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Transportation and the IEP

School BusIn North Carolina, traditional public schools usually offer transportation to all students who live a certain distance away from the school that they attend (i.e., outside the “walk zone”). The majority of school-age children with disabilities in those public schools use the same transportation options as their typically developing peers.  However, some students with disabilities require something a little different to be transported to and from school safely and appropriately. Like most matters related to students with disabilities, the details determine how things are handled.

Some students require a seat belt, harness or a car seat for stability or safety. Others may need preferential seating near the bus driver or other adult. There are students who must be transported in a climate-controlled vehicle. Some need constant monitoring due to health conditions. In some situations, it might be necessary to change the pick-up and drop off location. It is possible to make any of these adjustments and still have the student ride a regular school bus with their typical peers. Accommodations like these should be documented on the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) in the section for supplementary aids and services.

Changes that take a student with a disability off the regular school bus will usually involve Transportation as a related service. A related service is a developmental, corrective or supportive service required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.

As a related service, Transportation includes:

  • Travel to and from school and between schools;
  • Travel in and around school buildings; and
  • Specialized equipment (such as special or adapted buses, lifts and ramps), if required               to provide special transportation for a child with a disability.    (34 CFR 300.34; NC 1500-2.27)

There is no list that includes all possible options for what transportation can look like as a related service. It could mean a specialized van service, or reimbursing parents for mileage when they transport the child to and from school. It could mean using a golf cart to transport a student across a large school campus. Of course, it could also mean the classic “short bus” that carries students with disabilities on an alternate route.

Whether it is included on the IEP as a related service or an accommodation, the specific needs of the student should be described in clear detail. This will help avoid problems as the student moves from one school or school year to the next. As always, the IEP can be changed if the student’s transportation needs shift over time.

It is worth noting that some students with Section 504 Accommodation Plans also have special transportation needs. The range of possible options for meeting those needs is almost as broad as it is for students that qualify for special education services, even though schools do not receive any extra funding for those students.

Be informed before giving consent

cheerful young brunette business woman customer inviting to sign contract

When it comes to special education, there are several points at which parent consent is required before things can move forward. Some school teams do a better job than others at making sure that parents fully understand the documents that they are asked to sign and what they mean for their child. Before you sign anything, make sure that you have all of the information you need to make a good decision. You have a right to have this information provided to you in a way that you can understand. This could mean using an interpreter or having documents translated into your primary language.

Evaluation:

Parent consent is required before schools can do any testing on a child that goes beyond what they normally do with all students. When a child is being evaluated for special education, the Consent for Evaluation form should list every area that the evaluation will include, such as Psychological, Educational, Motor or Speech-Language. Each of those areas can involve a variety of assessments. Parents have a right to more details about their child’s evaluation.  For example, will the psychological evaluation include social-emotional/behavior and/or intellectual assessments? Will the motor evaluation focus on fine or gross (large) motor skills, or both? Will the educational evaluation only look at the academic skill area where there is the greatest concern, or will it assess all of the basic skill areas so that academic strengths can also be documented and other possible weaknesses identified? It is better to ask questions before giving your permission, than be surprised or disappointed after the evaluation is completed.

Release of Information:

Sometimes parents are asked to give permission for schools to get information from professionals who work with your child outside of school. Make sure that you read any release form carefully so that you know what kind of information is being shared and under what conditions. Sometimes the school may only need to have your child’s doctor complete a form, or to get a written evaluation report from a private psychologist. There may be other situations where the school nurse may want to be able to talk to a medical provider to clarify details about the child’s healthcare needs while at school. A good guideline is to make sure that the school is able to get the information that is needed to serve your child, while still protecting your right to privacy.

Consent for Special Education Services:

Schools cannot provide special education services to a child without parent consent. Parents are only asked to give written consent for special education services one time unless the child moves into another school system. That one consent form gives permission for the school system to provide the services and supports on the child’s IEPs for as long as they continue to be eligible for special education. Parents do not have to consent to each separate service. In fact, parents cannot pick and choose which services they are willing to accept. They must work with other members of the IEP to create an educational program that is appropriate for their child. If necessary, there are many ways to try to resolve special education disagreements.

Providing consent is a choice. The very fact that you are asked to provide permission for something means that you have the option of saying “yes” or “no.” You also have the option of revoking, or cancelling, your consent if you change your mind later. However, you should make sure that you understand what will happen if you revoke your consent and what it could mean for your child. It is best to become as informed as possible before making any major decision about your child. Their education is no exception.

Can my child keep OT if we drop his other special education services?

questions-and-answers

Question:

My preschooler has an IEP because of developmental delays. He gets one session of occupational therapy (OT) each week and speech therapy twice a week. A special education teacher also comes to our house twice a week to work with him. I was told that the speech and OT would not continue if the special education instruction was stopped at my request. Is that true?

Answer:

For most children, services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy are considered to be Related Services. Here is the official* definition:

“Related services means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”

Technically, a child does not need a related service if there is no special education service for them to benefit from. This is why stopping the special education instruction would cause your child to also loose the speech and OT services. This does not mean that your child is magically “cured” and no longer has delays in those skill areas.  It does, however, mean that the IEP team will probably not agree to an Individualized Education Program that leaves out the specially designed instruction that qualified your child for services in the first place.

Please note: For children whose category of eligibility for special education is Speech or Language Impairment, speech therapy is their specially designed instruction, not a related service.

If you have specific concerns about the special education service that your child is getting, it would probably be best to express those concerns to see if an acceptable solution can be worked out. For example, if you feel that the instruction is not benefiting your child, or perhaps is focused on the wrong skills, this matter can be discussed with the IEP team. It might be possible to make changes to the annual goals or other sections of the IEP  to make services more effective or more useful. If you have a problem with a particular teacher who works with your child, this would be considered a personnel matter that you can discuss with the Preschool Coordinator for your school system.

If your concerns can be adequately addressed, it should be possible for your child to continue to receive the complete package of services and supports that his IEP team determined were needed for him to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). That would be a real win-win situation.