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Decoding 504 plans: What they mean for you and your child

Written by Jayne M. Wesler Esq. As a parent, the last thing you want is for your child’s disability to affect his or her ability to succeed in the classroom. Along with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensures that schools receiving or benefiting from federal funding support the educational needs of a student who may have a disability that affects one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to: learning, speaking and listening, concentration, reading and writing, personal care. A 504 plan allows educators to modify a student's academic program,...

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Using PLAAFP to help your child work toward higher achievement

Written by  Staci J. Greenwald, Esq. The “Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance,” or PLAAFP, is the first written statement in the IEP plan should document of a child's ability and current achievement at the time the IEP is written. This snapshot objectively documents the child’s present level of academic achievement, such as reading at a certain grade level, or performing certain mathematical calculations. Functional performance documents achievement that is not academic, including social skills, communication skills, and other activities of daily living. Simply stated, PLAAFP should answer the question: What can this child do or not do right now? Information and data...

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Understanding the dangers of seclusion and restraints in special education

The use of seclusion and restraint in schools for disciplinary and safety reasons is a difficult issue, especially in regards to severely disabled children. Part of the problem is that there is very little statutory or regulatory authority regarding what is permissible and what tools are available to educators in emergency situations. In fact, neither federal law nor the law of New Jersey contains guidance on this important issue. Obviously, extreme instances of seclusion or restraint are not tolerated in any school in the United States. However, there are many seemingly innocuous practices that do occur regularly in schools and can...

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What least “Restrictive Environment” means under the IDEIA?

The concept of “least restrictive environment” is a core element of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvements Act (IDEIA), and was a fairly revolutionary concept when embraced in its predecessor, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Stated simply, it is the idea that a child with a disability should receive as much of his or her education as possible in a typical classroom and should only be educated separately to the extent that his or her disabilities make it absolutely necessary. Section 612 of the Act sets forth the concept of least restrictive environment, as well as the steps states must...

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