Recent News

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Engaging in Youth Transitions
The Family Guidposts: Engaging in Youth Transitions was developed by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and PACER Center in Minnesota. This publication provides information on how families can learn about disability rights and responsibilities, agency and service options, and understand indidvidualized planning tools. The guide establishes that all youth need:
  • Mentoring activities to establish strong relationships with adults
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities
  • Exposure to role models in a variety of contexts
  • Training in skills such as self-advocacy
  • Exposure to personal leadership and youth development activities, including community service
  • Mentors and role models including people with and without disabilities
  • An understanding of disability history, culture, and disability public policy issues as well as their rights and responsibilities

In each section, parents are given tools, resources, and a list of recommended actions to take as they engage in the transition of their family member from school to life in the community and workforce. There is also a youth edition of the guide.

These guides will become available at the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability site during May 2019.


(Posted 05/09/2019)
Phonological Awareness in Reading

What is phonological awareness? Why is it important for readers? How should it be taught? How can families support phonological awareness development? Learn the answer to these and other questions in the 2019 Phonological Awareness Module from the National Center on Improving Literacy.

Phonological Awareness Module

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Paid Leave for Disability Related Issues

Roughly one in five American currently live with a disability, and roughly one in four household include a child, adult or senior with a disability.

In February 2019, The ARC and the National Center for Children with Poverty released Disability Perspectives on Paid Leave. The report analyses how caregivers of people with disabilities, and persons with disabilities themselves, benefit from paid family and medical leave. "Workers with disabilities often face mutiple barriers to employment, and families that include people with disabilities are significantly more likely to live in poverty and lack savings. All too often, many cannot afford an unpaid absence from work." The study found that participants experienced a need for leave to address both predictable and unpredictable needs, and that parents were taking leave to attend school meetings for their child's Individualized Education Program. The research findings note that inclusive paid leave policies are recommended since they would not only benefit people with disabilities and their families but would also foster programs that are effective for all workers.


Disability Perspectives on Paid Leave


(Posted 05/09/2019)
Protecting Student Privacy While Ensuring Safety of Others

In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Education's Student Privacy Office released a guidance document in a question and answer format related to disclosing personally identifiable student information to school resource officers, law enforcement units, and others. The document clarifies how the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy while ensuring safety for others in the school.


While FERPA generally requires parents or eligible students to provide a school or district with written consent before the school or district discloses personally identifiable student information from a student's education records, there are a number of exceptions to this prior written consent requirement. Additionally, 'law enforcement unit records' are not 'education records', so they may be disclosed without consent to outside parties. Schools and districts do maintain a record of each disclosure with certain exceptions.


A threat assessment team is a group of individuals who convene to identify, evaluate, and address threats of potential threats to school security. These teams review incidents of threatening behavior by students and provide guidance to school officials on how to respond to potential threat. These teams are composed of a wide variety of individuals including medical and mental health professionals as well as law enforcement officers. FERPA allows schools or districts to disclose information to these team members without parental consent.


A school or district may disclose appropriate information concerning disciplinary action taken against a student who has been disciplined for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety and well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community. Because FERPA applies to the disclosure of educational records that are MAINTAINED by a school, it does NOT prohibit a school official from releasing information about a student that was obtained through personal knowledge or observation. If a student seeks or intends to enroll in another school, the district can disclose that student's educational records to the new school or district and this would include disciplinary actions taken.


In the event of an emergency such as an impending natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a campus threat, or the outbreak of an epidemic disease schools or districts can disclose, without consent, student education records to law enforcement, public health officials, trained medical personnel and parents.


School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)


(Posted 05/09/2019)
Early Intervention for Dyslexia

The National Center on Improving Literacy shared information from Jack Fletcher, Ph.D. on February 7, 2019 about early screening and interventions for children with dyslexia. Fletcher said children are identified at an average age of 10. He said children should be identified with reading and behavior problems as early as possible to prevent the cumulative problems that emerge such as anxiety. He noted a study done by Maureen Lovett that found that outcomes were almost twice as good if they were delivered in first and second grade and in third grade. She said exposure to print allows the brain to program the systems that are needed for automatic reading.

Early Intervention for Dyslexia

National Center on Improving Literacy


(Posted 05/06/2019)
IMPACT: Issue on Inclusive Education

IMPACT is a publication of The Institute on Community Integration and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The Winter 2018/2019 issue is devoted to articles about students with cognitive and developmental disabilities being included in educational settings with non-disabled peers.


The editors of the issue share:


In the past, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities were often taught only functional skills in our K-12 schools - how to do self-care, tell time, use money, carry out routine daily tasks. Today, growing numbers of families, educators, and students are advocating for higher expectations and a more inclusive educational experience.


What does it look like when schools transition to more inclusive and rigorous education for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities? In this Impact issue inclusive K-8 education is viewed from a variety of perspectives - researchers, classroom teachers, education administrators, students with and without disabilities, and families. They explore inclusion from the classroom to the school-wide community, and beyond.


The learning curve for adults is sometimes steep when more inclusive practices are introduced in schools. However, students - both those with cognitive disabilities and their peers without often make the shift more easily. The key is for the needed and appropriate supports to be in place for students. And for the special and general education teachers, and school administrators who support them, to have the knowledge, skills, and quality curricular resources the need to confidently instruct all students. In these pages we share examples of such knowledge, skills, and resources from across the country with the hope that they can help K-8 schools increasingly support the learning of all students in inclusive settings.


IMPACT Winter 2018/19 Volume 31, Number 2


Free subscription to IMPACT


(Posted 04/29/2019)
Preparing Youth with Disabilities for the Workplace

On April 24, 2019, the Center on Technology and Disability shared this new Job Skills Training Tool called C-CAL, the Career-Centered Active Listening Game. Students with disabilities can strengthen their skills and prepare for the workplace by utilizing this tool. It provides advice through a series of listening exercises. Scenarios presented include the interview process, getting started on the job, on the job experiences, and standing up for yourself on the job.


Career-Centered Active Listening Game


(Posted 04/15/2019)
Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources

The new Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources was released on April 10, 2019 by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides best practices and resources for school leaders and teachers to utilize as they work to achieve a positive school climate, lower disciplinary issues, and enhance school safety.


The Question and Answer document provides parents and educators with useful decision-making frameworks and implementation tools, as well as best practices that school leaders can consider as they work to foster positive and inclusive learning environments. Examples from schools across the country are included to illustrate the various interventions communities are employing to enhance student behavior and achievement.


Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources


(Posted 02/06/2019)
Serving All Students in Inclusive Classrooms

We just became aware of a study of 10 California public charter schools that was released in November 2016 by The California Charter Schools Association. The study offers insights into the benefits of inclusive education for all students. The report notes that these schools "deliberately worked on creating and maintaining a positive school culture where differences are celebrated and where staff and students support one another."


The schools in this study take a restorative approach to behaviors. In the report a general education teacher shared: "We wanted to avoid sending students out of the classroom and putting that responsibility on the teacher to build and repair relationships. For example, the circles provide a safe place for students to talk in the cassroom or outside the classroom. so, I attended a training with the principal and then we came back and trained the whole staff to make sure we're incorporating that piece and giving the students that chance." The school now uses a card of Restorative Justice Questions that allow school staff to build an understanding of circumstances when an incident occurs rather than jumping straight to punitive measures.
Some of the questions include: 

  • What happened?
  • Who was affected and how?
  • What do you need to do to make things right?

Engaging in dialogue with both the student who initiated the conflict and those who were harmed by it facilitates building trust, relationships, and a safer community. And, building special education programs around the tenets of inclusion, individualization, and community formed the foundation of the kind of culture that was necessary to implement research-based practices to meet the needs of all students.


The report concludes that schools should:

  1. Embrace inclusive practices. Inclusion has been shown to provide academic and socioemotional benefits to students with an dwithout disabilities.
  2. Tailor programs to student needs. Rather than fitting students into pre-determined settings, create specific and individualized programs that meet student needs and evolve as the students progress. This ensures that students can learn the necessary skills to become more independent and successful in the future.
  3. Build a supportive school community. Work on creating and maintaining a positive school community, thorough the use of community circles and restorative justice practices, where differences are celebrated and where staff and students support one another.
  4. Create Multi-Tiered Support Systems that are clearly-defined, team-based, data-driven, and available to all students regardless of whether or not they have an IEP.
  5. Build family and community partnerships.
  6. Integrate cutting-edge technologies and practices.
  7. Seek autonomous arrangements in special education to make local programmatic decisions. 
  8. Recruit, hire, and develop staff effectively. Ensure that general and special education teachers are prepared to meet the needs of all students.
  9. Constantly evaluate and refine practices. Assess and improve practices and processes to serve the changing needs of students and communities.

Meeting the Needs of Every Student Through Inclusion


(Posted 01/29/2019)
Social Emotional Learning

On January 15, 2019, the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development released a report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope, calling for all students to have access to quality social and emotional learning.


The report says that "Children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values to succeed in school, careers, and in life. They require skills such as paying attention, settinggoals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider different views, and problem solve."


It goes on to say that "while many elements of a child's life improve along with the cultivation of these skills, one of the main outcomes is better academic performance, An analysis of more than 200 studies of programs that teach studies of programs that teach students social and emotional skills found that these efforts significantly improved student behavior, feelings about school, and most importantly achievement, and made schools safer. It only stands to reason. When children are motivated, responsible, and focused, they are more able to persist in hard tasks and respond to good teaching. These capabilities are a booster rocket for everything we meaure, including test scores." And adds that "Researchers have found that social, emotional, and cognitive development is especially important for children and youth who have experienced trauma or adversity. These external influences can place our bodies and minds in a constant state of stress or high alert that interferes with learning and growth. Teaching students the sills and providing settings that build theif efficacy and self-control, providing them with supportive adult relationships, and directly addressing their physical, emotional, and mental health needs can buffer against the negative effects of stress. It also gives young people a set of tools that provide on-ramps to learning."


The report concludes by saying that "Evidence confirms that supporting students' social, emotional, and academic development benefits all children and relates positively to the traditional measures we care about: attendance, grades, test scores, graduation rates, college and career success, engaged citizenship, and overall well-being. Although these skills are important for all students, equity means acknowledging that not all students are the same. Providing equitable opportunities for developing young people's social, emotional, and academic growth requires calibrating to each student's and school's individual strengths and needs - ensuring that those with greater needs have access to greater resources. When all children and youth possess a full array of these skills, attitudes, and values, they are better equipped to prosper in the classroom, perform in the workplace, and thrive inlife, as contributing and productive members of society. By integrating -rather than separating - young people's social, emotional, and academic development, we position each and every student for success."

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope


The Illinois State Board of Education sets Social and Emotional Learning standards for all Illinois students.

Social and Emotional Learning Standards in Illinois Schools


(Posted 01/21/2019)
Restraint and Seclusion

On January 17, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education will launch an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in the nation's schools. Technical assistance will be provided to schools to support them and enforcement activities will be strengthened. The Office for Civil Rights will conduct compliance reviews which will focus on the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion and the effect of such practices on the school's obligation to provide a free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities.

Restraint and Seclusion Press Release

The Illinois School Code outlines rules for the use of restraint and seclusion.
Rules on Restraint and Seclusion

A Dear Colleague letter, released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on December 28, 2016, outlines how restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities.
Dear Colleague Letter on Restraint and Seclusion


(Posted 12/19/2018)
School Safety Guide 

On December 18, 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety released a comprehensive resource guide for keeping students and teachers safe at school. The guide contains information on the best ways to prevent, mitigate, and recover from violence in schools.

Issues addressed in the guide:

  1. Character Development and a Culture of connectedness
  2. Cyberbullying and School Safety
  3. Curating a Healthier and Safer Approach: Issues of Mental Health and Counseling for Our Young
  4. Integrating Mental Health, Primary Care, Family Services, and Court-Ordered Treatment
  5. Using Suspicious Activity Reporting and Threat Assessments to Enhance School Safety
  6. Effects of Press Coverage of Mass Shootings
  7. Violent Entertainment and Rating Systems
  8. Character Development and a Culture of connectedness
  9. Cyberbullying and School Safety
  10. Curating a Healthier and Safer Approach: Issues of Mental Health and Counseling for Our Young
  11. Integrating Mental Health, Primary Care, Family Services, and Court-Ordered Treatment
  12. Using Suspicious Activity Reporting and Threat Assessments to Enhance School Safety
  13. Effects of Press Coverage of Mass Shootings
  14. Violent Entertainment and Rating Systems
  15. The Obama Administration's "Rethink School Discipline" Guidance
  16. The Effectiveness and Appropriateness of Psychotropic Medication for Treatment of Troubled Youth
  17. The Efficacy of Age Restrictions for Firearm Purchases
  18. Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws
  19. Improvements to the FBI's Public Access Line
  20. Training School Perseonnel to Help Ensure Student Safety
  21. Emergency and Crisis Training for Law Enforcement
  22. The Transition of Military Veterans and Retired Law Enforcement Officials into New Careers in Education
  23. Best Practices for School Building Security
  24. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Other Statutory and Regulatory Privacy Protections
  25. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Other Statutory and Regulatory Privacy Protections
  26. Active Shooter Preparedness and Mitigation

Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety


(Posted 11/30/2018)
Monitoring Student Progress

November 2018: The National Center on Intensive Intervention has released updated tools charts that provide ratings on the adequacy of tools used to monitor student progress with academics and behavior. Locate the name of the tool your school uses to monitor your child's progress, and verify its reliability.

Academic Progress Monitoring Tools

Behavior Progress Monitoring Tools


(Posted 11/30/2018)
Assisstive Technology Support

November 2018: The Center on Technology and Disability has launched a new video. The video shows examples of how teachers use low-tech and high-tech assistive technology to support students.

Teacher's View of Assisitive Technology for Students


(Posted 10/15/2018)
Flexibility Allowed by the Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced No Child Left Behind. It is the law that governs educational services for the nation's students. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says "At the core of ESSA is an acknowledgement that Washington Doesn't know best when it comes to educating our nation's students. Our focus is on returning power to the hands of parents, states and local educators, where it belongs." ESSA allows states the opportunity to implement testing and accountability systems they choose. Schools are allowed to combine federal, state, and local funds to maximize impact and students are offered public school choice options.

On October 4, 2018, a guide was released to help parents understand the flexibilities of ESSA. It is meant to give parents an understanding of what the law requires and what steps they can take to improve student achievement.

ESSA Parent Guide


(Posted 10/15/2018)
Getting Assistive Technology for Your Child

October 2018: The Center on Technology and Disability has created new portals on their website that organize their resources into popular topics:

  • Accessibility - Resources for state and district leaders on how to ensure digital accessibility.
  • AT 101 - Introductory resources about assistive technology for students with disabilities.
  • Literacy - Information focused on AT tools to promote reading, writing, and related skills.
  • Early STEM - Resources to support young learners with disabilities in building STEM skills.
  • Spanish - Obtenga recursos de tecnologia de asistencia en espanol. ( Get AT resources in Spanish.)
  • Transition - Tools and resources on how assistive technology can help teenagers and young adults with disabilities transition successfully.


The Family Portal will help you discover the assistive technology that is right for your child. There are handouts, free webinars and videos for you to explore. They offer ideas on how to advocate for AT devices and services designed to help your child be successful at school. There are also fact sheets on a variety of special education issues.

Family Portal


(Posted 10/01/18)
Securing Appropriate Transition Services for Your Child

In September 2018, the Department of Human Services issued a Transition Tool that is aimed at transition age youth and families and provides a step-by-step process and checklist for how to ensure youth receive appropriate transition services from their school districts and DHS. The tool was designed for young adults who have the most significant disabilities but the action steps outlined can be applied to all young adults who have the most significant disabilities but the action steps outlined can be applied to all young adults who have disabilities. The tool illustrates how natural supports, diverse systems, and vocational preparation activities can overlap to support employment success.

The tool is divided into three columns. One for home, one for school, and one for the Department of Rehabilitative Services and WorkNet. The "home" column lists activities and resources for families and explains steps that can be taken during each age range (12-14; 14-16; 16-19; and 19-21) to secure appropriate services.

Illinois Employment First Transition Tool 2018


(Posted 09/24/18)
U.S. Office of Special Education is Rethinking Priorities


The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is rethinking all aspects of how they serve infants, toddlers, children, youth and adults with disabilities. They want to support states in raising expectations and improving outcomes so that individuals with disabilities have successful careers and meaningful lives.

Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett described this commitment in a blog released on September 20, 2018.

Rethinking Special Education


(Posted 09/10/18)
Access to Assitive Technology at School

Public Act 100-0993, passed on August 20, 2018, amended the Illinois School code related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities. The law adds that: 
At the child's initial IEP meeting and at each annual review meeting, the child's IEP team shall provide the child's parent or guardian with a written notification that informs the parent or guardian that the IEP team is required to consider whether the child requires assistive technology in order to receive free, appropriate public education. The notification must also include a toll-free telephone number and internet address for the State's assistive technology program.

The law requires additional provisions for Chicago Public Schools.

Public Act 100-0993


(Posted 09/05/18)
Enrollment Denial of Older Students and Expulsion of Truant Students

Public Act 100-0825 was enacted and became effective on August 13, 2018. It revised the Illinois School Code related to compulsory school attendance age. The compulsory age of school attendance in Illinois is 6 years to age 17. Prior to this revision, a district could deny enrollment to a student age 17 or older for one semester if the student's grade point average was less than a "D". Districts can no longer deny enrollment on this basis.

Also a truant minor cannot be expelled for nonattendance unless he or she has accrued 15 consecutive days of absences without valid cause and the student cannot be located by the school district or the school district has located the student but cannot, after exhausting all available support services, compel the student to return to school.

School Attendance


(Posted 09/05/18)
Truancy Warrants a Discussion

Illinois Public Act 100-0810 was signed on August 10, 2018 and becomes effective on January 1, 2019. The law amends the Illinois School Code related to suspensions, expulsions, and truancy.

No punitive action, including out of school suspensions, expulsions or court action, is to be taken against chronic truants unless appropriate and available supportive services and other school resources have been provided to the student.

A school district may refer a parent of a truant student to an agency that sets fines or fees for the child's truancy only if the school district's truant officer, regional office of education, or intermediate service center has offered all appropriate and available supportive services and other school resources to the child.

For children receiving special education or 504 services, an IEP meeting or 504 Plan Review meeting between the child, the parent, and relevant school personnel must be held to review the child's current needs and address the appropriateness of the child's placement and services. The school district must document any appropriate and available supportive services offered to the child.

School Code on Suspension, Expulsion, and Truancy


(Posted 08/31/18)
Medicinal Cannabis on School Grounds

On August 3, 2018 the Illinois law on use of medicinal cannabis by students was revised. The section known as "Ashley's Law" states that a school district shall authorize a parent or guardian of a student who is a registered qualifying patient to administer a medical cannabis infused product to the student on the premise of the child's school or on the child's school bus and then remove the product from the school premises or bus. School staff are not required to administer a medical cannabis infused product to a student.

The Illinois State Board of Education is revising their Guidelines on Administration of Medication in Illinois Schools document to include guidance on medicinal cannabis. The revised document will be available on their website and at a later time.

Illinois School Code - Medical Cannabis

(Posted 08/31/18)
Provision of Handbook on Dyslexia

On July 20, 2018, Public Act 100-0617 went into effect in Illinois. This law amends the school code requiring that the Illinois State Board of Education develop and maintain a handbook is to include guidelines on how to identify dyslexia, a description of educational strategies that have been shown to improve the academic performance of students with dyslexia, and a description of resources and services available to students with dyslexia.

School Code on Dyslexia Handbook


(Posted 08/26/18)
Help for Struggling Readers

Parents of struggling readers are invited to watch a PUBS special hosted by Al Roker. Empowering Parents is a video program about kids who struggle with reading and the challenges for their parents in securing appropriate educational services.

Empowering Parents


(Posted 08/26/18)
Missing Persons with Disabilities

Senate Bill 2265 was signed into law on August 1, 2018 and takes effect January 1, 2019. The law puts a procedure in place to alert emergency professionals of missing disabled persons. These individuals will be covered under the Endangered Missing Person Advisory Program, which will provide a regional system for the rapid dissemination of information of missing people.

News release form the Orland Park Patch


(Posted 08/03/18)
What Is Changing for Persons With Disabilities?

Would you like to see an annual report laying out what new or revised laws will impact persons with disabilities? A Bill introduced in the U.S. Senate during July 2018 proposes that an Office of Disability Policy be formed within the Government Accountability Office. The entity would review changes to legislation and regulations to determine their findings.

Disability Scoop offers information on this proposal.
Proposed Federal Disability Policy Office


(Posted 07/15/18)
Illinois Needs Assistance in Implementing the IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law governing the education of children with disabilities. It covers children birth to three (Part C) and children ages 3 through 21. Each State develops a State Performance Plan (SPP) and an Annual Performance Report (APR) that evaluates the State's efforts to implement the requirements and the purposes of the IDEA. The SPP and APR include indicators that measure child and family results. After submission of the annual reports, a determination is issued to each State on its progress in meeting the requirements of the IDEA statute. The determinations are a part of the ongoing efforts to improve education for America's 7 million children with disabilities.

A State's determination may be:

  1. meets the requirements and purposes
  2. needs assistance in implementing the requirements
  3. needs intervention in implementing the requirements
  4. needs substantial intervention

On July 5, 2018 the determinations for fiscal year 2016 were released. For both Part C (children ages birth to three) and Part B (children ages three through 21), Illinois falls into the category of "needing assistance for two or more consecutive years"

For states who need assistance for two consecutive years, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services must take one or more enforcement actions, including, among others, requiring the State to access technical assistance, designating the State as a high-risk grantee, or directing the use of State set-aside funds to the area(s) where the State needs assistance.

IDEA compliance


(Posted 07/14/18)
Academic and Behavioral Screening - What Tools Work?

The National Center on Intensive Intervention at American Institutes of REsearch is funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. Its mission is to build capacity for educational agencies to implement intensive intervention in reading, math, and behavior for students. One June 26, 2018, the Center introduced two new charts showing which screening tools that are available commercially have evidence that they are adequate for identifying students who need intense intervention.

For each screening tool, the charts indicate whether the tool:

  • shows convincing evidence
  • shows partially convincing evidence
  • shows unconvincing evidence


Chart of academic screening tools

Chart of behavior screening tools


(Posted 07/13/18)
Restorative Practice in Special Education Dispute Resolution

The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Eduation (CADRE) released a briefing paper on Restorative Practice in Special Education Dispute Resolution in May 2018. This publication highlights the unique challenges parents and educators face while engaging in conflict and disputes. It describes Restorative Practice as a philosophy and a set of principles that responds to wrongdoing and harm by focusing on how the harm might be repaired in place of how the wrongdoer should be punished. This document explores the benefits of incorporating Restorative Practice into the dispute resolution process.

Restorative Practice


(Posted 07/09/18)
Updates at the IRIS Center

The IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College is supported by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Educaton Programs and develops and disseminates free online resources about instructional and behavioral practices that are evidence-based to support students with disaiblities. On June 29, 2018 the IRIS Center announced their updated, improved, and revamped website. Check it out at

Coming soon on this site will be a three-part module series on high-quality individualized education programs (IEPs).


(Posted 05/10/18)
Compensatory Educational Services

On April 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter related to when school districts might be responsible for providing compensatory education services to students with disabilities. If a parent files a state complaint, and the state education agency determines that the district failed to provide appropriate services, the SEA has broad flexibility to determine appropriate remedies to address the denial of appropriate services, In addressing the failure, according to the department's letter, the SEA could order compensatory services as a corrective action. Nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or its implementing regulations limit the awarding of compensatory services or require such an award.

Letter to Lipsitt


(Posted 05/07/18)
Reading and Math Scores

In early April 2018, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the Nation's Report Card. This report card is released bi-annually. This report compares reading and math scores from 2015 to scores from 2017 for the nation's students.

Math Scores (you will be able to click on the map of Illinois to get state specific scores)

Reading Scores (you will be able to click on the map of Illinois to get state specific scores)

The Advocacy Institute has information on the results specific to students with disabilities.

Advocacy Institute Blog


(Posted 05/04/18)
Report from Our Nation's Schools Including Information on Bullying

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released their 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection report on April 24, 2018. Included in the report is information from 17,337 school districts, which included 96,360 schools. Students with disabilities who qualified for special education made up 12% of the student population. An additional 2% of students were served under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The report includes information on school climate and safety and reports data on serious offenses, law enforcement referrals and school-related arrests, restraint and seclusion, school discipline, and harassment or bullying. The report notes that 135,600 individual allegations of harassement or bullying were reported during the 2015-2016 school year. 11% of those involved allegations on the bassis of disability.

School Climate and Safety-Civil Rights Data Collection

The report also includes information on students taking STEM courses - Science, Tehcnology, Engineering and Mathematics.

STEM Course Taking-Civil Rights Data Collection


(Posted 04/19/18)
Counseling Available to Youth

The Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code was amended on August 18, 2017 and by Public Act 100-0196 which became effective on January 1, 2018. The number of therapy sessions a minor can receive without parental consent was increased from five to eight by the revision.

Any minor 12 years of age or older may request and receive counseling services of psychotherapy on an outpatient basis without parental consent for up to eight 90-minute sessions. During the sessions, the provider will determine whether attempting to obtain parental consent would not be detrimental, the minor is to be notified that consent will be requested to continue the services beyond the eight sessions. Reasons for not obtaining parental consent may be related to allegations of neglect, sexual abuse, or mental or physical abuse by the parent. Parents are not liable for the costs of outpatient counseling services or psychotherapy which is received by the minor without the consent of the minor's parent.

Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code Sections 3-501


(Posted 04/13/18)
Scholarships for Student with Disabilities

Disability scholarships exist to provide college funding for students who possess numberous cognitive, behavioral, and emotional impediments that would make it difficult to attain a college degree. These scholarship opportunities help deserving students stay in school and out of debt, allowing them to more easily achieve their educational and career goals.

Disability scholarships are funded by a variety of scholarship providers with different requirements. They can be intended to help students with a specific disability pay for school, or they can be aimed at a wider range of students who have physical or mental issues. offers a list of scholarships available to students with disabilities.

Available Scholarships - This site includes scholarships for students with disabilities for 2018 and 2019. There are scholarships available for students with vision loss, hearing loss, diabetes, blood disorders, learning disabilities, etc.

Here are just a few examples of the scholarships listed on the site:

AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarships on Health and Disability
Application deadline: November 15, 2018
The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is awarded annually to a deserving student with a disability who is pursuing undergraduate/graduate studies (must be at least enrolled as a junior in college) in an accredited university who is pursuing studies related to the health and disability, to include, but not limited to public health, health promotion, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, audiology, disability policy, special education and m ajors that will impact quality of life of persons with disabilities. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's website.

Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship
Application deadline: November 13, 2018
The Allegra Ford Thomas scholarship is a $2,500 one-time scholarship awarded to a graduating high school senior with a documented learning disability who will be enrolled in a two-year community college, a vocational or technical training program, or a specialized program for students with LD in the fall. The ideal Allegra Ford Thomas Scholar is a student who:

  • Articulates his or her LD and recognizes the need for self-advocacy
  • Is committed to post-high school academic study/career training and has begun to set realistic career goals
  • Has demonstrated perseverance and is committed to achieving personal goals despite the challenges of LD
  • Participates in school and community activities
  • Demonstrates financial need


  • Be a graduating high school senior who will be attending a two-year community college, a vocational/technical training program, or specialized program for students with LD in the fall
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Provide most current documentation of an identified learning disability
  • Be a United States citizen

Google Lime Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
Application deadline: December 10, 2018
Google partnered with Lime Connect to help university students with disabilities work toward their academic goals in the field of computer science. Students must have a visible or invisible disability, be enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at a university for the upcoming school year and plan to enroll as a full-time student at a university in the US or Canada for the upcoming school year. They must also be pursuing a degree in computer science, computer engineering or a degree in a closely related technical field.

Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship by Shire
Application deadline: May 31, 2018
Shire is sponsoring the Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship to recognize students who are legal residents of the United States who are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and who are accepted to or enrolled in a two-year or four-year undergraduate program or graduate program (of one or more years in length) at an accredited college, university, technical school, trade school, or vocational school. Each scholarship recipient will receive a one-time tuition payment of $2,000 and one year of ADHD coaching services from the Edge Foundation (approximate value of coaching services: $4,400).

(Posted 03/21/18)
Office of Civil Rights Changes Procedures

On March 5, 2018, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a revised edition of their Case Processing Manual. Changes in the new edition include:

1- Elimination of student appeals process related to discrimination

2- Right of the office to dismiss cases that will require too many resources to investigate

3- Reduces the amount of time complainants have to produce evidence of discrimination

The manual no longer includes language related to investigation "systemic" complaints.

OCR Case Processing Manual


(Posted 02/27/18)
PARCC Testing to Change

Each year in Illinois students in grades three through eight take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. This state exam assess a student's current performance, and indicated what students need to learn. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to performance, and indicated what students need to learn. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to continue to use the PARCC's core features, but will be making improvements. The test questions will be more or less advanced depending on the student's performance as they progress through the computer format of the exam. Scores results will be reported on a common scale and the results of the testing will be back to teachers in a more timely manner so that instruction can be adjusted.

February 9, 2018 Letter on PARCC from State Superintendent Tony Smith

The PARCC website offers information for parents to help them understand the exam including learning about accommodations that are available to students with disabilities.

Parent Resources on PARCC


(Posted 02/15/18)
Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work

The Institute for Educational Leadership has released a February 2018 policy brief that informs school leaders about their responsibility to provide students with disabilities effective secondary school transition programs that help students excel in post-secondary education settings and secure employment. This brief explains that recent legal developments have clarified that schools may be liable under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead if they place students at serious risk of unnecessary segregation in postsecondary settings.

The document lists and explains six reasons why many school transition programs fail to lead to competitive integrated employment:

  • They are often modeled upon, and prepare students for, sheltered workshops
  • They typically do not prepare students with disabilities for competitive integrated employment
  • They often do not give students with disabiltiies marketable skills
  • At times, they segregate, stigmatize, and set low expectations
  • They often do not start early enough and are not individualized
  • They frequently do not address students' disabilities

The report states that "Thirty years of research in the field of supported employment services, however, has firmly established that even individuals with the most severe disabilities can work in competitive integrated employment (Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), n.d.). It is widely recognized in the field of supported employment that the most effective method to drive successful integrated employment outcomes is for individuals with disabilities to be placed first in competitive integrated employment and provided with the individualized training, services, supports, and accommodations necessary to cussed in that environment." The report also emphasizes the importance of recognizing the student's preferences, interests, abilities, and needs.

Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work: What School Leaders Need to Know About the New Legal Landscape


(Posted 02/14/18)
Endrew F. Decision by United States District Court

Endrew F. has a diagnosis of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His school district, Douglas County School District in Colorado, agreed that he qualified for special education services and he was served in the public school until almost the end of his fourth grade year.  The parents, Joseph and Jennifer F., then moved Endrew to a private school that specialized in children with autism where he has made academic, social and behavioral progress.  Joseph and Jennifer believe he stopped making meaningful educational and functional progress during second grade. They argue that the final IEP (individualized education program) presented by the district was not reasonably calculated to provide Endrew with a free appropriate public education since it was not substantively different from prior IEPs that failed to evidence progress.  The district had also not conducted a functional behavioral assessment, or developed an appropriate Behavior Intervention Plan.  The parents filed for a due process hearing seeking reimbursement for private school tuition and transportation costs from the district.


After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision saying that the district did not violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because Endrew had made “some measurable progress”.  This decision was then reviewed by Judge Babcock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.  This judge also concluded that, even though Endrew did not meet all of his objectives, and did not make progress on every goal, he received “educational benefit”.  The judge relied on the mandate that educational benefit for students with disabilities need only be “more than de minimis”. 


Joseph and Jennifer F. then appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled that IDEA requires “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom”.  The case was remanded back to Judge Babcock for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision.  His decision was filed on February 12, 2018.  He agreed that the April 2010 IEP offered to Endrew was insufficient to create an educational plan that was reasonably calculated to enable Endrew to make progress, even in the light of his unique circumstances, based on the continued pattern of unambitious goals and objectives of his prior IEPs.  He also noted that Endrew’s IEPs consisted of only updates and minor or slight increases in the objectives, carrying over the same goals from year to year, or abandoning goals if they had not been met.  He noted that Endrew’s minimal progress was also impacted by the school’s lack of success in providing a program to address maladaptive behaviors. 


Judge Babcock determined that the law makes it clear that parents are entitled to reimbursement under the IDEA if: (1) the school district violated the IDEA; and (2) the education provided by the private school provides the child with an education that enables the child to receive educational benefits.  He ruled that the parents are entitled to reimbursement for the reasonable costs of his education at the private school.  The parents are also eligible for reimbursement of reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. 


Endrew F. U.S. District Court Decision Following Supreme Court Ruling


(Posted 02/13/18)

The Segregation of Students with Disabilities

On February 7, 2018, the National Council on Disability issued five reports examining the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The reports include:

  • Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA
  • English Learners and Students from Low-Income Families
  • Federal Monitoring and Enforcement of IDEA Compliance
  • Every Student Succeeds Act and Students with Disabilities
  • The Segregation of Students with Disabilities

Each report provides the current state of policy and practice for each particular topic, provides a detailed account of progress or non-progress, and makes recommendations for improvement.

IDEA Reports - Series of 5

The report on The Segregation of Students with Disabilities, includes a letter from Clyde E. Terry, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability, to President Trump that includes this statement:

“As you know, the right of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment is solidly rooted in the guarantee of equal protection under the law granted to all citizens under the Constitution.  In enacting IDEA, Congress sought to end the long history of segregation and exclusion of children with disabilities from the American public school system. IDEA requires that students with disabilities be educated to the maximum extent possible with students without disabilities. However, many students with disabilities remain segregated in self-contained classrooms or in separate schools, with limited or no opportunities to participate academically and socially in general education classrooms and school activities.  Many do not have access to the same academic and extracurricular activities and services provided to other students. Frequently, these students leave school unprepared for adult life in the community.”

The study finds that “the opportunity for students to participate in their neighborhood school alongside their peers without disabilities is influenced more by the zip code in which they live, their race, and disability label, than by meeting the federal law defining how student placements should be made”.  The study also points out that “research demonstrates that inclusive education results in the best learning outcomes” and that there is “no research that supports the value of a segregated special education class and school”. 

The Segregation of Students with Disabilities NCD Report 2018


(Posted 02/13/18)
Implementation of the IDEA

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Education released the 39th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law in place to ensure the free appropriate public education of all children with disabilities.

The report outlines the numbers and percentages of students served under Part C (ages 0 through 2) and Part B (age 3 through 21). There is information on the educational environments in which students receive services, participation and performance of students with disabilities on state assessments, and disciplinary removals.

Notable numbers for the reporting period:

  • 3% of infants and toddlers ages 0 through 2 were served under Part C Early Intervention
  • 85% of those infants and todderls served received those services in their home
  • 6.2% of children ages 3 through 5 received special education services with the most prevalent category of eligibility being speech and language impairment, followed by developmental delay and then autism
  • 8.9 % of children and youth ages 6 through 21 received special education services with the most prevalent category of eligibility being specific learning disability, followed by speech or language impairment, then other health impaired and then autism
  • From 2006 through 2015, the % of students ages 6 through 21 served under IDEA Part B educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day increased from 55.2% to 62.7% (only 16.5% of students reported under the category of intellectual disability and 13.3 of students reporterd under the category of multiple disabilities were educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day)

U.S. Dept of Ed 39th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of IDEA


(Posted 02/12/18)
Employment Task Force Report:

Illinois is an Employment First State and seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities work in competitive jobs at or above minimum wage. In June 2017, the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force (EEOPD), created by the General Assembly in 2009, released recommendations for state agencies regarding competitive, integrated employment for persons with disabilities.

Per the report, the Workforce Development Work Group identified five areas of focus:

First, the State must align its mandated requirements under the Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with Employment First principles. This will result in opportunities for competitive and integrated employment for students with disabilities and people currently receiving sub-minimum wage.

Second, the State must transform into a model employer for people with disabilities. This will require significant changes, including modifying the existing "Rutan" process to ensure people with significant disabilities can receive reasonable accommodations, including exemptions from the current testing and interview process for state employees.

Third, the State must modify two of its programs - the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) and the State Use Program - to be consistent with Employment First. This will require statutory and regulatory changes.

Fourth, the State must ensure that its website structure and content on is in compliance with federal and state accessibility laws. This will require a centralized and coordinated audit of current content, and policies and procedures for posting content moving forward.

Fifth, the State must establish a training protocol on Employment First for new and existing employees. Using already existing materials and coordinating with ongoing training events will facilitate this process.

Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force Recommendations Report


(Posted 02/07/18)
College and Career Readiness

In January 2018, the College and Career Readiness & Success Center in Washington, DC ( released a brief on how the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can be used to promote college and career readiness for students with disabilities through high expectations and access to general curriculum.
How ESSA and IDEA Can Support College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities

Also noting that persons with a disability are less likely to graduate on time, attend college, or be employed than individuals without a disability, they released an infographic to highlight how participation and concentration in career and technical education programs can help improve readiness and success in college and careers for students with disabilities.
Why Is Career and Technical Education Important for Employment Success for Students with Disabilities?


(Posted 02/07/18)
Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act

In January 2018, The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was signed into law. This law creates a family caregiving advisory council to establish ways to support caregivers across the United States. Within 18 months, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is to establish recommendations for supporting family caregivers. These family caregivers are critical in the lives of persons with disabilities.
More information is available from Disability Scoop:


(Posted 02/07/18)

Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities

Research has found that 31.6% of female undergraduates with a disability were victims of sexual assault. On January 30, 2018, the National Council on Disability released Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities. This report outlines steps colleges should be taking, including: 

-developing and implementing sexual assault prevention and support service training with messaging campaigns that are inclusive and welcoming to students with disabilities
-ensuring sexual assault services are provided to students who have hearing impairments and other sensory issues
-guaranteeing that first responders have access to interpreters or communication devices so that victims of assault can communicate immediately

Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities


(Posted 01/10/18)

What Constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

Do students with disabilities only get an education that provides "merely more than de minimis" benefit? On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court said 'no'. Their decision in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District interprets the law as meaning that students get an educational program that is calculated to "enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances" and the court emphasized that "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives".

On December 7, 2017 the U.S. Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document on this important case to explain the issue, the decision, and how IEP teams can implement the new standard for children with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The document explains that the decision emphasizes the individual decision-making required in the IEP process that includes consideration of the child's present levels of performance, disability, and potential for growth when writing annual goals. The Department notes that "Each child with a disability must be offered an IEP that is designed to provide access to instructional strategies and curricula aligned to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals, based on the unique circumstances of that child".

This Question and Answer document addresses the need to revisit the IEP if expected progress is not occurring and states that the IEP team must then revise the IEP to ensure the child is receiving appropriate interventions, special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services.

Questions and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1


(Posted 12/22/17)
The Priorities of the Department of Education

On October 12, 2017 the Department of Education issued proposed priorities for the department and the public comment period was open until November 13, 2017. 

The proposed priorities are:

1-Empowering Families to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Child’s Unique Needs

-access to quality educational options/choices

-access to high-quality preschool through 12th grade education

2-Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers

-increase focus on outcomes, decrease emphasis on compliance

3-Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills

-equip students with skills or knowledge required by employers

4-Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens

-provide students with knowledge of civics, financial literacy, problem solving, and employability skills

5-Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents

-ensure students with disabilities have equal access to a high-quality education to be prepared to live productive, independent lives

6-Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, with a Particular Focus on Computer Science

-Expand the capacity of elementary and secondary schools to provide all students with engaging and meaningful opportunities to develop knowledge and competencies in STEM subjects

7-Promoting Literacy

-promote literacy interventions supported by strong evidence

-provide families with evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home

-facilitate the accurate and timely use of data by educators to improve reading instruction and make informed decisions about how to help students build literacy skills while protecting student and family privacy

-integrate literacy instruction into content-area teaching

8-Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools

-support educators as teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in impacting student academic performance

-support recruitment or retention of effective educators

-increase professional development for teachers of science, technology, engineering and math subjects

9-Promoting Economic Opportunity

-promote economic mobility of low-income parents and children

-build greater effective family engagement in their students’ education

10-Encouraging Improved School Climate and Safer and More Respectful Interactions in a Positive and Safe Educational Environment

-ensure that students and educators of all backgrounds are able to engage in respectful dialogue without fear of retribution

-stop bullying and ensure that every child can learn in a safe environment

11-Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Choices

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Protecting Student Privacy While Ensuring Safety of Others

In February 2019, the U.S. Departm

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Protecting Student Privacy While Ensuring Safety of Others

In February 2019, the U.S. D