Special Education Personnel and Procedures

By Jennifer Oden, Loyola Marymount Los Angeles, Masters in School Psychology
Image of Special Education Staff for Student IEPs and more

Special Education Personnel and Procedures

Acquiring knowledge about Special Education Personnel and Procedures can feel rather ominous, particularly for parents and families members who are becoming acquainted with special education for the first time. Here is an simplistic, yet informative, break-down of the world of special education, it's numerous personnel, and the procedures one might encounter when navigating the special education sector. 

Who are the Personnel Within Special Education?

Professionals Who Work in Special Education:
  • Special Ed Teachers- Must be highly qualified as established by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Provide day-to-day instruction that can be remedial (re-teaching) developmental or strategic. One who moves between schools is called an itinerant special education teacher.
  • Bilingual SE teachers- teachers who are knowledgeable about both SE and bilingual education.
  • Early Childhood SE- or early interventionists. Can work in the home of the young child. Focus is on recognizing speech, cognitive, and behavioral concerns.

Related Services:

  • Speech/ Language Pathologist- help address reading, hearing, pronunciation problems (‘wabbit’ for “rabbit”) and also can help deaf students or mute students.
  • School Psychologist- Licensed to give test and assessments to determine whether a student is eligible to receive special Ed. Services.
  • School Counselor- The problem solvers of the school. Work with all students, both special education and general education. Might work with entire class, groups of peers or one-on-one.
  • Social Worker- professionals who coordinate the efforts of educators, families and outside agency personnel so ensure that students receive the supports they need.
  • School Nurse- screens children in the areas of hearing, vision, ensuring immunization records are on file, routine assistance for ill students and educating kids about health.
  • Educational Interpreter- understand the field of deafness and the likely needs of students who are deaf.

Others Who Work in Special Education:

  • General Education teachers- Collaboration between special education and general education is very important.
  • Paraeducators- or paraprofessionals or teaching assistants or aides, are able to assist under the direction of a teacher of other professional.
  • Parents- of all the people you work with as a special education teacher, no one is more important than them!
  • Additional Highly Specialized Service Providers- for example professionals who work with students with a very specific need… not often seen. This is why collaboration is SO important!

How do students become Eligible to receive Special Education Services?

Initial Consideration of Student Problems:
  • General education teachers usually express their concerns, tries several strategies, discusses the problem with other school staff and contacts parents. The process proceeds from there…
  • Intervention Assistance- When the general education teacher’s attempts to assist the student fail, other professionals will be involved to help. Depending on the state or local policies, teacher assistant teams or intervention assistance teams are utilized. The team consists of general education teacher, special education teacher, school nurse, speech language pathologist, school psychologist, etc. New intervention ideas are thought up and a date is set to review whether the intervention in working in the future.

RTI: RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION has two main purposes: 1) To ensure that students receive research-proven remediation and other supports as soon as they are identified as having academic difficulties even in kindergarten. 2) To ensure that professionals gather clear data to document the effectiveness of the remedial strategies that have been implemented.

  • RTI involves continuous progress monitoring
  • RTI uses a “three tiered approach” Tier I- General Education, Tier II- more intense intervention planning and team meetings, Tier III- most intense level in which usually the student receive special education.
  • Where RTI is not used (which applies to some schools) a general screening process typically takes place where a general review of struggling students happens and plans to assist the child are formed.
Special Education- Referral and Assessment:
  • Once the decision is made that the student should be considered for special education due to the severity of needs, a more specialized team meets. This is the multidisciplinary team- which includes the parents. Together this team develops the Individual Education Plan (IEP). Parents have the right to a lot of things during this process including, but not limited to:
    • Child to be tested in native language.
    • To be informed in writing about procedures
    • Free services
    • Child to have the least restrictive environment
    • Access to all records
    • Kept informed about student progress
  • Assessment Components- All students are required to receive an assessment to determine there strengths and the areas where there is struggle. These areas of tests and assessments might include:
    • Visual and Hearing Screening
    • Intellectual Ability- IQ test
    • Achievements- individual achievement test is administered, more useful than IQ usually.
    • Social and Behavioral functioning
    • Developmental History- family background and history of illness and disabilities.
    • Other areas as needed
  • Assessment Procedures- assessment instruments must be valid and reliable, administered by a professional, and must take into account the possible impact of the suspected disability. Within 60 of the parents consenting to an evaluation, the multidisciplinary team meets to discuss three things:
    • Whether the student has a disability
    • Whether the disability adversely affect educational performance
    • Whether the student’s needs can be addressed through special education. 
    • The group also meets to put together the IEP and to consider the placement of the child- in what education setting will the student be most successful?
  • Monitoring Students with Disabilities- continuous progress monitoring is very important! Some types of progress checks include:
    • Annual Review- parents, teachers, administrators, and the school psychologist meet to discuss the IEP.
    • Three-Year Reevaluation- every three years the team meets to discuss any alterations that can/should be made regarding the students placement in special education.
    • Addendum IEP - can as often as is necessary, whenever the school or the family members have concerns. 

What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

Members of the IEP Team
  • Parents
  • Special Education Teacher
  • General Education Teacher
  • School Administrator
  • Student- if parents and school staff deem the student's participation appropriate.
  • School District Representative- usually school principal serves here, or a school psychologist
  • Individual who can interpret results of any evaluations- usually the school psychologist
  • Representative from outside agencies providing transition services- for students who are 16 years or older (important for life transitioning).
  • Other people with knowledge or expertise related to the student- keep the rules about who can help out in the IEP process open to others who could be useful.
  • Parents and School can decide who they want to be a part of the IEP.
Required Components of the IEP

The IEP contains a very clear layout of all the important factors that need to be considered and discussed upon placing the student in a Special Education environment. These components include:

  • Present Level of Performance- up to date assessments and test scores
  • Annual Goals
  • Short Term Objectives
  • Special Education and Related Services
  • Supplementary Aids and Services- use of calculators or audio tapes, etc.
  • Assistive Technology
  • Participation with Peers who do not have Disabilities
  • Accommodations for State and District Testing
  • Dates and Places- when and where the service will be provided
  • Transition Service Needs and Transition Services to be Provided
  • Age of Majority- rights of the child are moved from the decision of the parents to the decisions of the child once they reach 18 years old (unless the parent makes an effort to legal conserve the student past the age of 18 years old). 
  • Measurement of Progress

What Services Do Students with Disabilities Receive?

The student’s placement can be changed at any time after the IEP is created, but must be created when an IEP review occurs. The Continuum of Placements refers to the range in options for educating student with disabilities. This continuum includes the following settings:

  • General Education
  • Resource Classes- students are here 21% to 60% of the day.
  • Separate Classes- when students are educated 40% or less of the time in general education classes they are considered to be in separate classes.
  • Separate Schools- a small 2.9% of special education students need this option
  • Residential Facility- 0.7% of students. For example; students who live in group homes, often these students have multiple disabilities.
  • Home or Hospital- 0.5% of students. For example; students who have ongoing medical problems or limited stamina.

Sometimes parents and professional disagree about which special education programs and services should be used for the student. How do we resolve disagreements regarding special education?

  • Dispute Resolution- A meeting that occurs within 15 days of the noticed complaint with the intent to resolve the issue.
  • Mediation- An impartial professional meets with each party to try and find a way for the dispute to be resolves. This is free of charge as established by IDEA.
  • Due Process Hearing- Parents have the right, on behalf of their children, to due process. This refers to a clear set of procedures for making all the critical decisions that are a part of special education. Parents exercise this right when they do not feel their child is getting the education to which their child is entitled.

Other Implications to the Field of Special Education 

  • Shortage of Special Education Teachers: The number of professionals studying to enter the field has not kept in pace with the number of students who need to receive services.
  • Special Education Paperwork: There is often quiet a sizable amount of paperwork and detailed forms involved in the process of earning special education services for students. The process involves referring a student, completing data regarding the student's abilities, assessing the student, and documenting their progress as it is monitored overtime. This can be daunting for special education personnel and parents, but collaboration and communication between home and school are key components in assuring that the paper trail leads somewhere purposeful. 

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