Accept – Adapt – Advocate
The Special Education world can be tricky to navigate. We’re here to help.
We offer educational support for school-aged (3-21) children who could possibly be living with a developmental disability.
Unfinish3d Pieces is passionate that all students receive a high-quality, relevant education with a sense of direction. Especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their disability.
The IEP and 504 process can be confusing, overwhelming, and emotional. As parents and caretakers, we understand this first hand. At Unfinish3d Pieces, we offer IEP and 504 advocacy in addition to school behavioral consequential actions, parent coaching, in-person and virtual training, community education, and other resources to help you navigate the world of special education. We want to collaborate as a team to help you understand the IEP and 504 process to help better serve your loved one.
An IEP (Individualized Education Program) stems from the IDEA and is a legal document between your child and the district that outlines the supports and services that the district should provide to your child. This is to ensure your child is provided “appropriate progress in light of their circumstances.” A Section 504 Plan stems from an anti-discrimination law and its main focus is to ensure your child is not being denied “access” to their education. In either case, we have the capabilities to support you before, during and after your IEP or Section 504 Plan meetings.
For any student, school disciplinary actions (e.g. suspension, expulsion) can have an extremely negative impact on their education and social/emotional wellbeing. For a student with a learning challenge or other unique need, the individual is provided certain protections under the law in regards to discipline procedures enforced by the schools.
Whether or not we are aware of it, we have all come into contact with a person with special needs. The term “special needs child” is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) as a child that uses “more medical care, mental health services, or educational services than is usual for most children of the same age.”
Partnering with parents to support their children’s education journey is our mission. We want to create parents and caretakers who can be strong advocates for their loved ones.
Advocating on the state and local level for proven policies and funding is primarily focused on helping students reach make-or-break milestones. This is why we are here: to ensure that a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided in all circumstances. Every child has the right to access a safe and quality education.
Our goal is for you to become an effective advocate for your child. As a parent/caregiver, you are your child’s best educational advocate—until they are old enough and informed to speak up for themself.
- when educators meet students at their learning level as opposed to their grade level
- when the focus is on the process vs. product learning
- when parents remain active in their child’s educational journey
- when IEP and 504 plans are followed by the school district
- when placed into an appropriate academic setting where they are understood
- when collaboration takes place between parent/caregiver and educational team
Is special education a place or a service?
Services are portable. Period. Special Education is designed to be delivered to the student in the placement that works for the student to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), in light of the child’s circumstances.
In 1975, school-aged children with disabilities were first legally guaranteed a “free and appropriate public education,” generally abbreviated FAPE. Over the years, Congress expanded the law to include pre-school children aged three to five. In 1990, the law was amended and re-named the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. In order to receive federal education funds, states and school districts must meet the minimum requirements of IDEA. Note: While the name of the act is now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, the acronyms IDEIA and IDEA are used interchangeably.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
When we hear the word “restrictive,” we may think of physical restraint, but by definition, to restrict is to confine or keep within limits. In these terms, providing a least restrictive environment, or LRE, pertains to a child’s educational placement. IDEA states that “to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled.”
Every intervention adds a level of restriction. For example, leaving reading class to go to the resource room is an increase in restriction, as is a child being pulled into the hallway to do catch-up work, being sent to an adaptive physical education class, or speech therapy.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find the backward thinking of putting a child in a self-contained classroom and allowing him to “earn” his way into general education. By law, all children should start with as little restriction as possible; more restrictive placement is considered only after all supports and aids have been exhausted. At that time, school officials and parents would need to agree and sign a legally binding document, the Individualized Education Program, or IEP.
You have probably heard the term Individualized Education Program (IEP) but what exactly is it? Who writes it? Get ready for more acronyms. The Annual Review and Dismissal, or ARD, committee consists of parents, special educators, general educators and administrators. Together, they create a document that outlines the child’s current level of academic achievement, functional performance, annual goals, and how they are measured. Once outlined, accommodations, modifications, adaptations and supplemental services, such as speech and occupational therapy, can be implemented. Placement is also written into the IEP, designating where the child will receive his or her educational services. This document is reviewed yearly.
What about behavior?
Certain disabilities, including those that involve impaired communication, may create difficulties that are manifested with less than desirable behaviors. If the behavior creates disturbances in learning, the child cannot simply be removed from the class—a process must be followed. Within the classroom, effective teachers have clear and consistent expectations and consequences for all students, including positive reinforcement for good behavior. Additional support may be introduced when a child with a disability is still struggling with behavioral issues. If the problem persists, parents or school personnel may request a Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA.
The FBA includes data collection that helps determine the motivation for a child’s behavior. Patterns that were previously overlooked may be discovered. The ARD committee may meet to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan, or BIP, to teach and reinforce appropriate alternatives to the behavior. If all goes as planned, the student may not need to be placed in a more restrictive environment.