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PALS January 2020 - New to the State/District, Evaluations, Transitions, ESY, FCASD Superintendent

PALS Meeting Minutes

January 29, 2020 9:15 a.m.

Eat'n Park - Waterworks Mall

849 Freeport Road Pittsburgh, PA 15215

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. Today's meeting is a great example of how we can help each other through sharing our questions and experiences with one another.

New to State / District

Moving to a new state, school district, private to public school, or just being new to Special Education in general can be trying when managing your child's needs. Familiarizing yourself with the twists and turns of Special Educaiton placement can be overwhelming. Here are a few links to organizations in the Pittsburgh area that are good starting points:

Since 2005, the PEAL Center has been committed to serving families and professionals across Pennsylvania. Today PEAL works with families, youth and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs to help them understand their rights and advocate for themselves. Through our unwavering commitment to inclusion and our guiding values, we empower families and individuals to be included in their home schools and access high quality, coordinated physical and behavioral health care. PEAL’s services are provided at no charge to families as they are funded by private donations and federal, state, and private grants.

Familylinks serves more than 11,000+ of western Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens each year, transforming lives through a wide range of vital services. For a woman in recovery from addiction, we provide a safe place to grow strong — with her children by her side. For a child with autism struggling to succeed at school, we provide a classroom that meets his needs and enables him to thrive. For a teenager with nowhere to stay, we provide a place to sleep and a chance to learn the skills needed to find a job and a permanent home.

Familylinks formed in 2000, the product of a merger between two of the Pittsburgh area’s most trusted human-service organizations, The Whale’s Tale and Parent-Child Guidance Center. The roots of the agency stretch back over 50 years. Today, with offices in East Liberty, Banksville and Shadyside and facilities throughout the area, Familylinks serves clients from 12 counties in the western Pennsylvania region.

Services range from outpatient mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment to supports coordination for those with intellectual disabilities and education for children whose behavioral or developmental health issues keep them from thriving in a traditional school setting. Familylinks delivers unique services, like mobile therapy for older adults in Allegheny County who aren’t able to travel to a traditional outpatient office for counseling. We administer the Caregivers First Initiative, a free service for caregivers of older adults who need help balancing their caregiving work with everyday life. We reach out to local schools with our prevention education programs and our school-based mental health services.

The Bureau of Special Education works collaboratively with educators, schools, agencies, and other stakeholders across Pennsylvania to ensure students have access to quality and meaningful education supports, services, and opportunities.

Working with the Bureau of Special Education (BSE), Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), PaTTAN provides a full array of professional development and technical assistance targeted to improving student results. This professional development and technical assistance takes many forms in order to meet the varied needs of PaTTAN’s constituents. Week-long summer institutes, ongoing professional development series, webinars, on-site assistance, and individual student or teacher supports are some of the means by which PaTTAN provides support to schools.

Private Facebook Group for Special Needs Parenting, Support, Humor, Resources. Great place to ask questions and share experiences with 800+ other Western Pennsylvania Special Needs Parents. Simply send them a request to be included.

List of Educational Advocates on our Resource Page (send us others not on this list).

Visit our Resource Page for over 100 other organizations.

Some points to remember:

You can request an evaluation at any time. Always make your request in writing. Remember to be specific about the areas you want to be evaluated. Think, reading, speech, writing, math, physical, attention, organization, socialization, etc.

YOU are your child's advocate and YOU are a member of your child's IEP Team and can request an IEP Meeting at any time. Always make your request in writing. IEPs require an annual review, however you do not have to wait for the annual meeting if you feel changes are needed.

Just because a GOAL in the IEP is met does not mean the growth in that area is fulfilled. A new GOAL in the same area may be appropriate.

Use the data to support your point. You have (or have access to with a request) your child's report cards, IEP progress reports, classroom tests, classwork, school and district wide assessments, state assessments, etc.

Do not limit your input to the "space provided" when completing Evaluation/Re-Evaluation and IEP/504 Plan "Parent Questionares" or "Parental Input" areas. Write as much or as little as you want. This is a place to express your concerns, ideas, and requests. It is a great place to express what you experience and see at home. It is also your evidence (if ever needed) for proof that you expressed your concerns or made requests that went unanswered or unaddressed.

When addressing a concern, use the Department of Educations verbage. Speak their language. Research the specific area utilizing the DOE's websites to work toward getting what you believe your child needs.

IEP Transition Meeting

Parents voiced their concerns about feeling as if they were left to figure out who their child's Special Education Support Teacher is in middle and high school. Others noticed these teachers are now being called "Case Managers". With the vast changes families face in transtions between elementary to middle school and middle to high school, it would be comforting to know the direct contact information for the support teacher responsible for your child prior to the start of the school year.

As the subject was raised as it related to IEP Transtion Meetings, generally these meetings are held toward the end of a school year when a student is moving from Pre-K to Kindergarten, Elementary to Middle School, Middle to High School, and High School to Post-Secondary (multi-year process). These meetings often include staff members from the outgoing to incoming institutions and focus on bringing the latter up-to-speed or in the case of high school to post-secondary preparing for independent adulthood.

Specifics for Early Intervention (Pre-K) to School Age Programs (Kindergarten+)

The difference in supports between early intervention and elementary school can feel like an alarmingly drastic change. This meeting will outline those changes and new goals. Read more from PaTTAN by downloading their most recent publication on the subject and on (digital) page 31 or PaTTAN's Special Education Question & Answer Compendium.

Specifics for Secondary Transition

is the process of preparing students for adult life after they leave high school. Transition planning begins at age 14, or younger if determined appropriate by the  IEP  team, as students consider their goals for the time after graduation through career awareness exploration activities. The transition process continues through high school as academic instruction and community experiences help clarify and support students’ goals. The entire process is based on individual student’s needs, taking into account each student’s strengths, preferences, and interests. To learn more about the Secondary Transtion (Meeting) Process (life after high school) visit PaTTAN's STP page.

ESY: Extended School Year Services

It's that time of year again! We have discussed ESY numerous times over this past year. We referenced these meetings in today's conversation on the subject.

October 2019 Meeting Minutes with Education Civil Rights Attorney Nancy Potter

May 2019 Meeting Minutes - parent questions about qualifying for ESY

March 2019 Meeting Minutes - parent voice concerns over ESY

The Peal Center just came out with the following article;

Deliquency Notifications

The recent experience of one parent is a reminder that even if a doctor has provided a letter of reference about a student's medical condition interfering with their ability to attend school regularly, a doctor's notice is still required to excuse specific days missed.

In this specific case we were talking about the Fox Chapel Area School District. The FCASD Attendance Policy states, "The following students may be temporarily excused from the requirements of attendance at district schools: (3.)School age children unable to attend school upon recommendation of the school physician and a psychiatrist or school psychologist, or both, and with approval of the Secretary of Education." For further information and other policies visit FCASD School Board webpage.

The following information is from 24 P.S. §§ 13-1326 – 13-1354: Compulsory School Attendance, Unlawful Absences, and School Attendance Improvement Conferences.

"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)." For more information and to read the complete doucment visit PDE.

For more information about Pennsylvania's attendance requirements as it relates to Homebound Instruction visit PDE's Homebound Instruction webpage.

For more information about Pennsylvania's attendance requirements vist PDE's Guidelines for Reporting Regular Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

FCASD Superintendent Search

FCASD School Board member Marybeth Dadd joined our meeting and share the following flyer. If you are unable to attend a meeting in person you may complete the online survey. To limit duplicate data, please only fill out the survey if you are unable to attend the meeting.

Reference Material

Need information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania? The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.

Next Meeting: February 26, 2020 9:15 a.m. Roots of Faith 800 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15215 currently scheduled as an Open Forum.

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