Task Force on Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: Public Hearings Begin on November 1st

Advancements in the education of children with disabilities as well as higher expectations for more meaningful and fulfilling post-high school lives have led to more opportunities for students with disabilities to attend college. Several laws have helped develop some of these opportunities.  When the cornerstone federal statute, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, was reauthorized in 2004, it and resulting regulations emphasized successful transition to post-school life as an important goal of the education of children with special needs.  A crucial component of the transition planning that school districts must begin when the student turns fourteen years old is the post-school vision.  Transition services are to be coordinated, results oriented, and based on the individual student’s strengths, preferences and interests.  Where appropriate, therefore, there is no barrier to have college as the post-high school vision for a student with disabilities. Continue reading

Update on DSM-5: IEP Eligibility for Students with Autism or Social Communication Disorders

We posted a comment at the end of May noting that the new DSM-5 definitions substituting “Autism Spectrum Disorder” for a number of autism-related disorders such as Asperger Syndrome do not affect the broader definitions of disabilities under IDEA or Massachusetts special education law. We urged parents and advocates to challenge any school districts that attempt to use the DSM-5 as a basis on which to deny an IEP to a child with a disability falling under this type of impairment. Continue reading

Latest Developments in Transition Planning in Massachusetts

Transition services are part of, and not separate from, a school district’s responsibility to provide FAPE.  The IDEA requires transition services that are developed through transition planning by the IEP Team.  Specifically, the IDEA requires every IEP, beginning no later than the one that will be in effect when the child is 16 years old (age 14 in MA), to include “appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills,” and to describe the “transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.” 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII).  See also 34 CFR § 300.320(b). Continue reading

Services from State Agencies for Students with Special Needs

In the quest for comprehensive services for students with special needs, parents and advocates should not overlook state agencies such as the Department of Mental Health (“DMH”), the Department of Developmental Disabilities (“DDS”), the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”), and the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”).  While some, like DMH and DDS, devote the vast majority of their resources to adults who are no longer eligible for services from school districts, all state agencies do provide services to school-age individuals.  Their services range from minimal to extensive and can include afterschool, respite, and even residential services. Each agency’s website and governing regulations (see below) describe their programs and services, as well as eligibility criteria and application procedures.          Continue reading