Appropriate Resources for Students with Special Needs
School Liaisons can help parents, teachers, and school administrators develop a better understanding of the laws governing services to children with special needs and the programs, services, and resources available to them. The basic areas to consider are as follows:
The School Liaison’s primary role is to empower parents to be advocates for their child. School Liaisons can do this by encouraging parents to maintain an open and positive dialogue with school officials. It is also important to encourage parents to ask questions and keep asking until they understand an issue.
If a child already receives special education services and the parent or guardian does not feel that the child’s needs are being met, they have the right to request a re-evaluation. Parents who request a re-evaluation, however, should have a well-articulated reason for the request. For example, a parent may request a re-evaluation if his or her child is demonstrating new behaviors that were not detected in the first evaluation and are not accounted for in the child’s Individualized Education Program.
If a school is considering disciplinary action, the IDEA requires that that child’s disability be taken into account. Parents and other members of the IEP team should be permitted to review the information in the student’s file, see teacher feedback, and be given access to other relevant information to determine if the child’s action was caused by the disability, was related to the disability, or occurred as a direct result of the local education agency’s (LEA’s), meaning school district, school division, or county’s, failure to implement the IEP.
Following are a few of the important resources that School Liaisons can share with parents of children with special needs:
- Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is relevant when an eligible family member residing with a sponsor has a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability that requires special medical or education services. The EFMP helps match the child’s needs to the availability of services in a particular location. All of the military branches have an EFMP, but the services provided to families vary from branch to branch. It is important to be fully aware of the EFMP support services provided to your military families.
- Parent Handbook on Special Education, published by DoDEA, is a brief but detailed guide about the special education laws, evaluation process, and services offered to children with disabilities.
- Special Needs Parents Toolkit, published by DoD, is a guide to information and tools that are geared towards helping military families with special-needs children navigate medical and special education services, community support, and benefits and entitlements. The handbook is broken down into six modules that can be easily downloaded and printed. Also included are facts, records, tools, and sample letters.
- Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP) is a federally funded Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center established to assist military families who have children with special education or health needs. The staff of the STOMP Project are parents of children with disabilities who have experience in raising their children in military communities and traveling with their spouses to different locations.
- TRICARE Psychological Health Services offers medical support for service members and their families, including supports for outpatient and in-patient psychological health evaluation and treatment for all age groups. TRICARE has an assistance program called TRIAP that provides short-term, nonmedical assistance to eligible active duty service men and women and their families. TRIAP has recently launched a Web-based service to provide behavioral and psychological health counseling through private and secure Web portals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
(Links for these and additional military resources and services offered through the military can be found in the Resources section of this module.)
In addition to military resources, other Federal, state and local resources may be useful to military families:
- The Yellow Pages for Kids With Disabilities lists education consultants, psychologists, diagnosticians, health care specialists, academic tutors, speech-language therapists, advocates, and attorneys in each state, along with government programs, grassroots organizations, special education schools, and parent support groups.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a monthly payment to low-income individuals who are 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Children can qualify for SSI based on their family’s income and service needs. The nearest Social Security Office will have information on the criteria for qualification.
- Medicaid is a program that pays for health care for some low-income individuals and families. Medicaid is a Federal program with broad guidelines, but each state sets its own eligibility rules and decides what services to provide. In some cases, Medicaid can pay for services not covered by TRICARE.
Under a provision of IDEA known as “free appropriate public education” (FAPE), children with IEPs have the right to receive comparable services no matter the location of their school until the new school conducts a re-evaluation and changes the IEP. Advising parents of this right can be very helpful. FAPE is designed to support the IEP-indicated services when a child moves within a district or between districts or states. Additionally, School Liaisons need to help families understand that although the methods of how a school satisfies the overall goals in an IEP may change, the overarching goals for their child should not. Services provided by schools will vary based on the resources that are available.
Similar provisions exist for children with an IEP that transfer schools within the same state:
- “…if a child transfers to a new public agency in the same State, and enrolls in a new school within the same school year, the new public agency (in consultation with the parents) (including services comparable to those described in the child's IEP from the previous public agency), until the new public agency either adopts the child's IEP from the previous public agency, or develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP.”
School Liaisons can make these service transitions more seamless by offering guidance about the transfer of records and information about legislation that protects students’ rights.
A delay in transferring records may affect a new school’s ability to provide appropriate IEP-indicated services in a timely and accurate manner. To alleviate this disruption, School Liaisons can remind families with special needs children transferring into their installation to “hand carry” important documents and medications. This practice can help families secure needed services and avoid delays. The recommended items to hand carry are
- copies of important records, such as IEPs;
- letters from doctors or EFMP confirming Category Four status for priority housing (Navy and Marine Corp);
- birth certificates and passports;
- refilled prescription(s);
- contact information for medical connections in the new location; and
- contact information for previous doctors and service providers.