experiences disabilities or delays in development that limit them from “major life activities” such as breathing, learning, hearing, seeing, speaking, or walking.

Areas of developmental delays include:

  • Communication (stuttering, voice disorders)
  • Emotional/Social (autism, emotional disturbance)
  • Intellectual (dyslexia, moderate retardation)
  • Physical (blindness, missing a limb, allergies)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows parents to request an evaluation for a child if you suspect that they may have special needs.

Making Sure Your Child Gets What He Needs

As a parent, you are the advocate for your child. Do not be afraid to ask to have your child evaluated or for special accommodations for your child such as a piece of equipment or an aide in the classroom. This document by California Childcare Health Program explains the evaluation process.

What is an IEP/IFSP?

If a child has special needs, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) may be developed to help the child and the professionals working with them.

IFSP:  0-3 years old

IEP:  3-21 years old

Includes:

  • Description of the child’s current levels of development
  • List of resources, priorities, and concerns for the child and family
  • Measurable goals for the next 6 to 12 months
  • Determines which “early intervention” services, such as hearing services, home visits, or nutrition counseling, will be most beneficial

Includes:

  • Description of the child’s current levels of development
  • List of resources, priorities, and concerns for the child and family
  • Measurable goals for the next 6 to 12 months
  • Determines which “early intervention” services, such as hearing services, home visits, or nutrition counseling, will be most beneficial

What to Expect in the Planning Process

From the evaluation process to the finalized IEP/IFPS, here is what you can expect:

  1. Initial Assessment – An assessment will take place to gather developmental information, including an observation of your child in his classroom.
  2. IEP/IFSP Team Meets – If the evaluation determines that your child has a unique need, a team will meet to discuss your child’s needs. The IEP team includes: parent/legal guardian, caregiver or teacher, special education teacher, related service provider, representative from the school district, and interpreter (if needed).
  3. Plan Development – If the team decides your child requires an IEP/IFSP, then a plan will be developed with written goals for your child.
  4. Due Process – If you disagree with any of the plans made by the team, you may undergo mediation or “due process” in which you have an advocate or lawyer to help you settle disagreements.
  5. Ongoing Meetings – The team may meet at any time during the school year, and may choose to meet every 6 or 12 months.

Should Your Child Attend a Special School?

If your child has a disability, it may not be necessary to attend a special school. IDEA requires public schools to provide free education to children with identified special needs, and some schools offer special programs integrated into their standard programs to ensure each child’s needs are being met.

Keeping all children in the same learning environment can actually offer benefits such as:

  • Intellectual, physical, and social growth
  • Age-appropriate expectations which creates positive stress for the child to keep up with the other children
  • Children learn to understand and accept each other and their individual differences

Of course, every child is different and only you know what is best for your child.

 

For additional information, contact our Resource and Referral offices to find help in your area.

You may also visit the following resources on parenting a special needs child:

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