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January 31, 2024 Meeting Minutes - Meds, Truancy, & Getting Started

PALS Meeting Minutes

January 31, 2024 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom


Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.


To Med or Not To Med

The decision to introduce medication into the therapeutic plan of a child is often made with ease when seen as a treatment for diabetes, a virus, or a thyroid condition, to name a small few health concerns. But when faced with ADHD, families are often less likely to incorporate medication. The first thought may be "behavior therapy will do the trick". However, what if medication and behavior therapy are what work together. As one member put it, you would not deprive a diabetic of life changing/saving medication.

The decision is personal. Here are a few articles on the subject:


Truancy and FAPE

Many families face claims of "habitual truancy" by school districts when a student has accumulated ten to fifteen days absent in a school year. There are a multitude of reasons why a student is chronically absent from school. Today we talked about families encouraging the rest of a student's IEP team to develop an accommodation to address absenteeism that results from a disability or medical condition.


For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Education attendance guidelines state:

Schools and nonpublic school must determine whether there is a possibility that a child is truant or chronically absent due to a disability or a medical condition and should consider whether to address this topic in their attendance policies.  A student who is truant or chronically absent for health-related reasons may be eligible for protections under IDEA or Section 504. If a student with a disability is truant or chronically absent, the school should convene the student’s IEP team to determine whether revisions to the student’s IEP are necessary or appropriate. In those instances, the administrator responsible for handling truancy-related matters should be a participating member of the IEP team process. A student with a disability who is truant or chronically absent for health-related reasons must still produce a valid excuse for any absence, which may include a written excuse from a physician.  However, schools must recognize that students’ disabilities may present unique circumstances that might require consideration of other statutory or regulatory provisions or attendance policies. That is, students’ federal and state law rights, such as those provided under IDEA, Section 504, or the ADA, may require the school to otherwise diverge from its general attendance policy in order to ensure that all students with a disability are provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Regardless of the school district's attendance policy, they cannot withhold a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) from a student, opening the door to developing IEP goals and/or accommodations focused on attendance.


The needs of every student are different and the goal or accommodation that works for one student, may not work for another, even if they share a disability or medical condition; motivation may vary. Examples of attendance related IEP goals and accommodations from A Day In Our Shoes:

  • Goals

    • Increase in Overall Attendance: The student will increase overall attendance from the current percentage to the desired percentage by the end of the IEP period.

    • Reduced Tardiness: The student will reduce tardiness from the current frequency to the desired frequency over a specific time period as measured by school attendance records.

    • Improved Transition to School: The student will demonstrate improved readiness for school in the morning routine, arriving at school by a specific time without assistance in a specified percentage of observed instances.

    • Implementation of Attendance Strategies: The student will consistently utilize attendance strategies and accommodations to enhance regular school attendance.

    • Parent/Guardian Involvement: The parent/guardian will actively support [student’s name] in achieving regular attendance by reinforcing the importance of attendance and assisting with morning routines.

    • Decreased Absences During Critical Times: The student will reduce absences during critical academic periods, such as test days or project due dates, from the current frequency to the desired frequency.

    • Attendance Support Team Meetings: The IEP team will conduct regular meetings to assess the student’s attendance progress and make necessary adjustments to strategies and interventions.

    • Improved Transportation Coordination: The school will coordinate transportation services to address barriers affecting the student’s attendance, ensuring reliable and timely transportation to and from school.

  • Accommodations

    • Flexible Scheduling:

  • Allow for a flexible schedule that accommodates the student’s attendance challenges, such as modified start or end times.

    • Attendance Contracts:

  • Develop an attendance contract outlining specific attendance expectations, consequences, and rewards to motivate the student.

    • Modified Workload:

  • Adjust the amount of work assigned to the student, especially during periods when attendance is a challenge.

    • Alternative Learning Environments:

  • Provide opportunities for the student to participate in alternative learning environments, such as online courses or home-based instruction, when attendance is difficult.

    • Use of Technology:

  • Implement technology tools for remote participation in class discussions, video conferencing, or accessing course materials online.

    • Attendance Monitoring:

  • Establish a system for monitoring attendance and communicating regularly with parents or guardians to address any issues promptly.

    • Behavioral Supports:

  • Implement a positive behavior support plan to reinforce attendance-related behaviors and address any underlying issues contributing to attendance challenges.

    • Counseling Services:

  • Offer access to counseling services, either within the school or through external resources, to address emotional or behavioral factors impacting attendance.

    • Transportation Assistance:

  • Explore options for providing transportation assistance if attendance issues are related to transportation barriers.

    • Social Skills Training:

  • Provide social skills training to address any social or interpersonal challenges that may be contributing to attendance difficulties.

    • Peer Support:

  • Facilitate the involvement of a peer mentor or buddy who can provide support and encouragement for attendance.

    • Home-School Communication Plan:

  • Develop a communication plan between the school and the student’s family to address attendance concerns collaboratively.

    • Modified Grading:

  • Adjust grading criteria if necessary, taking into consideration the challenges the student faces related to attendance.

    • Extended Time for Assignments:

  • Allow for extended time on assignments to accommodate the student’s irregular attendance.

    • Individualized Instruction:

  • Offer individualized instruction or tutoring to help the student catch up on missed content.

Additional resources:


Ready, Set, Go!

Taking the first step in the world of Special Education services in public schools can be scary and stressful. As you start you will be met with the phrases, "It gets better." and "It gets easier." Although these ideas are hard to believe in the moment, they are true. As you, the caregiver, continue down the path of Special Education services you become a stronger advocate for your child. Every step represents a new experience and a new chance to learn.


The first step is requesting an evaluation for services. This can be a verbal request or a written request. If you verbalize this request, send a followup email or letter summarizing the conversation (who, what, when, etc..). This will be the first communication item you keep a copy of either hardcopy (get a big binder) or digital is up to you. This is a great time to prepare to organize things. For instance, maybe there are examples of school work that you think will be helpful in demonstrating need.


Once you have made your request for an evaluation, here are some resources to get you started while you wait.


Parental Concerns: 

You will want to begin writing out your parental concerns to be included in the Evaluation Report. You will want to provide evidence to support your concerns; I.e., “While receiving Ds and Fs on classwork and assessments, our child demonstrates understanding of the material when we work with them one-on-one at home.” You can go further by explaining what the one-on-one experience entailed; I.e., more time, dictation, parent reading aloud to child etc. You will receive a Parent Input form which will have very little space to write in. Do not worry about the length. All of your concerns and experiences are valued and valid. Break these notes up into the sections that you will see on the Parent Input page and type them up. Don't worry about the length. This is your chance to have everything you observe and experience on the record. See sections below:


Academic Strengths and Needs

Math

Reading

Writing

Social Studios

Science


Academic Characteristics

This is things like underachiever, overachiever, responsible, creative. You can also include things like task readiness, executive functioning, habits.


Sustained Interests In and Out of School 

Extracurricular activities, sports active and passive, theatre, gaming, dancing, STEAM, etc.


Social. Interactions

Self-Esteem, confidence, peer interactions, adult interaction, communication style, 


Identified Life/Career Goals

The “I want to be ______ when I grow up.” statement or similar.


Education Support Program Suggestions

What areas do you the parent do you suggest your child receive support in.


Receiving Mental Health Services

List any mental health services the child is receiving, how long, type, specific reason, etc this would wraparound services


Student Resides

With whom the student lives.


Important Information from the Family

Any go to information you can provide, I.e., exhaustion after school, multi-step directions, task avoidance, stemming, your expectation of good communication between home and school, etc.


Community Services

MA, SSI, Snap


Medical History

Anything that is relevant or simply write “generally unremarkable”.


Student Wears

Any thing that the child may wear as an aid; glasses, hearing aids, a brace or splint of any type; include anything that may have been used in the pass as a historical perspective. 


Other Health Needs

Allergies, Anxiety, Migraines, Asthma, etc


Home and Community Activity Involvement

Camps, classes, volunteering, etc.


Observed Behaviors at Home and Effective Interventions at Home

S= Cooperates

A= Has assigned chores

A = Interacts and plays with peers

S = Follows rules at home

S = Does assigned chores

A = Maintains friendships


School Attendance this Year

Utilizing the information in Powerschool, provide an “As of” date and then include any days tardy, absent days, or half days, etc. Give reason if relevant. 


Special Education Timeline:

Know the Special Education Timelines. This is the law of the land. You should not expect anything to arrive until the last possible day listed on the timeline. For example, Law 14.123(c) states, "When a parent orally requests an evaluation, the local educational agency (LEA) must provide a copy of the Permission to Evaluate-Evaluation Request form to the parent.” 10 calendar days. So they have 10 days from the date requested. 


PEAL CENTER:

Join the PEAL Advocacy Academy IEP. This program is free, virtual, and self-paced IEP course designed for families. We frequently recommend families reach out to PEAL for a variety of Special Education related needs, resources, and training. They are our go to!!


Procedural Safeguards Notice: 

The school MUST provide you a copy of the PSN. You can get a jump on your reading here. The Procedural Safeguards Notice includes a full explanation of all the rights available to parents of a child with a disability ages 3-21 when their child has been referred for or is receiving special education services. 


Group Suggestions on Getting Started

We asked the group what suggestions they would give to a family just beginning the process of seeking support services from a public school. Here are some suggestions from the front lines:

  • Know your rights and be prepared to passionately advocate for your child.

  • Emphasize what your child CANNOT do one their own at home.

    • Think executive functioning skills; age appropriate time management, routines, organization, etc.

    • Think self care; age appropriate bathing, brushing teeth, dressing, tie shoes, work zipper, buttons, and snaps, etc.

    • Think homework; ability to do work alone regardless of subject area or in specific subject areas, etc.

  • Be prepared to give suggestions and ideas for accommodations.

    • You know your child best. You know what works at home and what doesn't. You have researched your child's challenges in an effort to support them. It is very likely that YOU know a great way the school can provide support with a particular accommodation.

    • Remember, special education teachers and administrators, school educational psychologists, etc may not have worked with a student with your child's specific needs.

  • Emphasize what supports work at home.

    • Let the other members of your child's IEP team know what works at home. This can be routines, expectations, supports, etc.

  • Get everything in writing and keep a record.

    • It's always a great idea follow up a verbal conversation with an email summarizing the conversation. Additionally, keep a record of all communications on a yearly basis along with report cards, progress reports, and classwork that provides an opportunity to be used as an example.

 

Next Meeting: February 28, 2024 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom.

**Log-in and Password for this and all upcoming meetings will be sent in all upcoming newsletters. Become a subscriber in the footer of this web page.

 

SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings are held virtually.


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