Attendance of a community meeting concerning special education, organized by CEC at Teachers College, in Columbia University on August 10, 2012. The meeting began with 25 members. It started by revealing what special education implies for attendants who were uninformed about the subject. Special education encompasses a broad range group as many students or learners fall into various areas of this group depending on their diagnosis as well as the severity of the analysis. The agenda of the meeting was to increase awareness concerning definition of special education, laws which cover learners with special needs, who is qualified for services, what services children with special needs can get, how to recognize children with special needs, and the referral procedures.
The meeting was sponsored by CEC. This is one of the largest global professional associations committed to enhancing educational outcomes or performance for learners with special needs. The organization works to enhance public policy affecting youth and children with challenges and talents and gifts, the professionals and parents who always work with them, in all categories of government.
In advocating for children having exceptionalities, CEC explores policy matters, creates proper responses to matters which influences local, provincial, federal, and state legislation. Moreover, CEC monitors and creates recommendations for program funding and regulations. Besides, CEC sustains a network within its entities for influencing policy.
The meeting was facilitated by Robin Brewer, the president elect of CEC. She is associate professor/lecturer of special education, school of special education (college of education & behavioral sciences) at UNC. She impressed the participants on how she facilitated the meeting. She got groups to make and agree on workable, and attainable plans or solutions to matters. The groups were allowed to build consensus, manage dysfunction, maintain high energy, as well as develop customized agendas.
Pertinent issues were discussed in the meeting to increase awareness regarding special education. Needs for special education are part of a wider description, exceptional learner education. An exceptional learner is one who requires special learning needs. Special assistance got in schools is known as ESE (Exceptional Student Education), or Special Education (SE). It comprises of children with disabilities as well as gifted children. The aim is to offer each exceptional learner with a free, suitable public education, assist them advance in school, access curriculum, and prepare or plan for life after studies.
Laws which cover Learners with Special Needs in US
The IDEA of 2004 requires every public school in US to offer special needs services for each child aged between 3-21 years, with disabilities. For toddlers and infants with disabilities birth should have special needs services offered via an early intervention program. Each state establishes what they regard as a suitable or appropriate education. In general, public school programs concerning special education are regarded superior to services offered by private schools.
The 1990 American Disabilities Act offers protection to safeguard people with disabilities from any kind of discrimination. This implies that no child should be denied access to programs, for instance, access to organization, school clubs, or sport activities, due to disability. The 1973 Rehabilitation Act (section 504), offer services to youths who may be categorized as disabled within IDEA 2004 but require extra support to completely access system of education.
All children within USA, regardless of nationality, length of residency, or language spoken are eligible to go to public school and get services. Upon request, free evaluation is done to any child suspected to have special needs to establish if he/she has a disability, as described by IDEA 2004. It should be remembered that, merely because a child is eligible to services, parents should not be expecting the school to always be falling all over in giving them the child; instead, they should be the strongest as well as most persistent advocate for their children.
The public schools offer services to parents and toddlers and infants from birth up to the age of two, who require early intervention services since they have developmental setbacks or delays. These setbacks may be in physical development, cognitive development, adaptive development, emotional or social development or, communication development. Pre-kindergarten services and programs are provided to the children with disabilities below the age of six. Students below the age of five are served in many different ways, based on preference of the parent or guardian and school recommendations. The services can be offered at home, in classroom setting, or in childcare setting. Besides special education programs, extra related services are available to disabled children. This include audiology services and speech language pathology, psychological services, interpreting services, occupational and physical therapy, recreation, including social work services, therapeutic recreation, counseling services, school nurse services. These services are offered to children even if they are alright and do not require special education services.
Any suspected delay of normal development or requirement of special need should be reported to local public school. Alternatively, online option exists where one can search in the website of Department of Education to find detailed local contact information. There is Child Find which is a school service for locating and helping children within the community who may require special assistance in any area of development. Services of Child Find are offered to all families regardless of income. After reporting any suspected delay of normal development or requirement of special need to any local public school, child’s educator may refer the child for an evaluation/ assessment for possible services. The purpose for the assessment is to establish or ascertain information to properly meet educational needs of the child.
Before any testing, a guidance counselor must seek written consent for evaluation. Once permission is given, the child should be evaluated or assessed within sixty days. The diagnostic testing is offered free of charge not considering one’s income. After completion of evaluation, there is always an invitation to school for a meeting, known as staffing. Throughout this meeting, the evaluation of the child is reviewed, and determination whether the child is eligible for the exceptional program is done. In case the child requires special education, IEP is developed to address the child’s specific needs.
The patterns of communication throughout the meeting were in such a way that each person in the team talks as well as listens in equal durations or amounts. Everyone kept their conversation clear and precise. Members faced each other and conversations as well as gestures were energetic. Members were communicated directly to one another, and not just on the group leader. Apart from short side conversations, members occasionally had breaks to explore beyond or outside the team, and brought information back. None could be said to dominate the meeting, it was participatory discussion. Questions regarding laws which cover learners with special needs, who is qualified for services, what services children with special needs can get, how to recognize children with special needs, and the referral procedures were raised by members and were discussed as shown herein.
The meeting was a great success as it was able to bring together people to discuss issues concerning how to increase public awareness concerning special education. Besides matters pertaining the laws which cover learners with special needs, who is qualified for services, what services children with special needs can get, how to recognize children with special needs, and the referral procedures. The meeting also covered topics on membership of CEC, finances and revenues, marketing and communications, sharing of latest news. Everyone left excited, full of enthusiasm and ideas on how to better serve persons with special needs.