Future Reflections  Winter/Spring 2007

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The Pop-Up IEP

by Carrie Gilmer

Just before Christmas 2005, Barbara Cheadle approached me with an offer. The National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities (NCLID) director, Dr. Kay A. Ferrell, wanted the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) to collaborate with them on a project. The project was to develop content for a parent-friendly Web site to help parents of blind children with the individualized education program (IEP) process. Would I, Barbara asked, coordinate the effort on behalf of the NOPBC? The format, she explained, would be the same as the one NCLID had used for their Web pop-up IEP for parents of children with deafness. A parent organization had drafted that content, and NCLID now wanted a parent organization to help them do a pop-up IEP addressing the needs of blind kids.

I took a look at this pop-up IEP, and even though it had been written for parents of deaf kids, my initial reaction was, “Wow! I wish I had had this for myself ten years ago.” It was not your usual Q and A format. It was different. It had the beauty of simplicity; it was simple to understand, simple to use, and simple to apply.

It was an offer with great potential, and we couldn’t refuse. So, after nine months of intense effort our pop-up IEP “baby” was born. We are now proud to announce the launching of a practical, comprehensive, and powerful help in navigating the annual IEP process. It is called the BVI Pop-Up IEP and it is located online at <http://nclid.unco.edu/nclid/bvi/>. As explained above, the site is sponsored by the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities (NCLID), a project of the University of Northern Colorado. The content was developed under contract by NOPBC officers and board members who solicited input from parents of blind children from all over the nation. Dr. Kay Ferrell, director of the NCLID, supervised the project and Ann Sebald, NCLID program coordinator, shepherded it through to completion.

We believe the pop-up IEP offers parents and advocates of blind children an unprecedented tool that is invaluable in strengthening their efforts to improve the education of blind children. Here’s how it works.

As I said, it is not in a Q and A format. Instead, the user is presented with a selection of common conversation-stopper type of statements that parents of blind kids might hear at an IEP meeting. You know, the kind of statement that either leaves you speechless or struggling through emotional shock to come back with a rational, well-reasoned response. Then, after you select a statement, you get a matter-of-fact, non-blaming, and factual explanation of why this statement is a problem. The next section takes you to sample responses that you can make to this statement. These responses are respectful, courteous, yet assertive. Next, is a page with the specific sections of the special education law that back up the responses. Finally, resources and information are given where appropriate. When possible, we tried to include pro-active steps that parents can take to avoid or help solve these problem situations.

With permission of the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities, we are including a reprint of two of the problem statement segments from the BVI Pop-Up IEP at the conclusion of this article.

But first, a word of thanks. We in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children applaud the efforts of the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities and its staff, especially Dr. Kay Ferrell and Ann Sebald, to help parents join the IEP process as empowered and informed members of the team. We hope that the collaboration between NCLID and the NOPBC is the harbinger of many more joint ventures between consumers and service providers in the years to come.

Here now is statement number three and statement number nine from the BVI Pop-Up IEP, reprinted with permission of the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities, from <http://nclid.unco.edu/nclid/bvi/>:

 

Pop-Up IEP for Blindness and Visual Impairment
Collaborative effort between the
National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities
and the
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Copyright © 2006
National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities
Permission to use for educational purposes granted.

3. “We think the cane could pose a hazard to other students. We’d like your child to leave it at the door or in the locker.”

Why is this statement problematic?
The proper use of the long, white cane will not cause a hazard but can actually prevent hazardous situations from occurring. The cane identifies a child as having a visual impairment so that others can respond appropriately. Like vision, the cane provides a preview of what is out in front and enables the child to detect objects, identify drop offs and other changes in elevation, and walk confidently at a normal speed. Furthermore, the cane helps the child develop spatial concepts and environmental awareness. The child must be taught to take personal responsibility for the cane and use it appropriately for safe and independent travel.

Possible Responses for Parents/Advocates

1. “According to Ellie’s formal orientation and mobility evaluation the cane is a necessary tool for her safe and independent travel. In fact, she is building life-long skills that will enable her to negotiate a variety of environments independently.”

2. “Jan needs her cane in the same way that a student in a wheelchair needs wheels or a student with myopia needs eyeglasses. She uses it for safe and independent mobility. Not allowing her to use her cane in the halls and classroom will compromise not only her safety but also her understanding of the environment. In addition, her IEP cannot be considered implemented if she is not allowed to use her cane.”

3. “Jack’s cane is a respectable and necessary tool that enables him to move about safely, independently, and age appropriately. For example, it would be very demeaning and inconvenient if Jack had to wait for someone to ‘take’ him to the bathroom. Jack has been trained in the proper use of his cane and should be expected to use it properly. The orientation and mobility specialist would be glad to discuss any concerns you have."

Federal Regulations

Section 300.105(a) Assistive technology.
(a) Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in Sec. Sec. 300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s--

(1) Special education under Sec. 300.36;
(2) Related services under Sec. 300.34; or
(3) Supplementary aids and services under Sec. Sec. 300.38 and 300.114(a)(2)(ii).

IDEA 2004, (Public Law 108-446):
Section 601(c)(5)
Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by

(H) supporting the development and use of technology, including assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities

Section 602(1)(A)
‘Assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment or product system… that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability…

(26) ‘Related services’ means… orientation and mobility services…
(33) ‘Supplemental aids and services’ means aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate…

Proactive Solutions for Parents

9. “Sorry, our school is not equipped with and does not have the money for the assistive technology your child needs.”

Why is this statement problematic?
Many school districts are struggling with shrinking budgets. However, by law the school district must provide your child access to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). This includes equal access to the same learning materials and activities as their sighted peers. Students needing specialized technology such as adapted computers with Braille display, screen magnification, large print software, speech output or tactile graphics are entitled to these adaptations by law. The school district is responsible for the cost of the needed technology.

Possible Responses for Parents/Advocates

1. “Joshua is currently unable to use the classroom computer. He must have the same opportunity to access the information and technology as his sighted peers. I would like to request an assistive technology evaluation so we can determine what his needs are and what technology could benefit him.”

2. “Eva’s assistive technology evaluation identifies her technology needs and provides recommendations for specific programs/devices. We all want to give Eva the opportunity to keep up with her classmates. I would like the evaluation results to be included in her IEP, including the recommendation for training on the equipment for Eva and her classroom teacher.”

3. “I can appreciate the dilemma that you face in these times of budget cuts, but we are here to focus on Bradley’s need for accessible classroom materials and we know that the law requires the school to provide that access. Bradley needs ______________ in order to keep up with his class and complete his work independently.”

4. “It’s really a matter of prioritizing the money that the district does have, and for our conversation today, this isn’t about money, this is about equal access. Antonia needs adapted computer technology to work in the computer lab with the other students in her class.”

Federal Regulations
Section 300.105(a)(b) Assistive technology.

(a) Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in Sec. Sec. 300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s--

(1) Special education under Sec. 300.36;
(2) Related services under Sec. 300.34; or
(3) Supplementary aids and services under Sec. Sec. 300.38 and 300.114(a)(2)(ii).

(b) On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a child’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP Team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE.

IDEA 2004 (Public Law 108-446):

Section 601(c)(5)
Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by--

(H) supporting the development and use of technology, including assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities

(d) PURPOSES--The purposes of this title are--

(1)(A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;

Section 602 Definitions

(1)(A) ‘Assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment or product system…that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

(2) ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SERVICE--The term ‘assistive technology service’ means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of any assistive technology device. Such term includes--

(A) the evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the
child in the child’s customary environment;
(B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology
devices by such child;
(E) training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of
such child
(F) training or technical assistance for professionals…

Section 614 (1)
(A)(i) Definitions…IEP means… and …includes

(IV) a statement of the special education and related services and supplemental aids and services…and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child--

(bb) to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum… and to participate in the extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and
(cc) to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and non-disabled children …(d) Individualized Education

Programs--(3)DEVELOPMENT OF IEP--
(B) CONSIDERATION OF SPECIAL FACTORS--The IEP Team shall--
(v) consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services.

Additional Information

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