Recent News

(Posted 9/16/2021)
Tax Benefits Related to Educational Costs
 

On August 31, 2021, the Illinois Department of Public Revenue issued a reminder for taxpayers that they may be eligible to claim school expenses for their K-12 students on their 2021 Illinois individual income tax returns. 

Qualified educational expenses include tuition, and book and lab fees in excess of $250. The total credit may not exceed $750. Tax benefits are also available for families whose children are homeschooled.

Media Release from the Illinois Department of Revenue

(Posted 9/16/2021)
Accessibility Features to be Available for Online Learning for Students with Disabilities
 

When students with some disabilities use digital education tools, there can be accessibility issues. Governor Pritzker stated that "we need to be sure that these tools are properly became Public Act 102-0238 on August 2, 2021, it guaranteed that accesbility features such as text-to-speech, captions for videos, text alternatives for non-text content, and color-blind alternatives will be standard in the curriculum of public and private k-12 schools starting August, 1 2022.

Illinois Public Act 102-0238

 
(Posted 8/26/2021)
College Accreditation for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
 

Colleges across the nation have established higher education programs for young adults with intellectual disabilities.  As of May 2021, 308 postsecondary education programs enrolled over 6,500 students.  The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was enacted in 2008 and authorized federal financial aid for students with intellectual disabilities.  A requirement of the legislation is that the students enrolled in such programs be included with nondisabled individuals.  Model accreditation standards have been developed to provide guidelines for colleges and universities so that students and their families have an assurance of quality. 

Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability:  Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community Living

Think College

 
(Posted 8/26/2021)
Restraint and Seclusion
 

The General Assembly found that the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint on children and youth carries risks to the health and safety of students and staff. Therefore, effective August 13, 2021, the goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of those interventions. 

(105 ILCS 5/10-20.33)  Isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint (other than prone physical restraint) may be use only if

-the student’s behavior presents an imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or to others;

-other less restrictive and intrusive measures have been tried and have proven to be ineffective in stopping the imminent danger of serious harm;

-there is no known medical contraindication to its use on the student; and

-the school staff member or members applying the use of time out, isolated time out, or physical restraint on a student have been trained in its safe application as established by rule by the State Board of Education. 

Isolated time out may be used ONLY if the adult in the time out room or enclosure is in imminent danger of serious physical harm because the student is unable to cease actively engaging in extreme physical aggression.

Mechanical restraint and chemical restraint are prohibited.

Prone restraint is prohibited except when ALL of the following conditions are satisfied:

-the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan specifically allows for prone restraint of the student;

-the Behavior Interventions Plan was put in place before January 1, 2021;

-the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan has been approved by the IEP team;

-the school staff member or staff members applying the use of prone restraint on a student have been trained in its safe application as established by rule by the State Board of Education;

-the school must be able to document and demonstrate to the IEP team that the use of other de-escalation techniques provided for in the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan were ineffective; and

-the use of prone restraint occurs within the 2021-2022 school year

 

The use of any of the following rooms or enclosures for an isolated time out or time out purposes is prohibited: 

-a locked room or a room in which a door is obstructed, prohibiting it from opening;

-a confining space such as a closet or box;

-a room where the student cannot be continually observed; or

-any other room or enclosure or time out procedure that is contrary to current ISBE rules.

The deprivation of necessities needed to sustain the health of a person, including the denial or unreasonable delay in the provision of food or liquid, medication, or the use of a restroom, is prohibited. 

Each school district is to develop a plan for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint (School Code 105 ILCS 5/2-3.130).  The plans are to include actions to be taken to:

-reduce and eventually eliminate a reliance on isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint for behavioral interventions and develop non-coercive environments;

-develop individualized student plans that are oriented toward prevention of the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint with the intent that a plan be separate and apart from a student’s individualized education program or a student’s plan for services under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973;

-ensure that appropriate school personnel are fully informed of the student’s history, including any history of physical or sexual abuse, and other relevant medical and mental health information; and

-support a vision for cultural change that reinforces positive behavioral interventions and support rather than isolated time out, time out, and physical restraints; effective ways to de-escalate situations to avoid isolated time out, time out, or physical restraint; crisis intervention techniques that use alternatives to isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint; and

-use of debriefing meetings to reassess what occurred and why it occurred and to think through ways to prevent use of the intervention the next time.

 
(Posted 8/25/2021)
Special Education Services - Age 22
 

Special education services are provided to eligible students with disabilities beginning at age 3. For some students, services continue through age 21. Until now, services had to end on the day before the student turned 22 even if that was mid-school year. Legislation passed July 28, 2021 allows students who turn 22 during a school year to finish out the school year. 

Public Act 102-0172

Illinois State Board of Education FAQ on Public Act 102-0172

 
(Posted 8/25/2021)
Severe Allergic Reactions
 

Illinois House Bill 102 became Public Act 102-0413 and is now known as the Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act. This law providing safety measures related to severe allergic reacations of children in day care settings or schools is effective July 1, 2021. This law ensures that day care and school staff have policies and procedures in place to response to students experiencing anaphylaxis.

Allergic reacations are unpredictable and can quickly turn into a life-threatening emergency. Day care and school staff need to know the signs of allergic reaction and be prepared to take action. This legislation helps parents konw their children will be safer during the time they spend away from home and in the care of others.

Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act

 
(Posted 8/12/2021)
Masks Required for ALL Students
 

On August 11, 2021, the Illinois State Board of Education issued a letter to all school superintendents regarding the Governor’s requirement that all students, staff and visitors wear masks indoors in all P-12 schools in Illinois.  ISBE noted that noncompliance is not an option for districts.  Districts whose boards vote to ‘only recommend’ masks will be given opportunities to correct that action.  If the requirement is not adhered to after a probation period, the district will lose all state funding and lose the ability to engage in IL High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association athletic competitions. 

ISBE Letter to Superintendents

Governor’s Order for Masking

 
(Posted 6/15/2021)
ABA-Applied Behavior Analysis
Now an Option for More Children with Autism
 

Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence-based approach for providing therapy to children with autism. It focuses on improving motor skills, communication, academics and behaviors. In 2008, Illinois passed a law requiring insurance companies to cover ABA therapy. In 2019, Illinois passed a law saying ABA was included in coverage for children with autism who qualified for Medicaid.

Few children using Medicaid could access the services due to a restriction on the qualifications of the person providing the therapy. The therapy for children under Medicaid had to be provided by an enrolled Board Certified Behavior Analyst who was also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Very few professionals in Illinois met this criteria. 

As of June 2021, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services has agreed to allow Board Certified Behavior Analysts who work under an enrolled provider to also provide the ABA therapy to children on Medicaid. This drastically increases the availability of the therapy for children in low-income families.

Learn more from McManus Consulting Disability Serviceds

 
(Posted 5/24/2021)
Only In-Person Learning for School Year 2021-2022
 

On May 19, 2021, The Illinois State Board of Education voted 7-0 to return all schools to full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. The resolution notes that in-person learning is essential for students' mental health and social-emotional development. The members took into consideration the capability of schools to rapidly identify new cases to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks and reduce the risk of further transmission due to access to rapid testing. Schools will be able to offer remote instruction to students not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine who are under a quarantine order.

Supporting In-Person Learning Resolution

 
(Posted 4/09/2021)
Increase in Homeschooling this School Year
 

The United States Census Bureau released statistics in March 2021 about the number of families in the United States who are now homeschooling their children.  In Illinois, the percentage of households who homeschooled was 2.1 % in May of 2020.  That increased to 5.4 % by October 2020.  The report notes “It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children. From the much-discussed “pandemic pods,” (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”

Homeschooling on the Rise

 
(Posted 3/12/2021)
Changes to Illinois Law Related to Education
 

The Illinois School Code has been amended by Public Act 101-0654, the Education Omnibus Bill (HB2170) as of March 8, 2021.  In part, the law: requires the State Board of Education to annually assess all public school students entering kindergarten creates the Whole Child Task Force to establish an equitable, inclusive, safe, and supportive environment in all schools for every student makes changes concerning eligibility requirements for early intervention services (birth to three) requires the Illinois P-20 Council to make recommendations for short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Act 101-0654

 
(Posted 07/29/2020)
Seizure Smart School Act
 

The prevalence of epilepsy is greater than autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease combined.  On July 1 ,2020, the Seizure Smart School Act went into effect in Illinois.  For a student with epilepsy, a seizure action plan serves as the basis of the student’s federal Section 504 plan and must be signed by the student’s parent or guardian if the student seeks assistance with epilepsy-related care in a school setting.  The services and accommodations specified in the seizure action plan must be reasonable, reflect the current best practice guidelines of seizure-management care, and include appropriate safeguards to ensure the proper disposal of used equipment and medication.  A student’s parent or guardian must submit the health care provider’s instructions on the student’s epilepsy management during the school day including any prescriptions and the methods of administering those prescriptions and is responsible for informing the school, in a timely manner, of any changes.

 A delegated care aide performs the activities and tasks necessary to assist a student in accordance with the action plan.  This means a school employee who has agreed to receive training in epilepsy and assist a student in implementing his or her seizure action plan and who enters into an agreement with a parent or guardian of that student.  Training for this employee must be provided by a licensed health care provider with an expertise in epilepsy or an epilepsy educator who has completed curriculum from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A school district may not restrict placement of a student with seizures in a particular school based on that school not having a full-time school nurse. 

Seizure Smart School Act

 
(Posted 06/23/2020)
Resolving Disputes with the School During the Pandemic
 

The Office of Special Education Programs within the U.S. Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document on June 22, 2020 regarding how parents can resolve disputes with their school district in the COVID 19 environment. 

During the pandemic, schools are able to extend the timeline for resolving a State complaint from a parent on a case-by-case basis.  The availability of staff from the State Board of Education or the availability of information from the school including the student’s education records could factor into a determination that the timeline be extended. 

Mediation procedures are usually carried out in person but could be conducted using alternative means such as video conferences or conference calls during the pandemic.

Parents and schools can mutually agree to extend the timeline for convening a resolution meeting when a parent files for due process unless the parents has filed for an expedited due process related to disciplinary removal of their child.  Resolution meetings can also be held virtually. 

Due process hearings are allowed to be held virtually.  The hearing office assigned to the case can permit an extension of the due process timeline unless, again, the parent has filed for an expedited due process. 

Dispute Resolution Procedures during the Pandemic

 

(Posted 04/27/2020)
Autism Prevalence Rises


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information on March 26, 2020 about the prevalence of autism in communities they monitor.  Their 2016 data shows that one in 54 8-year-old children are identified with autism.  Boys were more than four times as likely to be identified with autism as girls.  They noted that there has been an improvement in the number of children who are identified with autism early.  This allows more connections to services that can improve outcomes. 

Autism Prevalence Rises

 

(Posted 04/2020)
Free Textbooks and Reading Materials for Students Who Struggle Read from Learning Ally


Learning Ally has partnered with ISBE for many years to support student learning.  Graciously, in April 2020 they have opened up their registration process to ALL schools/districts in Illinois free of charge to continue supporting all students while remote learning is taking place.  Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is an online resource with 82,000+ authentic texts and textbooks that align with curriculum across all grades to support equitable access for students who struggle to read due to reading deficits, visual impairments, and other physical disabilities. The award-winning solution supports struggling readers in nearly 20,000 schools nationwide and is designed with student-centric learning features and progress monitoring dashboards to drive educator understanding, planning, and differentiated instruction.  Students in Illinois may access this great resource for FREE once a district or school administrator has completed and verified the school grant enrollment form. This resource is not available to students free of charge without this being completed.  If a parent registers for access, they will not get it for free.  Schools and/or districts MUST complete the registration form and verification process for free access to be given to students.

School District Enrollment

Parent Resources

 

The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Fund

The Arc of Illinois has developed an Assistive Technology Fund to fund or partially fund the purchase of assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities if a qualified evaluator has said the product is needed but Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance will not pay for it.  The maximum amount funded will be $500 per person or family. 

Application form

 
(Posted 03/23/2020)
Helping Babies Build Vocabulary

Science Shows Benefits from Conversational Turn-Taking with Babies

A large body of evidence shows that it is not passive hearing – or even the amount of words a child is exposed to – that matters most in language development. Instead it is the quality of the conversation that is important. That is, the back and forth, turn-taking nature that requires listening and responding. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff refer to this as a “conversational duet,” because “you can’t sing it alone.” In fact, another study found that if a conversation is interrupted by a phone call, a child will not learn a newly presented word, but will learn it if the conversation is not interrupted. Read more at https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191001-the-word-gap-that-affects-how-your-babys-brain-grows

BONUS: Don't miss this great video illustrating turn-taking: https://www.popsugar.com/family/Viral-Video-Baby-Boy-Talking-is-Dad-46235433

 
(Posted 03/20/2020)
Guide for Writing Behavior Goals in School
 

In March 2020, The National Center on Intensive Intervention issued a new guide entitled Strategies for Setting Data-Driven Behavioral Individualized Program (IEP) Goals.  The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of behavioral progress monitoring and goal setting to inform data-driven decision-making within tiered support models and individualized education programs (IEPs).  This guide assists parents and educators in knowing which behaviors to address, how to set goals, monitor progress, and deal with common challenges.  The guide covers:

  • components of quality behavioral IEP goals;
  • how to know which behavior(s) should be addressed through an IEP goal;
  • information about behavior(s) of concern;
  • how to set goals and progress monitor;
  • common challenges and solutions; and
  • additional resources and tools.

Setting Data-Driven Behavioral Individualized Program (IEP) Goals

 
(Posted 03/17/2020)
Positive Interventions for Students with Behavior Issues
 
On Friday, March 6, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education announced that 7.5 million dollars of their federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act discretionary funds will be used to train and assist Illinois school districts to support safe and student-orientated behavioral interventions. A selected entity will help districts to support safe and student-oriented behavioral interventions. A selected entity will help districts address students' behavioral needs in compliance with new Illinois rules on time out and physical restraint. The training will help districts implement more proactive interventions that help students build social-emotional skills. Districts will receive training on how to conduct functional behavioral assessments and implement behavior intervention plans. Functional behavioral assessments and implement behavior intervention plans. Functional Behavioral Assessments create an understnading of the causes of the disruptive behavior of a student. Behavior Intervention Plans list the proactive approach that will use evidence-based interventions to assist the student.