Thu, Dec. 05

Law demands no child, even special needs, be left behind

November marked the 28th anniversary of Public Law 94-142, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act or what is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

This act assures that students with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in public education.

The 24th annual report to Congress on the implementation of the IDEA reports that schools are providing services to more students, with highly qualified teachers. Data shows that the nation’s special education teachers are highly experienced, averaging 14.3 years of teaching experience. In addition to this, 59 percent of special education teachers have a master’s degree, compared to 49 percent of regular education teachers.

During the 2002-03 school year, Arizona reported 103,488 children served under IDEA, ages 3-21.

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District provides services to approximately 250 students with disabilities in pre-school through eighth grade. The district participates in regular Child Find activities to ensure identification of students in need of service.

The intent of Child Find is that all children from birth through age 21 with delays or disabilities are identified, located and evaluated to receive the supports and services they need. In order to receive services, a child must be evaluated to confirm they have a delay or disability that falls under state definitions. In addition to this, it must be determined that the child has a need for special education.

Birth to 3 Years Old: The Arizona Early Intervention Program or AzEIP is a statewide system of services and supports for families of infants and toddlers, from birth to three years of age, who have disabilities or developmental delays. The purpose of early intervention is to help families help their children develop to their full potential. Parents in Yavapai County can contact Barbara Kramer at (928) 776-9285 or toll free at 1-800-841-5201.

Three through 5 (not in kindergarten): All children develop at their own rate. There are established levels in development expected for children at certain ages and stages. Children are screened to check the areas of development that affect learning such as thinking skills, physical development, vision, hearing, social and adaptive behavior and speech/language development. Concerns regarding children in this age group should be directed to the school district in which the parent resides.

Kindergarten through 21 years of age: Schools complete a screening for all newly enrolled students within 45 days of enrollment which considers the same areas of learning mentioned above. Typically, schools will hold child study team (CST) meetings to review records and discuss areas of concern as well as document specific interventions and the outcome of those interventions. These concerns can come from students, parents and/or school personnel. Parents are involved throughout this process through meeting and/or contact with the classroom teacher. If recommended interventions have not proven to be successful for the student, a referral for evaluation may be initiated. Special education services for children in this age group provide specialized instruction and services to assist children in the educational environment.

If you have concerns about a child’s progress in school or one of the developmental areas, please contact the school in which the child is enrolled or where the parent resides.

Patricia Osborne is the director of Special Services for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.

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