Parents have many questions about what will happen when their child becomes school age. Can my child attend preschool? What kind of preschool? Should my child go to kindergarten this year? Educational placements for children with apraxia can cause parents a lot of stress. In a nutshell, educational settings for children with apraxia of speech are just as varied as the children themselves! There is no one “right” type of classroom or school setting that is perfect for all children with CAS.
What is Special Education?
Special education refers to laws, policies, rules, and very importantly – services for children who are determined to have a disability and who, because of their disability, are in need of specially designed instruction and related services in order to benefit from their educational program.
Special Education Rights, Rules, and Procedures.
Learning about special education rights is crucial for your participation in your child’s educational planning and to prepare you to be your child’s best advocate. This is no easy feat given the busy lives we lead insuring that our children are receiving speech therapy and possibly other therapies, raising other children, working, etc. However, it is well worth the effort because it is the only way you as the parent will be able to fully insure that your child is receiving what they are entitled to receive – a free, appropriate education. Also, learning what the law says about special education rights may also apply to parents who are planning to send their children to private schools and/or home-school. If you in any way plan to use public services to assist in your child’s educational development, it is critically important for you to pursue knowledge and understanding of your child’s special education rights.
There are many internet resources that provide quite detailed information on special education rights under federal law and as interpreted through specific state regulations in your state. Apraxia-KIDS can help you locate appropriate sources of information to begin that learning process. However, following is a review of some generally important concepts.
Evaluation for Special Education Eligibility and Services.
Most children with significant apraxia of speech, after evaluation by the school district, will be eligible for special education services, or, depending on which state you live in, a special education unit. Speech therapy is one of many related services that can be provided through special education. Support to children for their special education needs is based on a child’s unique needs and abilities. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to children that are eligible for special education.
In order to receive preschool or school-age special education services, the school district or designated appropriate agency has to evaluate your child in all areas of suspected disabilities. If a child has been enrolled in a birth to three early intervention program, the planning for transition to preschool should occur prior to the child’s third birthday. The school system will gather past and current information and will then, with your signed consent, create an evaluation plan to fully evaluate your child. Parents may contact their school district Special Education Administrator or school principal to request that their child be evaluated for special education. Putting the request for evaluation in writing is the best strategy to assure that a response is provided in a timely manner.
As the parent, you have a right to know what tests will be administered to your child. Please be aware that some tests would be invalid and inappropriate for a child with low or limited verbal skills, including many tests of cognitive or intellectual abilities. Also, testing by the school for eligibility for special education is free to you. At the end of the evaluation process, you will receive an Evaluation Report that will share the results and interpretation of scores, strengths and needs, recommendations regarding whether or not your child is eligible for special education, and if eligible, what types of goals and services may be required to meet your child’s individual education needs.
Individual Education Planning (IEP)
After an evaluation is complete, a meeting should occur to review the findings of the evaluation and begin to identify a number of things about your child, including:
- His/her present level of functioning (what CAN your child currently do, and what CAN’T your child do). This includes your child’s strengths, needs, learning style.
- Based on present level of functioning, the creation of clear and objectively measurable goals for the child to achieve in one years time (annual goals)
- Steps to achieving the goals (short-term objectives or benchmarks)
- Types of supports and services the child needs to achieve the goals and objectives
- Amount of services to be provided and method of delivering the services.
When the above steps are in place, the IEP team should discuss classroom placement. Parents should be aware that the point of special education is to meet your child’s individual educational needs by providing appropriate supports and services. A plan is to be designed around your child’s educational needs, not around a predetermined classroom and what services are reported to be available. Your child’s needs must be the focus. Thus be wary if you are told that your school district doesn’t provide a service (for example, “we only provide group speech therapy”). A policy that would limit the available service delivery for speech therapy would be frankly illegal. Again, the kinds of services and ways that they are to be delivered must be based on the child’s individual needs and not on convenience, budget, or preference of school systems.
Some things to know or remember:
- All children with apraxia of speech are unique individuals and have unique needs. The children do share a speech diagnosis, and thus, are likely to require frequent and intensive speech therapy for a period of time, however; other speech, language or learning needs are often present in many children. In the special education process, try to focus on your particular child’s strengths and needs vs. comparing them to another child who may or may not have the exact same issues.
- Remember, that speech, language and communication impact many areas of the education process. If you are struggling to understand how your child’s education may be affected or what areas may be important, secure information about your state’s educational standards for your child’s grade level. Or, if for some reason, the school disagrees that your child’s speech disability impacts education, knowing what speaking and listening standards are expected of ALL students can help make your case for services. Get information by going to Google.com and searching with terms, “<your state> and education standards and <grade level>” (for example, “Pennsylvania and education standards and kindergarten.” Examples for children in early grades may include items such as:
- Ask questions for clarification
- Retell stories using appropriate grammar and sequence of events
- Use correct vocabulary and word usage when speaking
- Ask and answer appropriate questions and share personal experiences within a group
- Respond to and initiate conversations
Each of the areas above would be important at any grade level and would be made very challenging for a child with a significant speech disorder! Understanding what standards your state expects for children of your child’s age and grade level can help you advocate for an appropriate education plan and services.
- Children with apraxia often have areas of concern that are in addition to speech production or speaking ability. For example, children with apraxia of speech often have expressive and/or receptive language difficulties; reading, writing or spelling challenges, etc. It is the school’s responsibility to assure that your child is evaluated in all areas of suspected disability.
- It is helpful to start with the idea that your child’s school staff and you, the parent, can work effectively in partnership with one another. That should be a main goal because your child will benefit when that sort of partnership occurs! While it may not always be possible, we observe that time and time again children with apraxia benefit immensely when educators, professionals, and families are able to unite behind what a child needs and work together.
- The special education process can be very overwhelming, confusing, and scary! There are organizations in each state that are funded by the federal government to assure that parents receive help and training in understanding their child’s rights and the special education process. These entities are called “Parent Training and Information Centers.” To find one in your state, go to Google.com and put “parent training and information centers and special education” in the search.