URGENT REMINDER: NH Special Education Rules Being Revised – Time Sensitive Alert

November 30th, 2009

by Theresa Kraft, Esq.
The New Hampshire Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities are in the Rule Making stage which requires an opportunity for public comment. A meeting is scheduled for December 9, 2009 at 12:30 at the NH Department of Education on Pleasant Street in Concord, New Hampshire.

This is an opportunity for all who have an interest in the proposed changes to let your voice be heard. Bonnie Dunham, of Parent Information Center, has developed a short “unofficial” summary document of the changes that are being proposed. Ms. Dunham has also developed a sample letter to follow to provide written input.

Plan to attend the public session on December 9, 2009 at 12:30 to let the Department of Education receive your input to these important changes to the NH Special Education Rules.

This post can be found on Attorney Kraft’s website as well.

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Transition Planning for Special Education Students

November 18th, 2009

By Theresa Kraft, Esq.

Transition services, like most services provided under an IEP, are individualized to a particular student and are based on the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal vision for post-secondary opportunities.  Transition services for a student with significant cognitive disabilities will be very different for the student with ADHD.  And when the transition services start should be based on the student’s needs.

The IDEA requires that beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student turns 16 or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include–

(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and

(2) The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

NH rules require that an IEP include a statement of transition services that meets the requirements of 34 CFR 300.43 and 34 CFR 300.320(b), with the exception that a plan for each student with a disability beginning at age 14 or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP team, shall include a statement of the transition service needs of the student under the applicable components of the student’s IEP that focuses on the student’s courses of study such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education.

Transition services are designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment); continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.

Although NH IEPs have a section entitled Transition Plan, the IEP is viewed as a whole document and services which fulfill the requirements of Transition services can appear anywhere in the IEP.

For more information regarding Transition Planning visit NHEdLaw and Parent Information Center.

Attorney Theresa Kraft guides parents of children with disabilities through the special education process.  This article also appears on Attorney Kraft’s website.

Definition of Child with a Disability under IDEA

November 3rd, 2009

By Theresa Kraft, Esq.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the NH Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities have defined a child with a disability as:

• a child evaluated in accordance with IDEA as having
o mental retardation,
o a hearing impairment (including deafness),
o a speech or language impairment,
o a visual impairment (including blindness),
o a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”),
o an orthopedic impairment,
o autism,
o traumatic brain injury,
o an other health impairment,
o a specific learning disability,
o deaf-blindness, or
o multiple disabilities,
• and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

The disability categories are also defined within the law and in most cases the educational definition is not the same as a medical diagnosis.

For example the evaluations considering eligibility under Emotional Disturbance would not include diagnoses from the DSM-IV, but rather
• a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
o An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
o An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
o Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
o A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
o A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
Notice there is no need for an underlying diagnosis such as depression or mood disorder.

It is important to remember that a medical diagnosis does not automatically qualify a child for special education. Even if a child has a medical diagnosis, the evaluations and team have to determine that because of the disability the child requires special education and related services. Special education is defined as specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability and to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.

Attorney Theresa Kraft guides parents of children with disabilities through the special education process. This article also appears on Attorney Kraft’s website.

New NH Special Education Rules Have Been Proposed

October 17th, 2009

By Theresa Kraft, Esq.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004 and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act, although the statute states that we can continue to call the reauthorized act IDEA.  IDEA is considered the minimum a state must do when educating children with disabilities; each state can either follow IDEA or offer additional rights and protections.  New Hampshire has always afforded children with disabilities more rights than required by IDEA.  The state laws, or statutes, can be found at RSA 186-C.  As the name implies, the New Hampshire Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities (Ed. 1100) are the rules based on the state statutes that govern the education of children with disabilities.

Although the New Hampshire Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities were revised in June 2008 and amended in June 2009, there are still some areas that need to be aligned with the IDEA.  Therefore, the New Hampshire Board of Education agreed on October 14, 2009 to enter into rule making for Ed 1100.  As part of rule making, the board must hold public comment sessions.  A public session is scheduled for December 9, 2009 at 12:30 PM.

For more information visit the NH DOE’s website.

Attorney Theresa Kraft guides parents of children with disabilities through the special education process.  This article also appears on Attorney Kraft’s website.

What is Child Find?

October 11th, 2009

by Theresa Kraft, Esq.

Every school district is responsible for locating and evaluating every child who is suspected of having a disability within the geographical boundaries of the school district to determine if that child requires special education.  The school district is responsible for developing policies and procedures that ensure any child who is potentially a child with a disability attending school and for any child 2 ½ years of age up to 21 years of age residing within the school district’s jurisdiction is referred to the IEP team.  Although special education does not begin until a child is 3 years old, the school district is supposed to make sure that the evaluations have been completed and an IEP can be implemented on the child’s 3rd birthday.

The policies and procedures must include mechanisms to allow for at least annual communication, coordination, and/or consultation with private schools, area agencies, family centered early supports, community agencies and programs, group homes, courts, health care facilities and state institutions.

Any one can refer a child to special education.  The person does not have to work for the school district or be the parent or guardian of the child to make the referral.  Some reasons why a child could be referred are:

1.    Failing to pass a hearing or vision screening;
2.    Unsatisfactory performance on group achievement tests or accountability measures;
3.    Receiving multiple academic and/or behavioral warnings;
4.    Repeatedly failing one or more subjects;
5.    Inability to progress or participate in developmentally appropriate preschool activities; and
6.    Receiving service from family centered early support and services.

Child find creates an affirmative duty for a school district to ensure that all children suspected of having a disability and in need of special education are referred, even if the child is receiving passing grades and advancing from grade to grade.

The school district is required to provide data to the NH DOE regarding the children who were found eligible and those found ineligible for special education.  As part of the data collection, school districts must report on the children who were found eligible but who are not receiving services from the district.

Child find ensures that teachers, parents, and the community have the necessary information to recognize when a child should be referred to special education.

Attorney Theresa Kraft guides parents of children with disabilities through the special education process.  This article also appears on Attorney Kraft’s website.