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Section 1

ak dept education

special ed handbook


Federal and state laws and regulations require that _____________________ Public Schools make available a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all school age residents of the District. Some children, with physical, mental or emotional impairments may need special education in order to benefit from the educational program offered by the District.

The procedures in this model plan are provided so that the District staff will take appropriate steps to make certain that any children in need of special services are identified and referred for the development of appropriate programs to meet their educational needs.

The authority for these procedures is found in state law and through adoption of these procedures by the Superintendent. These procedures are binding on all staff and must be adhered to.

Legal Obligations

Federal and State laws require that the school district:

"... have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that all children residing in the State, including children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services are identified, located and evaluated, and a practical method is developed and implemented to determine which children are currently receiving needed special education and related services."

These requirements apply to children birth through 21 years of age, suspected of having a disability who reside within the District, regardless of the severity of the disability. This includes:
  1. Children enrolled in public schools, including charter schools and correspondence programs; private or parochial schools; and educational programs in correctional or youth detention facilities.
  2. Highly mobile children with disabilities (such as migrant and homeless children).
  3. Children who have been suspended or expelled.
  4. Children who are educated in their homes by a parent or legal guardian.
  5. Children who are suspected of being a child with a disability and in need of special education, even though they are advancing from grade to grade.
Alaska Statutes that influence Child Find activities are listed below:

14.03.070School Age6 years of age before September 1 preceding the beginning of the school year and who is under the age of 20 and has not completed the 12th grade.
14.30.010Compulsory Attendance7 to 16 years of age
14.30.180PurposeAppropriate public education: 3 through 21 years of age.
14.30.186CoverageProvide special education and related services.


In order to fulfill these obligations, the District special education director/coordinator annually supervises the conduct of the following activities:
  1. Public Awareness
  2. Screening
  3. Referrals
In addition to these areas, these procedures include steps to be taken to ensure that each child receives required procedural safeguards to make certain that the child's rights to privacy and education are protected.

  1. Public Awareness (Annual Public Notice)

    Each year the District conducts activities for creating public awareness of special education programs, for advising the public of the rights of children, and alerting community residents of the need to identify and serve children birth through 21. These activities are the responsibility of the Child Find Coordinator and include the following:
    1. Establish and maintain communication with staff, organizations, agencies, and individuals to ensure that all activities are carried out in a manner consistent with all state and federal requirements.
    2. Annually develop a training schedule to conduct in-service training for staff, organizations, agencies, and individuals to ensure that annual public notice, and screening activities are carried out (see Annual Child Find Training Outline).
    3. By November 1 of each year the Child Find Coordinator:
      • develops articles and announcements for the local newspaper or community bulletin and may,
      • arrange for radio messages, and
      • arrange for television appearances or announcements.
      Messages and announcements include:
      1. The types of disabilities that qualify as a disabling condition.
      2. The educational needs of children with disabilities.
      3. The rights of children with disabilities (FAPE).
      4. The services available to children with disabilities.
      5. Confidentiality protections.
      6. Who to contact (e.g., Child Find Coordinator) and how to get in touch with that person.

    4. Alert members of the community who may not easily understand English or who may live in rural or isolated geographic areas, by attending and making presentations at community meetings, business group meetings, church sponsored meetings, and meetings of public employees and officials.
      1. Develop and maintain a current list of agencies that provide services to children with disabilities within the community (see Sample List of Community Agencies in Addendum).
      2. Disseminate Child Find informational of materials to hospitals, clinics, pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and social service professionals involved in family or child services (see Sample Child Find Initiative Letter in this appendix).
    5. Develop and revise all Child Find materials.
    6. Ensure that all school age children identified through Child Find activities, except those identified through screening, are reviewed by the Child Find Coordinator and referred for appropriate services.
    7. Collect, maintain, and report current and accurate data on all Child Find activities.
    8. Prepare data to assist in planning for the delivery of services to children and the general improvement of the educational program.

  2. Screening

    1. Birth through 2

      Screening for children from birth through age 2 is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). It is the responsibility of the Child Find Coordinator to communicate with local infant learning programs to coordinate screening activities and ensure that services are in place by the child's 3rd birthday.

    2. 3 through 5

      Screening is a district-wide activity done in cooperation with parents and non-public school agencies to identify children who may need further evaluation. The result of the screening process is a systematic collection of information for every child screened that helps determine whether there is need for referral and an evaluation. Screening includes general health, vision, hearing, general development, primary language, and culture and daily living skills.

      To adequately find preschool-aged children who may be in need of special education services, community outreach becomes especially important to the Child Find process. Special efforts beyond routine annual public notice will be required to reach the parents and caretakers of children below kindergarten age as these children typically are not enrolled in public school programs in most Alaskan communities. It is recommended that these efforts include providing notice of the availability of special education services for children below school age directly to physicians (especially pediatricians and family practitioners), community health aides, public health nurses, community child care programs (including Head Start programs, other preschools, and day care programs), Infant Learning Programs, and any other agencies serving young children or their families. The information provided should include specific steps from the school district special education program for screening.

      Preschool screening may take a variety of forms. It may consist of a parent interview and brief observation of the child, from which enough information is gathered about the child to decide whether to proceed with the special education referral process. Special education staff may use the results of a standardized parent questionnaire to determine if the child's performance, as reported by the parent, is significantly below average in any particular developmental area and warrants referral for assessment. Or staff may choose to administer an individual screening tool directly to the child in addition to gathering information from the parent and observing the child informally.

      In some communities, "mass screening" has become an efficient means of Child Find and referral. Parents of preschool-aged children are invited to bring their children in for screening on a particular day or days, and children are screened by a team of special education staff and trained paraprofessionals. The team may use a standardized developmental screening tool designed for group screening or they may use several different measures. If decisions about children are to be made on the basis of standard scores from norm-referenced tests, caution must be used when the norm group on which the test was standardized differs in important ways from the cultural or social group of which the child is a member. Many communities in Alaska have chosen to develop their own more locally appropriate decision rules in interpreting screening results.

      Children whose screening results are questionable should be given an opportunity for re-screening at a later date. Screening results should never be substituted for a comprehensive assessment in making diagnostic or placement decisions.

      The screening process for preschool-aged children usually requires procedures that are different from those used to screen school-aged children for possible disabilities. For instance, a 3-year-old child may be unable to understand the directions typically given in screening vision or hearing, and special techniques are required. Play audiometry (hearing tests in which children are taught to respond to sounds not by raising their hands, but by making a playful response) may be necessary to obtain accurate hearing results with young children. Modified Snellen charts, in which children identify objects rather than letters or the direction in which E is pointing, are usually most appropriate with this age group.

      General developmental screening is typically needed to adequately address all important aspects of a preschool child's functioning. "Readiness" tests or tests that screen children only on the basis of "pre-academic" skills are not appropriate for developmental screening of preschool children. In choosing a screening tool or tools, as with all types of evaluation procedures, we must make sure that the material or procedure is appropriate for the ages of the children to be screened, that it covers the developmental areas to be screened, and that the tool is reliable and valid. Another factor to consider in choosing a tool is the type of training required to teach people to administer it accurately.

    3. 6 through 21

      Screening is a district wide activity to identify children in the general school population who may need further evaluation. The result of the screening process is a systematic collection of information for every child screened that helps determine whether there is a need for a referral for assessment.

      Screening includes general health, vision, hearing, general basic skills, primary language and culture and daily living skills in the home and community obtained through parental input. Screening results should never be substituted for a comprehensive assessment in making diagnostic or placement decisions.

  3. Referrals

    1. Referrals may come directly from parents or other family members, from friends, private schools or various community agencies. Infant Learning Programs are required to refer eligible children at least 90 days prior to their third birthday. Once a district screens for the appropriateness of the referral the goal is to have an eligible preschooler with disabilities evaluated, IEP written and receiving services on the 3rd birthday. Referrals may also be stimulated by the annual public notice, come from teachers or other school personnel, or come as a result of a screening program.
    2. All referrals should be made on a standard referral form (see Referral Form in this appendix).
    3. Upon receipt of a referral, the principal or Child Find Coordinator reviews the child's record and consults with the teacher and/or parent. If the child exhibits learning or developmental difficulties, the child will be scheduled for an evaluation.
    4. If the child exhibits no learning or developmental difficulties the parents are provided with written notice within 5 days of the decision not to refer for evaluation.

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