Special Education/LRE and accommodations

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Question
Hi,
At a loss. My son has OCD, ADHD and SLI. He's a good kid, quite bright. He's doing well in school. The teachers (there are 2) are happy and
they've been great. His aide has been just so-so but it's a good relationship and things are moving. The problem is
the person in charge of the placement was suggesting it may not be good enough though a)my child is working/testing at grade level
b)is very happy c)benefits from being around peers d)the teachers say mostly positive things.  I was baffled. For example,I think
the homework is excessive and most of it doesn't help him at all. We do it anyway. I didn't ask for reduced homework
which frankly would benefit us alot. I don't feel my son needs to be operating at 100% or even 80% on everything. If he's
doing well enough, I'm happy. There's just so much work he can do for so much time. It wouldn't be better in special ed,
it would just be dumber and without peers. How do I explain the LRE to a bueracrat who does not seem to have my kid's
best interests at heart AND was going against everyone else. No one is shy. Everyone has spoken their mind. For me,
the ideal is a flexible learning environment with accommodations in a regular class. I don't want to be in a situation
where I'm told that the accommodations mean my kid doesn't belong in the regular class, to me that's nutty. Any light
you can shed here would be tremendously helpful and appreciated. I'd like to add that I've observed kids in the class
struggling in areas my son does not so it makes it all the more galling that because my son has the IEP, he is under
this super microscope. Thanks!

Answer
Dear Jennifer,

Please accept deep apologies for my delay in responding.  I am happy you asked this question about Least Restrictive Environment.  Your child is in a regular classroom, with an aide.  You feel he is doing pretty well, although you feel he could use adjustment to his homework assignments.  The special education supervisor is questioning whether this is the appropriate placement.  

First, I would like you to be sure the aide is listed specifically and overtly on your child's IEP as a supplementary aide or service.  The reason for this is two fold.  First, if you ever had to dispute a change of placement, the most recently agreed upon IEP stays in effect until the dispute is settled.  So you would want to be sure the aide is specifically listed so that it cannot be removed by the team.  And, the IEP should state what aides, services, accommodations, etc. are needed for your child to benefit from special education in the general education setting.  

The questions for the team are:  1-is the child able to benefit from the IEP while being educated with non-disabled peers?  2-are there harmful effects of the placement?  3-is the child receiving a free appropriate public education?  This contemplates whether he is making sufficient progress in the general curriculum and in the general education classroom?

The child must receive the supplementary aides and supports needed to be successful in the general education classroom setting and I would have concerns about a statement by one member of the team who says that just because he needs an aide, he has to be segregated with only disabled peers.  That is not the spirit or my understanding of what is appropriate.  

If you are certain the IEP specifies the aide service, I think it would be a good idea to then turn to the goals in your child's IEP to look at the evaluation methods for the goals.  Are the evaluation methods clear?  The goals should be measurable and observable, and have specific data collection methods to assist the team and you in measuring his progress.  Then, inspect the progress reports, and be sure that they are documenting his progress.  If all of this looks good, then I would avoid having too many IEP meetings where there is a possibility of being in a position to have this conversation over and over.  Instead, stick with teacher conferences and less formal ways of discussing your child, where the supervisors and administrators must be involved.

I wish you all the best, as you advocate for your child and please, feel free to ask a follow up if anything I have shared is unclear or raises other concerns for you.  

Again, thank you for writing to me and for using this valuable service!

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.

Expertise

I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.

Experience

10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Education/Credentials
Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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