Blog Archives

Look beyond the school building for resources

We often have to remind parents of children who receive special education services that it is the school district as a whole that is responsible for providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for their child. They are not limited to the resources within their child’s specific school building. This would seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how often that detail is missed when an IEP team or other school staff are trying to address the needs of a student who has a disability.

School staff will sometimes only think about the personnel that is currently assigned to that school when they are considering instructional strategies, adult-to-child support, equipment and assistive technology, behavioral interventions and supports, etc. Sometimes good ideas are dismissed because “we don’t have the resources for that.” Lack of resources is not a legitimate reason to fail to meet a child’s educational needs, but it is also a reality that resources are not unlimited.

One of the qualifications to serve as the LEA Representative on an IEP team, is for that individual to have knowledge of the resources of the entire school district or Local Education Agency (LEA). The LEA Representaive should be able to tell the team about LEA staff with special expertise who can be brought in as consultants who can provide ideas, training or help create a plan of action. Behavior Specialists and Psychologists can lead the functional behavior assessment (FBA) process and help develop positive behavior support plans. Reading specialist can help identify which reading program might be a better fit for a particular student. Specialists can also help staff better understand a particular disability, how it may impact the child in question, and offer research-based interventions and strategies that have been proven to be effective. Many school systems have staff who can conduct assistive technology assessments and help identify devices or equipment that might be appropriate for a specific child. Other specialist have much to contribute as well.  Somebody just needs to invite them in!

There may also be specialized programs offered within a school system that not everyone knows about. In a worst-case example of that, there was child who received only very limited home bound services for months due to his behavior. The school had told the parent that they had tried “everything” before removing the child from the school.  After the parent sought help from the Parent Training and Information Center, an IEP meeting was held with several Exceptional Children’s Department central office staff members present.  It turned out that the school district had three different alternative education programs that could have provided this child with a full-time education in a less restrictive setting. These programs were not considered because the people in the school building were not aware of them.

Many state education agencies also offer consultants who can be called on for help, often at no cost to the school district. There may be centralized funds that can be used to meet a student’s disability-related needs. There may also be clinicians and programs available within the local community that can help either during or outside of school hours.

The bottom line is that school teams should keep looking and asking questions until they find something that will work for the child.  When they have tried everything in the school building tool box without success, they should go out and get more tools. Giving up or settling for anything less than true FAPE is not an option.

Accessible travel and recreation in NC

Cover of ACCESS NC GuidebookThe latest edition of ACCESS North Carolina: A Vacation and Travel Guide for People with Disabilities is available just in time for summer fun and travel.

This comprehensive guide provides a wealth of information about the accessibility of a wide variety of travel destinations, parks, museums and other attractions throughout the state of North Carolina.  It is funded by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services  and actually produced by inmates in NC Department of Correction facilities.  Chalk up one for rehabilitation!

ACCESS North Carolina is divided into five regions of the state and there is also a special section with additional related resources.  Using a mix of text and icons, each listing includes general information about each tourist site and specific information about:

  • Parking
  • Types of paths
  • Entrances
  • Restrooms
  • Water fountains and elevators (if available)

Each listing rates (and describes) how accessible the tourist site is for people with physical/mobility challenges.  Where applicable the listing also includes rates how accessible the site is for visitors who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visitors with vision loss, visitors with intellectual disabilities and visitors with other types of disabilities.  Other information that may be important to planning a visit (e.g. dates of operation, cost, etc.) is also included.

Access North Carolina is available at all North Carolina Welcome Centers and on line at:

www.ncdhhs.gov/dvrs/pdf/ACCESS-NC.pdf.

A text-only version is also available at www.ncdhhs.gov/dvrs/pdf/ACCESS-NC.txt.

Free copies can also be obtained from the NC Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development at 1-800-VISIT NC or by calling the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services at 1-800-689-9090 or 919-733-5924 (TDD: Telecommunicative Device for the Deaf).

North Carolina is a beautiful state and there is so much to do and experience from mountain to coast! Take advantage of the summer break from school.  Get a copy of the guide and go out there and access more of North Carolina.  The next time that your child complains,  “I’m bored!” your response can be, “Let’s go!”