Determining Eligibility for Special Education
The East Bridgewater Public School District offers a myriad of supports for students. Your child’s classroom or subject area teacher can be a valuable resource to you if you have questions or concerns about your child’s growth and learning. Guidance counselors and other support staff are resources for all families. Should you suspect your child may have a disability, a referral for an evaluation may be warranted to determine eligibility for special education services. In order to determine eligibility, a focused assessment in the area of the suspected disability is completed by East Bridgewater School personnel.
Initiating a Referral for Special Education Eligibility Determination:
If you have concerns for your child’s growth and learning and suspect that he or she may have a disability, please contact the School Psychologist/Team Chairperson of your child’s building. The Team Chair will contact you to discuss the concerns and offer general education instructional support services. If this discussion results in a request for an evaluation the Team Chairperson/Special Education Secretary will process the required Consent to Test Form. No evaluations can be conducted without signed consent from the child’s parent or guardian.
Once the District has received your signed consent to evaluate your child, the District has 45 school days to conduct the evaluation including all required assessments, to convene a Team meeting to determine if your child is eligible for special education services, and to develop a District Action Plan.
Determination of Eligibility:
To be eligible for Special Education Services a student must be first found to have a disability that is causal to an inability to make effective progress in school.
Team members are required to follow these steps in the eligibility process.
Step 1:Does the Student have one or more of the following types of disabilities?
Disability Types / Definitions:
Autism:A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. The term shall have the meaning given it in federal law at 34 CFR 300.7.
(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of "autism" after age 3 could be diagnosed as having "autism" if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.
Communication Impairment:The capacity to use expressive and/or receptive language is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: speech, such as articulation and/or voice; conveying, understanding, or using spoken, written, or symbolic language. The term may include a student with impaired articulation, stuttering, language impairment, or voice impairment if such impairment adversely affects the student's educational performance.
Developmental Delay:The learning capacity of a young child (3-9 years old) is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: receptive and/or expressive language; cognitive abilities; physical functioning; social, emotional, or adaptive functioning; and/or self-help skills.
Emotional Impairment:As defined under federal law at 34 CFR §300.7, the student exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance: an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The determination of disability shall not be made solely because the student's behavior violates the school's discipline code, because the student is involved with a state court or social service agency, or because the student is socially maladjusted, unless the Team determines that the student has a serious emotional disturbance.
Emotional disturbance is defined as follows:
(i) The term means 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:
(a) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual,
sensory, or health factors.
(b) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal
relationships with peers and teachers.
(c) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal
(d) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
(e) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with
personal or school problems.
(ii) The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.
Health Impairment:A chronic or acute health problem such that the physiological capacity to function is significantly limited or impaired and results in one or more of the following: limited strength, vitality or alertness including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli resulting in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment. The term shall include health impairments due to asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia, if such health impairment adversely affects a student's educational performance.
Intellectual Impairment:The permanent capacity for performing cognitive tasks, functions, or problem solving is significantly limited or impaired and is exhibited by more than one of the following: a slower rate of learning; disorganized patterns of learning; difficulty with adaptive behavior; and/or difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Such term shall include students with mental retardation.
Neurological Impairment:The capacity of the nervous system is limited or impaired with difficulties exhibited in one or more of the following areas: the use of memory, the control and use of cognitive functioning, sensory and motor skills, speech, language, organizational skills, information processing, affect, social skills, or basic life functions. The term includes students who have received a traumatic brain injury.
Physical Impairment:The physical capacity to move, coordinate actions, or perform physical activities is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: physical and motor tasks; independent movement; performing basic life functions. The term shall include severe orthopedic impairments or impairments caused by congenital anomaly, cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures if such impairment adversely affects a student's educational performance.
Sensory Impairment-The term shall include the following:
1. Hearing- The capacity to hear, with amplification, is limited, impaired, or absent and results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in hearing acuity tasks; difficulty with oral communication; and/or difficulty in understanding auditorally-presented information in the education environment. The term includes students who are deaf and students who are hard-of -hearing.
2. Vision- The capacity to see, after correction, is limited, impaired, or absent and
results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in visual acuity tasks; difficulty with written communication; and/or difficulty with understanding information presented visually in the education environment. The term includes students who are blind and students with limited vision.
3. Deaf-Blind- Concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of
which causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs
Specific Learning Disability:The term shall have the meaning given in federal law at 34 C.F.R. §300.7 and §300.541.
Specific learning disability is defined as follows:
(i) General. The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
(ii) Disorders not included. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Sec. §300.541 Criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability: A Team may determine that a child has a specific learning disability if the child does not achieve commensurate with his or her age and ability levels in one or more of the areas listed below, if provided with learning experiences appropriate for the child’s age and ability levels.
·Basic Reading Skills
Please Note:The District has authority to use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as part of the evaluation procedures (See NCLB for definition of “scientific, research-based intervention”). Response to Intervention Model (RTI).
Extra steps are required when a specific learning disability is suspected:Federal regulation requires additional steps in the evaluation process if the Team suspects a student of having a specific learning disability. The Team Chair must ensure that at least one classroom observation of the child has occurred, is documented in writing, and is used in determining the existence of SLD. Additionally theSpecific Learning Disability Eligibility forms must be completed by the Team Chair and signed by all team members. Dissenting members must submit written reports to the Team Chair.
Step 2: Is the student making effective progress in school?
2a. Team judges whether a student is making effective progress in School: The Team must make a judgment as to whether the student is making effective progress in the general education program. To do so, the Team must determine whether the student has:
Made documented growth, with or without accommodations, in knowledge and skills acquisition including social/emotional development, the learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts Curriculum, and the curriculum of the District.
Made growth according to the chronological age, the developmental expectations, and the individual educational potential of the child.
When considering if the student has made effective progress, the Team must specifically look at whether the disability is causal to an inability to make progress.
2b. Team judges whether the lack of progress is a result of the disability:Team must look at the evaluation results to see whether the lack of progress is a result of the disability or a result of other factors. Only if the Team determines the lack of progress is connected to a disability may the Team continue to discuss a possible finding of special education eligibility. According to state and federal regulations,a student may not be found eligible solely because the student is unable to follow the school discipline code, has limited English proficiency, social maladjustment, or has lacked reading or math instruction. These reasons may become part of the Team’s deliberations, but the essential finding of the Team must be that the lack of progress is, at least in part, a result of the disability/disabilities.
2c. Team judges whether the student requires specially designed instruction: After there has been a determination of a disability, the Team must remember that the final question to ask is:“Does the student require specially designed instruction in order to make progress?” Specially designed instruction is a modification not regularly provided for students in the general education program. Specially designed instruction includes modifications that affect content, delivery of instruction, methodology, and/or performance criteria and are necessary to assist the student in participating and learning. Specially designed instruction is an absolute requirement for students found eligible for special education. Related services necessary to access the general curriculum are considered special education and may be provided alone or in combination with specially designed instruction. If the student requires only accommodations, then that student is not eligible for special education. Accommodations are typically provided by general educators within the general education environment. Preferential seating, pencil grip use, or cooperative learning strategies are examples of these kinds of typical accommodations. Accommodations do not involve modifying the material content, but do allow students to receive information in a more effective manner.
Step 3: Determination of Eligibility:
3a.If a student is found eligible for special education, an IEP must be developed. In most cases, development of the IEP will occur within a single meeting after the determination of eligibility has been made.
3b. A Team may also make a finding of no eligibility.If the student does not have a disability, if the student does not show a lack of progress, if the student does show a lack of progress but it is not due to a disability, or if the student does not require special education, then the Team should make a finding of no eligibility. However, as a matter of good educational practice, the Team should reasonably discuss the appropriate next steps to ensure that the District, through regular education options, addresses any identified problem or concern.
Parents have the right to appeal any eligibility determination to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA), including a finding of no eligibility. Parents may contact the Bureau directly.
Step 4: Parent/Guardian Satisfaction:
The Team Chair should check for a parent’s understanding of the evaluation data and ask if they are satisfied with the evaluations. If parents disagree with a particular school assessment, parents can exercise their due process rights (See Parent’s Notice of Procedural Safeguards).