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Guaranteeing Special Education Rights: Individualized Education Plans

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
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Anyone working within the special education field should be aware of the differences among students with disabilities and the various categories of disability served by special education programs. There is a lot of information that staff members should have, but the fact is that reservation schools fill positions with who is available and there may not be anyone living near the reservation who has the needed expertise in special education. Then, those positions for teachers and aides get filled by people who live in the community and want to work with students with special needs. Even when staff members do have the required education and training, no one knows everything. Certainly no one knows a students needs and abilities better than that student and his or her family. So, it is crucial that you be involved. To make a difference, you need some understanding of what special education is and who receives it. Let's start with who receives special education.

Not every student in the special education program is the same and students with different disabilities require different types of assistance. Click on any of the blue links below for more information on a specific category. (NOTE: You must have pop-up windows enabled to allow this to work.) Or, click here for a PowerPoint presentation on Disability Definitions.

For children three years of age and older, federal education law identifies thirteen categories of disabilities that qualify children for special education:

  1. Mental retardation .... a condition in which a person has trouble learning, absorbing, and practicing everyday skills, which delays them from being able to take care of themselves and interact with others,
  2. Specific learning disabilities .... obstacles to the learning process that hinder a person’s full ability to be educated. These disabilities still allow the person to learn, he/she just has to find alternate ways to do this.
  3. Serious emotional disturbance .... that persists over a long period of time and adversely affects the child's educational performance.
  4. Visual impairment ... limited visual perception that, even with correction, has a negative effect on a child's ability to learn
  5. Deafness .... a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in understanding speech.
  6. Hearing impairment ... an impairment in hearing, that affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness
  7. Speech or language impairment ... There are a number of communication disorders, ranging from sound substitution or inability to produce certain sounds to the inability to understand language or produce speech that can be understood.
  8. Multiple disabilities ... a combination of disabilities, such as mental retardation and orthopedic impairment, that cannot be served in programs for either individual disability alone.
  9. Autism .... significantly affects the student's language, non-verbal communication and social interaction.
  10. Orthopedic impairment .... a physical impairment that affects the student's ability to learn, which may be present at birth or due to accident or disease.
  11. Traumatic brain injury ... an acquired brain injury, caused by external force, that causes physical, mental or social impairment.
  12. Other health impairments ... cover a variety of diseases and disorders. This refers to people who have limited strength, energy or alertness that affects their ability to learn in a normal classroom.
  13. Deaf-blindness ... a combination of hearing and visual impairments which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.


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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. -- P.O.Box 663, 314 Circle Dr., Fort Totten, ND 58335 Tel: (701) 351-2175 Fax: (800) 905 -2571
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