Recent News

(Posted 6/15/2021)
ABA-Applied Behaivor Analysisan 
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 note eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and those under a quarantine order.

Supporting In-Person Learning Resolution

(Posted 4/20/2021)
Covid's Impact on Learning

In March 2021, a federal survey was released showing what is happening with education during COVID. The suvey reveals that tens of millions of students have rece3ived virtual instruction only for months and that some families are reluctant for their children to return to in-person learning. Chalkbeat National released an article about the survey and noted that:
-Even as more schools reopened, large numbers of students remained remote.
-There are no big differences by race between the students learning in-person and those who remain remote.
-Some remote students are getting little live instruction.

(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 1-4-2021)
Tips for Virtual IEP Meetings


December 2020 - The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE), the Progress Center at the American Institutes for Research, NCSI, the Family Network on Disabilities (FND), the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Supports (WI FACETS), and the Center for Parent Information and Resources collaborated to develop Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets.  These brief tip sheets address technology; what to do before, during and after a virtual IEP meeting; common questions about hosting virtual meetings; participating in the meeting; and answers to commonly asked questions. 


Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets

Link to

(Posted 12/28/2020)
Supporting Children with Intellectual Disabilities Who Are Learning at Home


The National Center on Education Outcomes (NCEO) and TIES Center have developed videos for parents of children with intellectual disabilities that discuss various aspects of supporting learning at home.  Each video focuses on three questions:  Why is it important to focus on this with my child at home?; How can I do this at home?; and What support can I ask for from my child’s school?.  These videos were published in November 2020

Helping Your Child with Routines at Home

Helping Your Child with the Foundations of Communication at Home

Helping Your Child with Communication at Home

Helping Your Child with Academics

(Posted 12/08/2020)
Evaluations for Specific Learning Disabilities During COVID and Remote Learning

In November 2020, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Association of School Psychologists issued Navigating Special Education Evaluations for Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) Amid the COVIDE-19 Pandemic.  This document notes the challenges facing schools as they meet the requirement of evaluating students who may be eligible for special education services due to specific learning issues while students are learning remotely. 

The article notes that districts need to ensure that core instruction with grade-level content and a multi-tiered system of support is available to every student.  Before a student is found eligible for services, it must be determined that any deficit is not related to a lack of appropriate instruction.  So this is the first challenge schools need to meet.  The article suggests schools do this by offering their teachers professional development on evidence-based, effective instructional strategies, assessing any barriers to rigorous instruction, conducting short assessments with all students, accelerating instruction for students who are behind their peers, providing a multi-tiered system of support for all students even those learning remotely, and providing sufficient funding for school psychologists and other specialized support personnel to meet the comprehensive needs of students. 

Another challenge is selecting, administering, and interpreting assessment materials using best practices.  The article suggests schools meet this challenge by consulting with experts who can provide guidance on the whether assessment tools will be reliable and valid if administered in various settings, documenting modifications or alterations used in the administration of any assessment tool, interpreting results within the context of the student’s circumstances, establishing guidelines on administering in-person assessments even if the school is closed, and using multiple sources of data along with standardized evaluation results when making eligibility decisions. 

When determining if a child is eligible for services under the category of Specific Learning Disability, a school must determine if the learning problem could be related to visual, hearing, or motor disability, intellectual disability, emotional disturbance or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.  This article suggests that school develop guidelines to effectively asses these exclusionary criteria by looking at them FIRST in the eligibility process, using experts who can assess whether factors such as a lack of English language proficiency is playing a part in a student’s learning difficulties, and developing robust Tier 1 interventions to ensure students get the support they need. 

The article also addresses the backlog of evaluations under legal timelines. 

Navigating Special Education Evaluations for Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

(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 07/24/2020)
Guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education
related to the 2020-2021 School Year
On July 23, 2020 the Illinois State Board of Education released Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations.  The guide emphasizes that learning should be “challenging, relevant, and developmentally appropriate” (page 30) whether that learning takes place during in-person learning, remote learning, or in blended environments.  “Students and teachers need access to high-quality, sequenced, and knowledge-rich materials in every subject” (page 9).  
The State Superintendent has determined that Remote and Blended Remote Learning Plans must ensure at least five clock hours per day of a combination of instruction and school work for each student who would normally receive a full day of instruction any time remote or blended remote learning days occur.  Districts can be flexible in determining how to best meet the requirement in their own context by counting all learning activities toward the five clock hour expectation.  ISBE strongly recommends that, on any remote learning day, at least 2.5 hours per day of synchronous (live) learning with real-time instruction and live interaction between students and their teachers take place. (page 20).  
Pages 45-57 of the guide addresses special education and related services.  The core beliefs affirm that all students can achieve growth in all capacities and that IEPs remain in place and should direct students’ remote learning.  
(Posted 06/23/2020)
Illinois Law Related to Education and Covid19
Governor Pritzker signed Remote Learning legislation providing protections for students and educators on June 18, 2020.  Public Act 101-0643 (senate Bill 1569) went into effect immediately.  State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said “We emphasize in-person learning for all students to the greatest extent possible, while realizing that may not be feasible in all situations.  Senate Bill 1569 creates a Blended Remote Learning Day option that gives schools additional flexibility as they develop plans for fall.”  The changes multiple sections of the Illinois School code and adds new sections. 


The law expands the requirement that parents receive copies of all written materials used during a meeting to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services or to review a child’s individualized education program (IEP) no later than three school days prior to the meeting.  Parents get to choose how they wish to receive those materials.  The materials can also include a copy of their child’s school student records.  It allows the Constitution exam to be administered remotely.  It ensures that graduating high school seniors can graduate and earn their diploma and notes that graduation requirements may be undergoing future modifications.  Courses taken during calendar year 2020 can fulfill prerequisite requirements for advanced courses when students are transferring to colleges.  Under this law, teachers whose licensure was set to expire on June 30, 2020 have been given a one-year extension. 

Illinois e-News Release

Public Act 101-0643


The Office of S

(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 04/08/2020)
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

(Posted 04/07/2020)
Illinois May Decide to Allow the Prone (Face Down on the Floor) Restraint of Students

On April 7, 2020 the Chicago Tribune published an article by Jennifer Smith Richards and Jodi S. Cohen noting that the Illinois State Board of Education negotiated with legislators to allow schools to use prone restraint for one more school year, even though ISBE and legislators agree it should be phased out due to being dangerous.  The push behind allowing the prone restraints to continue came mainly from three schools in Chicago – Giant Steps, Marklund Day School, and A.E.R.O. Special Education Cooperative.  More than 30 states, according to the article, have banned prone restraint due to the risk of asphyxiation. 

State Backs Off Promise to Ban Prone Restraint in Schools – Chicago Tribune

(Posted 03/25/2020)

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

BONUS: Don’t miss this great video illustrating turn-taking:

(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 03/19/2020)
COVID-19 and Students in Illinois Schools

The U. S. Department of Education has issued multiple documents regarding COVID-19.  These include a Q & A document on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Outbreak.  The Illinois State Board of Education is also providing information on school closings and services for children. 

U.S. Department of Education Documents

(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.
(Posted 02/24/2020)
Why the Census is Important for People with Disabilities
The ARC's publication on the United States Census 2020 explains why the census is important for people with disabilities and for all citizens. Learn more abou tthe 2020 census and how to participate. Make sure you are counted in March 2020.
(Posted 11/26/2019)
The Seclusion and Restraint of Students in Illinois
The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the restraint and seclusion of students in 2012. Physical restraint and seclusion were to only be used when a child's behavior posed imminent danger of physical harm to self or others and were to be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff. 
ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago tribune did an investigation of the seclusion of Illinois students, looking at school records from the 2017-2018 school year and into December 2018. The findings were published in the Chicago Tribune on November 19, 2019. The article reports that "every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law". They found that children are placed in rooms call "reflection rooms, cool-down rooms, calming room, quiet rooms, etc." and that children "as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger, and beg to be let out. The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens." The article noted that children were sent to isolation "after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos."More than 20,000 incidents were documented and in 12,000 of the cases there was a reason for the time out noted. In more than one third of these, there was no safety issue documented. The incidents in the article are detailed and show the trauma experienced by the children.
In response to the investigation, the Illinois State Board of Education issued emergency rules to end the use of isolated seclusion in Illinois schools on November 20, 2019. Governor Prtizker said "Isolated seclusion will end now. It traumatizes children, does lasting damage to the most vulnerable and violates the most deeply held values of my administration and the State of Illinois. The use of this unacceptable practice in districts around the state for several years is appalling, and I am demanding complete and immediate accountability."
The State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said "The data and stories from students and parents are appalling, inexcusable, and deeply saddening". She added "The practices of time out and physical restraint have been misused and overused to a shocking extent; this must stop today. ISBE condemns the unlawful use of isolated seclusion, and we will take immediate steps to ensure the traumatic treament described in the investigation never happens to another Illinois student."
The use of isolated seclusion in any Illinois entity is being banned and there is new accountability and transperency practices in place. Emergency rules:
  • Ban all isolated seclusion practices.
  • Allow time-out with a trained adult in the room and with an unlocked door, but only for therapeutic reasons or protecting the safety of students and staff.
  • Ban physical restraints that could impair a student's ability to breathe or speak normally, and institute strict parameters on when physical restraint is allowed. 
  • Require all educational entities to submit data to ISBE on all instances of physical restraint or time-out sued during the current 2019-2020 and past two school years 2018-2019 and 2017-2018.
  • Require all educational entities to submit data to ISBE within 48 hours of any instance of physical restraint or time-out.

Additionally, the Governor's Office will file a complaint on behalf of ALL known cases of isolated seclusion to expedite the investigative process and require a report to be returned within 60 days of the notification.

(Posted 10/21/2019)
Accessbility of Retailers' Websites
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, expanding requirements to the public sector. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government' programs and services. Any private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, etc. must abide by the ADA. The law guarantees "full and equal enjoyment of goods and services".
In 2016, Guillermo Robles, a person who is blind, filed suit against Domino's because their website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Robles saying that the law applied to online services as well as services in stores. This was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court could have heard the case but on October 7, 2019, they declined, letting the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stand. The court could agree to take up the issue at a later time if other circuit decisions are divided on the topic.
(Posted 10/21/2019)
Receiving Written Materials before an IEP Meeting
Illinois House Bill 3586 became Public Act 101-0515 and went into effect August 23, 2019 (105 ILCS 5/14-8.02f (c)). This Illinois law mandates that no later than 3 school days prior to a child's individualized education program (IEP) eligibility meeting OR meeting to review a child's individualized education program (IEP), the school must provide the child's parent or guardian with copies of ALL written material that will be considered by the IEP team at the meeting so that the parent or guardian may participate in the meeting as a fully-informed team member. 
The written material must include, but is not limited to, all evaluations and collected data that will be considered at the meeting. For the child who already has an IEP, this includes a copy of all IEP components that will be discussed by the IEP team, other than the components related to the educational and related service minutes proposed for the child and the child's educational placement.
(Posted 10/21/2019)
Parent Rights to Related Service Logs of their Child at School
Children who qualify for special education receive specially designed instruction and the related services necessary to receive a free, appropriate public education based on individual needs. Related services include such things as transportation, speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy, interpreting services, counseling services, etc.
Illinois House Bill 3586 became Public Act 101-0515 and went into effect August 23, 2019 (105 ILCS 5/14-8.02f (c)). This Illinois law mandates that schools must make related service logs that record the type of related services administered under the child's individualized education program (IEP), and the minutes of each type of related service that has been administered, available to the child's parent or guardian at the annual review of the child's IEP and must also provide a copy of the related service logs at any time upon request of the child's parent or guardian.
If a child's IEP team determines that certain services are required in order for the child to receive a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) and those services are not administered within 10 school days after a date or frequency set forth by the child's individualized education program, then the school must provide the child's parent or guardian with written notification that those services have not yet been administered to the child. This notice must be provided within 3 school days after the 10 days in which the school was allowed to make up the service but failed to do so. This notice must include information on the parent's or guardian's ability to request compensatory services.
(Posted 10/03/2019)
Technical Assistance to Improve Postsecondary Transition Services
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believes in the innate potential of every student and knows that access to high-quality services are an essential part of local, State, and Federal efforts to improve outcomes for all students and youth with disabilities. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation services is seeking input from the public, including parents, on how best to provide technical assistance to States in order to improve postsecondary transition services to all students and youth with disabilities. 
Submit comments on or before October 2, 2019.

(Posted 10/03/2019)
Alternative State Assessments for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to ensure that all students graduate high school ready for college or a career. To measure progress against that goal, the law maintains the requirement that states administer to all students annual statewide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school, as well as assessments once in each grade span in science for all students, and annual English language proficiency assessments in grades K-12 for all English learners. The law also includes important protections to ensure that ALL students are tested, offered appropriate accommodations when needed, and held to the same high standards.
Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take an alternative assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards. The ESSA limits the number of students who may take such assessments to 1% of all tested students in a given subject. This is only a STATE limit. Each individual district does not have that 1% limit BUT must submit justification to their state if they are exceeding that limit. The law does allow a state to request a waiver of the 1% rule, but that is reserved for exceptional situations. The states who receive this waiver must have a "plan of action" to meet the 1% limit in the future.
On June 4, 2019 a letter was issued to the Superintendent of Education in Illinois saying that the percentages of Illinois students taking alternative assessments in 2017-2018 testing were: 
Reading/Language Arts     1.12%
Mathematics     1.12%
Science     1.09%
Illinois also had less than 95% participation for students with disabilities in science.
The Illinois State Board of Education was directed to submit a corrective action plan by August 1, 2019.
(Posted 08/21/2019)
Does Attending a Child's IEP Meeting Fall under FMLA?
When a child has a serious health condition that qualifies a parent to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in order to care for the child and take the child to medical appointments, then attending school meetings to determine needed services in the child's Individualized Education Program would also fall under FMLA. This opinion is based on an essential need for parent attendance at the meetings to discuss the child's well-being and progress related to physical or psychological care. This opinion is based on an essential need for parent attendance at the meetings to discuss the child's well-being and progress related to physical or psychological care. This opinion is contained in a letter fromn the U.S. Department of Labor dated August 8, 2019.
(Posted 06/28/2019)
Keeping Students with Disabilities in the General Education Setting
L.H. is a 15 year old with Down Syndrome who lives in Tennessee. Through his second grade year, he received education setting with non-disabled peers. L.H. was making progress but he was not keeping pace with grade-level peers in math. He was slightly behind in reading. He had a one-on-one aide. For third grade, the school developed an IEP that listed placement in a segregated classroom that would offer very little interaction between disabled and nondisabled students. The other students in this classroom were not as advanced as L.H. in reading. The IEP did not tie L.H.'s goals to third grade learning standards. In this setting there would be no  homework assigned. L.H.'s parents did not accept that placement decision and told the district they were moving L.H. to a Montessori School. L.H. did very well there as he learned beside his peers. The parents filed for reimbursement of the cost of the Montessori School since they argued that the public school did not offer L.H. a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
The Administrative Law judge ruled against the parents, so they appealed to the district court. The district court ruled that the public school had not offered services in the least restrictive environment but said that the Montessori School did not satisfy the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as a place where the student with disabilities could be calculated to make progress in light of their circumstances, so the parents would not be reimbursed. Both the school and the parents appealed this "split" decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District.
The school district claimed that even if students with disabilities are in a general education setting, they are still isolated inside that room and that including students in general education when there is an academic gap holds no value. The court found these arguments to be "a bit biazarre", "disingenuous", "without merit", and "worrisome". The ruling on August 20, 2018 was that the school had violated IDEA by removing L.H. from his least restrictive environment AND that the parents could be reimbursed for the Montessori School costs because it did meet L.H.'s educational needs.
(Posted 06/25/2019)
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
  • documentation of evaluation results and information used to determine special education eligibility
  • 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 record progress on the annuals goals. 

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 formulating questions to be addressed at the next IEP meeting.

ISBE Recommended IEP Form

ISBE IEP Form Instruction Sheet

(Posted 06/13/2019)
Termination of Parent Employees Due to School Meeting Attendance
In February 2019, an Illinois Bill was introduced that would prohibit employers from terminating parents because they were absent from work due to attendance at a school meeting for their child. School meetings would include school conferences, behavioral meetings, or academic meetings. As of May 30, 2019 this Bill (HB2830) has passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
The current law says that an employer must grant an employee leave of up to 8 hours per school year to attend school conferences or classroom activities related to the employee's child (vacation and personal leave must be used unless depleted).
(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 03/20/2020)