About Special Education
What is Special Education?
Special education is specially designed instruction and related services that enable a student with a disability to access and benefit from their program of education. Special education addresses the individual needs of the child that arise from a disability and is provided at no cost to the parents. These services can include specialized personnel, special instructional supplies and materials, modification to curriculum and other special accommodations.
What is a Disability?
A disability is a lifelong handicapping condition often associated with a physical, mental, or communication impairment that substantially limits a major life activity - including education.
Specially designed instruction means adapting the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction (i.e. what we teach and how we teach it) to address the student's unique needs that arise as a result of their disability, and to ensure access to the general education curriculum.
Specialized instruction may be provided in the areas of need. Special education areas of need may include:
- Math Skills
- Self-help Skills
- Motor Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Social Skills
- Transition Skills
Related services such as occupation therapy, physical therapy, DAPE, etc. are provided if it is determined the child would not be able to meet their instructional goals without this service. Related Services cannot be provided unless the student is already receiving a special education service in a disability area, such as a learning disability. The related service is only provided if the student requires the service in order to make progress on IEP/IIIP/IFSP goals.
Related services are a broad array of services that assist a student with a disability to benefit from their program of specialized instruction. Related services includes such things as:
- adaptive equipment and/or technology
- occupational therapy
- orientation and mobility services
- physical therapy
- psychological services
- school social work services
- special transportation
- speech/language pathology
Who is eligible for special education services?
Students qualify for special education by meeting specific eligibility criteria, as defined by the MN Department of Education. Students are evaluated by a team of professionals to determine if they qualify in one or more of the following disability areas:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH)
- Deaf-Blindness (DB)
- Developmental Cognitive Disability (DCD)
- Emotional/Behavioral Disorders (EBD)
- Other Health Disabilities (OHD)
- Physically Impaired (PI)
- Severely Multiply Impaired (SMI)
- Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
- Speech or Language Impairments (S/L)
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Visually Impaired (VI)
It is possible to meet the eligibility requirements of a disability and not need special education services. For example, a child with a hearing loss who is succeeding within the general curriculum may not require 'specialized instruction.' In such instances, the district may still be required to make reasonable adjustments or accommodations to enable that student to access general education services under a Section 504 plan.
Early Childhood Special Education
is available to children ages birth through six if they meet any of the 12 disability definitions listed above, or if they demonstrate a Developmental Delay (i.e. a substantial delay or disorder in development, or have a condition or impairment that inhibits normal development).
Programs for Infants and Toddlers (birth to age 3):
The Interagency Early Intervention Committee (IEIC) is a collaborative effort among the Public Schools, the Department Human Services and the Department of Public Health. These agencies work together to address the needs of young children with disabilities and their families in the areas of education, health and social services. Quality early intervention services are of primary importance in assuring young children with disabilities are prepared for successful school and life experiences.
Referrals for Evaluation
are accepted from parents, physicians or other caring adults whenever a young child exhibits developmental concerns. Referrals for infants and toddlers can be made by calling the Special Education Department at 612-706-1000. For those infants and toddlers who qualify, services are usually provided in the child's home, although some children may be served within a school setting if that best meets their needs.
Early Childhood Special Education (ages 3 thru 6):
Children with disabilities, ages three through six-years, are eligible for special education services through the schools. For those children who qualify, services are usually provided within a school setting, although some children may be served within their home or other environments if that best meets their needs.
A child who receives Early Childhood Special Education under the Developmental Delay criteria is re-evaluated prior to turning seven years of age. To continue to receive special education services beyond their seventh birthday, they must qualify for one of the K-12 disability areas previously listed.
How do I refer my child for a special education evaluation?
Parents, teachers, physicians or any concerned person can refer a child for potential special education services.
Birth to Age 3: Referrals for infants and toddlers can be made by calling the Special Education Department at 612-706-1000.
Ages 3 thru 6: Referrals for preschool children ages 3 thru 6 may be made by contacting the Special Education Department at 612-706-1000.
K-12: Referrals for students who are already in school may be made by contacting your child's teacher or the principal of the school your child attends.
Once a referral is received, a team of professionals will meet to review the referral and determine if there is sufficient reason to proceed with an evaluation. If an evaluation is warranted, parents will be asked for their written permission to assess their child.
What must be done prior to a special education evaluation?
To assure that students are given ample opportunity to succeed within the general education program, Minnesota Statute 125A.56 requires that schools implement and document at least two "instructional strategies, alternatives or interventions" within the general education classroom prior to referring a child for special education evaluation. This stage is called the 'pre-referral process.' In many instances, the child's needs can be met by changing instructional strategies or through other interventions within the general classroom.
The duration of the pre-referral interventions are based on the individual child's needs. The interventions must be of sufficient duration to allow the child to succeed from the new instructional strategies and/or interventions. However, the pre-referral process must not be used to unduly delay a special education evaluation if it becomes apparent the interventions are not successful.
The district will conduct the evaluation as soon as possible after written consent is obtained from the parents. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine if the child is eligible for and needs special education services, and if so, to identify the special education needs that will be the focus of the specialized instruction.
Districts have forty-five (45) calendar days from the referral date to complete the evaluation of a child age birth to three, and thirty (30) school days from the date written permission is received to complete the evaluation for students age three and above.
While the District is not financially responsible for the costs of a parent-initiated assessment conducted by a physician, clinic or other agency, the evaluation team will review and consider such assessment data. However, the District is not required to accept the results nor implement the recommendations of an outside assessment unless the evaluation team agrees to do so.
Individual Education Program (IEP) plan
When a student is eligible for and needs specialized instruction, an Individual Education Program (IEP) plan is developed at an IEP Team meeting that includes parents, school personnel and others who might have input into the student's special education needs.
An IEP is a plan that spells out the special education services a child will receive based on the results of the evaluation. The IEP Team develops goals as targets for the child to achieve and determines the instructional strategies needed so that the student can make progress in their educational program. An IEP is generally in effect for one calendar year, although the parents or school can request the IEP Team review the plan as needed.
The size and composition of IEP Teams varies depending upon the unique needs of the student. Generally, an IEP Team consists of:
- One or both parents (Parents are STRONGLY encouraged to attend all IEP meetings. However, the final decision to attend or not is up to the parents.);
- The student, beginning at grade 9 or age 14 (If the student chooses not to attend, the IEP Manager must insure that the student's preferences are reported.);
- A special education teacher;
- A "representative of the school district" who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the school district;
- Regular education teacher(s); and
- Others at the invitation of the parents or district.
Extended School Year (ESY) Services
ESY is not the same as summer school. Summer school is optional and is offered at the discretion of districts, whereas ESY is a mandatory extension of special education services during breaks in regular instruction.
School districts are required to provide extended school year services to a student when the IEP Team determines that special education services are necessary during a break in instruction in order to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Generally, if the child is at a critical learning period, or it is anticipated there will be a significant regression in knowledge and/or skills and if recoupment of those skills will take an unusually long time, then extended year services must be provided. (see MN Rule 3525.0755)
Regression - All students, disabled and non-disabled, experience regression during breaks in instruction. For the purposes of ESY Services, regression is a decline in the performance of a skill or acquired knowledge, as specified in the annual goal(s) of the student's IEP, that occurs during a break in instruction.
Recoupment - A student's ability to regain the skill performance or relearn the acquired knowledge to approximately the same level that existed just prior to the break in instruction.
Significant - Regression/recoupment is significant when the recoupment period is longer than the length of the break in instruction. For example, to be considered significant, the time needed to recoup/relearn a skill in the fall would need to be greater than three months - the length of the summer break.
Self-sufficiency - Those functional skills necessary for a student to achieve a reasonable degree of personal independence as identified in the annual IEP goals for a student requiring a functional curriculum.
Third Party Billing
Minnesota law (M.S.125A.21) requires that school districts seek reimbursement from private and public health insurers for the cost of health-related services provided to students who receive special education services. If your child receives health-related services as part of their IEP, IFSP or IIIP, a member of your child's team may ask your permission to share information with your insurer and/or physician in order to bill for these services.
Health-related services are developmental, corrective and supportive services that are required in order for a student to benefit from their program of specialized instruction. Health-related services include supports such as:
- Diagnosis, evaluation and assessment;
- Speech, physical and occupational therapies;
- Paraprofessional/personal care assistant (PCA) services;
- Mental health services;
- Transportation; and
- Health services such as nursing.
While districts are required to seek payment from both private and public insurers, St. Anthony-New Brighton Public Schools will seek to bill only public insurance - Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare (MC). Billing public insurance has no impact on your child's nor family's medical coverage. St. Anthony-New Brighton Public Schools will not seek to bill private insurance, as doing so could cause your insurance rates to increase and/or have other negative effects on your child's and family's insurance coverage.
If your child is covered both by private insurance and MA/MC, the district will ask your permission to contact your private insurer to seek a denial of coverage (private insurers typically will not pay for services provided by schools). Once we have received a letter of denial, we will then bill your public insurance.
One of the most important things to know is that Minnesota laws offer protections to parents and students when schools bill MA or MC. These protections include:
- Services provided by the district and paid by MA or MC do not count toward any monthly, annual or lifetime limits for the same or similar services. For example, if your child's IEP includes occupational therapy services, it does not affect therapy service limits your child might need or receive from a rehab agency.
- Services provided by the district and paid by MA or MC do not count toward any home care or waiver caps. For example, if your child's IEP includes staff to assist with eating and toileting, it does not affect the amount of personal care assistant services your child can receive at home.
- Services provided by the district and paid by MA or MC do not affect services you child gets from other providers, or those covered by a PMAP.
- There are no parental fees nor co-pays for services provided by the district and paid by MA.
- Services provided by the district and paid by MA does not count toward a spenddown.
Minnesota law requires that any money received from third party billing can only be used for three things:
- For the benefit of students with special needs within the district,
- To pay for the cost of doing third party billing, and
- For training and help to increase the amount of third party billing.
What special education rights do parents have?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA '04) requires procedural safeguards that school districts must follow to protect the rights of parents and children. A copy of those safeguards are given to parents on multiple occasions throughout the special education process, and may be downloaded by clicking on the link immediately below:
Notice of Procedural Safeguards
Special Education Advisory Council
Minnesota law (M.S. 125A.24) requires that each district establish a Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) to provide input to the district's Board of Education and to district administration about policies and decisions that affect children and youth with disabilities. SEAC is composed of parents of children with disabilities, district special education staff and a representative from each non-public school located within the district.
Who should I contact if I have questions about special education?
There are a number of people who can assist parents if they have questions. If your concerns are specifically related to the implementation of your child's IEP, you should discuss them with your child's IEP Manager. Parents might also elect to speak to their child's building principal for questions related to both special and general education. Although the Director of Special Education cannot overrule an IEP Team's decisions, you may wish to contact the Director for clarification or mediation if you cannot resolve a problem with the IEP Team.