Special Education and Specially Designed Instruction
Special education refers to programs that a student with disabilities may qualify for. Specially designed instruction refers to strategies for implementing accessible education to students with disabilities.
Your child may qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a legal document that outlines what educational services and supports your child who is B/VI will receive. Updated annually, IEPs include:
- A statement of present levels of academic achievement and functional Performance,
- Measurable annual academic and functional goals,
- Special education and related services, and
- Accommodations and modifications necessary to measure a student’s true academic achievement and functional performance.
The goals for your child should be ambitious, yet achievable. Guardians can request an IEP meeting with the school team more frequently than once a year, if needed.
The IEP team will be comprised of family members and school personnel providing the learner’s educational needs. This may include a school district representative who has the power to commit resources for the student, any general educator, special education teacher, a school psychologist, an educational consultant, a teacher of students with visual impairments, an orientation and mobility specialist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist, literacy specialist, parent mentor, or an agency representative. It is crucial to note that a student who is visually impaired will benefit from a TVI or O&M instructor just as much as a student who is blind. Families may invite a trusted friend or professional to serve on the team. It is helpful to ask a friend or family member to come to meetings for the purpose of note-taking. By doing so families have a written record they can refer to later and may be useful for future IEP planning.
If your child does not qualify for an IEP, he or she may qualify for a 504 program, which falls under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Updated annually, 504 programs involve fewer official procedures than an IEP. Such plans are typically for students whose disability is not identified under IDEA and, therefore, do not need specialized instruction. Instead, they outline the student’s accessibility requirements.
If you believe your child needs an IEP or a 504 plan, you can make a written request to a school psychologist or an administrator for your child to be evaluated for special education. Email is advisable, because you will have a written record. The school might try a Response to Intervention (RTI) process or provide a set of modifications before an evaluation. Alternatively, the school may not give your child an evaluation and will explain the reasons why in a written document to the child’s guardians.
If you feel the need for an independent evaluation, please request a list of evaluators from your school or contact a Parent Mentor from Ohio’s Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities.