Topic of the Month

October 2019

Being Part of a Decision-Making Group

There are many levels on which parents can be involved in their child's school, community, county, or state in order to make positive changes. Research has shown that better decisions are made about services for children when parents are involved. Once parents feel comfortable with the processes that have helped make a difference for their own child, they may choose to make a difference for other children as well.

Although MAPS (Making Action Plans System) is generally considered to be a person-centered approach to help an individual plan his or her future, the process can also expand the skills, knowledge and roles of team members who make decisions. According to a manual produced by WI FACETS entitled Serving on Groups That Make Decisions: A Guide for Families (the section on MAPS as adapted from the Family Leadership Project) the five steps to a MAP are:

1. WHO AM I: A description of yourself, including the strengths, skills, likes, and values you bring to the leadership role.

2. HISTORY: A short description of the background and individual circumstances that led to your participation with the decision-making group.

3. DREAMS: A vision of things you would like to see happening as a result of our future participation with the decision-making group.

4. FEARS: A description of your worries or concerns about becoming a team member of the decision-making group.

5. NEEDS: A description of the things that need to happen to help make your vision for the future come true.



September 2019

Factors in Determining Special Education Eligibility

Upon completion of the administration of assessments and other evaluation measures a group of qualified professionals nad the parent of the child determines whether the child is a child iwth a disability as defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The team must draw up on information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, parent input, and teacher recommendations, as well as information about the child's physical condition, social or cultural background, and adaptive behavior. A child may be found eligible under the categories of:

  • Autism
  • Cognitive Disability
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Developmental Delay (three through nine years of age)
  • Emotional Disability
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impaired
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment

According to the code of federal regulations (34 CFR Part 300 Subpart D 300.306), a child must NOT be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor is lack of appropriate instruction in reading, lack of appropriate instruction in math, or limited English proficiency.

Determination of Eligibility in the Federal Regulations


August 2019

Developing IEP Goals

An individualized education program (IEP) is developed for each student who qualifies for special education services. This document describes a student's educational needs and guides specialized instruction and related services. Each IEP lists the student's annual goals in each area of deficit. A goal is a statement of the intent to overcome deficits. It includes observable and measurable skill ability changes that are expected to be accomplished, given supports, over the next year.

The annual goals are developed by the IEP team, which includes parents and, if appropriate, the student. The goals should take into consideration the student's present level and individual circumstances. Measurable goals allow parents to observe wheter their child is making progress, staying the same, or regressing. Monitoring for progress lets parents know when the IEP needs to be modified and when adjustments to instruction need to be made.

For examples of measurable, appropriate goals, check out our many books on the topic of IEP development under the "education" category in our lending library.



July 2019
Documenting Special Education Services on IEP Forms

When a student qualifies for special education services, information about the student's specialized instruction and related services is documented on an individualized Education Program (IEP) form. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a recommended form to school districts in the state. Some districts use their own form, but it must include all needed information as outlined by ISBE. In February 2019, the recommended form was revised, as was the instructions on how to complete the form.

The IEP form is set up to lead IEP team members through the process of individualizing services for a student. After basic information such as name, address, parent information, etc. is completed, the form moves through:

  • a list of present levels of performance that documents strengths, concerns, academic achievement, and functional performance
  • secondary transition information, including post-school goals (for students 14.5 or older)
  • behavioral assessment data and behavioral interventions (if appropriate)
  • annual goals and objectives/benchmarks (the number of goal pages will vary from student to student
  • a list of educational accommodations and supports
  • information on how the student will participate in classroom, district, and state assessment tests
  • information on accommodations for students who are English Language Learners (if appropriate)
  • an explanation of where educational service minutes will take place for the student (general education with no supplementary aids, general education with supplementary aids, special education and related services within a general education classroom, special education services outside general education, and related services outside general education)
  • documentation of whether a student's behavior was a manifestation of their disability (for students with IEPs who are facing more than 10 days of disciplinary action)
  • and a section to use later to recrod progress on the annual goals

For students with autism, there is an additional section for documenting consideration of communication needs; social interaction skills and proficiencies; needs resulting from unusual responses to sensory experiences; needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines; needs resulting from engagement in reptitive activities and stereotyped movements; needs for positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports; and those needs related to social and emotional development.

The instruction document goes through the IEP, section by section, describing what needs to be included and how to document needs and services. It can be helpful to parents to look at their child's IEP document while reading the instruction document in order to get a clear understanding of the content or to assist in forumulating questions to be addressed at the next IEP meeting.

ISBE Recommended IEP Form

ISBE IEP Form Instruction Sheet


June 2019

Regional Offices of Education and SAFE Schools

Regional Offices of Education, which are grouped by county or counties throughout Illinois, are administered by Regional Superintendents who are locally elected officials. They are the intermediate agency between the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts. Services of the ROEs include:

  • visit and inspect school buildings
  • provide safety courses for bus drivers
  • process educator licensure
  • respond to questions, including legal questions, from citizens, educators, and Boards of Education
  • assist with cooperatives special education programs, and vocational programs
  • administer the GED programs administer truancy programs
  • offer Safe School Alternative Education programs

The Regional Safe School Program (RSSP) serves expulsion-eligible and suspension-eligible student in grades 6-12. Expelling or suspending disruptive students puts them on the street, which may increase safety and advance the learning environment inside the school premises, but does not service the educational needs of the expelled or suspended students or the community's need for public safety.

The purposes of RSSP is twofold: 1) to increase safety and promote the learning environment in schools and 2) to meet the particular educational needs of disruptive students more appropriately and individually in alternative educaiton environments. Currently, there are approximately 80 RSSP program sites in Illinois in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state. Each student has an Alternative Education Plan (AEP) and positive outcomes include: reduction in disruptive behavior, regular attendance, coursework completion and credit received advancement in grade level, return to home school, grammar or high school graduation and where appropriate completing a program leading to taking the GED test and passing the GED. Behavior modification training and other counseling, life skills trianing, community service, and work-based learning experiences are aspects of RSSP. Computerized learning systems may supplement the primary academic instruction or may be used as the primary method of instruction. For more information visit


May 2019

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals to children age 18 and younger during the summer months in low-economic areas when school is not in session. SFSP sponsors received federal reimbursement via the Illinois State Board of Education to cover the administrative and operating costs of preparing and serving meals. School districts, local goverments, and nonprofits can become sponsors and set up serving sites in schools, parks, recreation centers, resource centers, churches, summer camps, libraries, and other community locations. Former State Superintendent of Education, Tony Smith (replaced by Dr. Carmen Ayala on 2/26/19) said "Losing access to school lunch and breakfast over the summer poses a significant challenge for many Illinois families. The link between sufficient healthy food and our ability to learn and retain information is indisputable." Some Illinois counties still need partners to fill gaps in access to healthy meals. Families can find their nearest summer meals site by calling 800-359-2163 or visiting


April 2019
Sharing Information About Your Child

When developing an Individualized Education Program, parents need to work with the IEP team to develop a plan that takes into consideration their child's strengths. Parents need a way to do this that best portrays their child's unique personality and yet is easily shared and concise.

One way to do this is to share a "Student Snapshot" with school staff prior to, or during, the IEP meeting. PACER Center in Minnesota has developed a format for student snapshots. They include a template for preparing a one-page document that is easily shared.
Student Snapshot

Another important way to individualize supports and services, is to make sure staff are aware of a child's preferences. The Center for Learning and Leadership has developed a guide related to preference indicators. This plan is organized around seven domain areas and is a tools for matching interests in peer activities and selecting providers.
Child Preference Indicators 


March 2019
Using Endrew F. Language in Determining F.A.P.E. for Your Child

Each child eligible for special education services is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education - F.A.P.E. What constitutes a "free appropriate public education" has long been debated by the courts. On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. The previous standard for F.A.P.E. was an educational program that was calculated to provide "merely more than de minimis" educational benefit. In the Endrew F. case it was determined that a school must offer an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is "reasonably 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". The court explained that a "student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all".

The United States Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document about the case on December 7, 2017. Question 12 of that document addresses how an IEP team can ensure that every child has the chance to meet challenging objectives. The answer states 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 the child, and that the IEP must aim to enable the child to make progress. In the answer to Question 13, it is noted that "advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular clasroom" and that the IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education cirriculum. The document also emphasizes that if a child is not making progress toward his or her annual goals, the IEP team must revise, as appropriate, the IEP to address the lack of progress.

The language of this case is important to keep in mind as parents review their child's current IEP, review their child's progress reports, and plan for their child's next IEP.

Question and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Decision


February 2019
School Personnel

Each school district, or the special education cooperative of which it is a member, is to employee sufficient personnel as needed to deliver and supervise the full continuum of special education and related services needed by students who qualify for special education. The Illinois Administrative Code identifies the required education and experience required for professionals who provide instruction, career and technical coordinators, individuals assigned as teacher coordinators, business manager assistance, bilingual specialists, directors and assistant directors of special education, supervisors, chief administrators of special schools, other professional personnel, and personnel who do not hold educator licenses. The Code also identifies who can perform specific evaluations (academic, assistive tech, learning processes, neurological, psychological, etc.). Search for this information in Subpart 1: Personnel.

23 Illinois Administrative Code 226


January 2019

Sensory Processing Issues in the Classroom

Students who experience trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through their senses often struggle in the classroom. Students may be over or under responsive to sensory input. Some are oversensitive to sounds, making common sounds painful. Some are oversensitive to touch, making them uncomfotable in their own clothing and at their own desk. Some may be uncoordinated in their movements. Students may improve their ability to respond appropriately and function more normally when provided with sensory integration therapy or a sensory diet. This support can be provided by an occupational therapist and activities can be carried out by other school staff. Learn more by readin gthese articles:

All Kinds of Minds Blog Article Sensory Diet Article