The Five Most Common Reasons for SPED Referral

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

hands filing

Over the years, the labels we use to describe special education students have changed. When I was in Special Education 101 (I’m really dating myself), we used to call developmentally disabled children retarded. Even worse, we split the kids into Mild, Moderate, and Severe categories. This was happening at the same time as “mainstreaming”. We understood that the least restrictive environment for all children was the way to go, but we muddied the issue by splitting kids into groups.

To some extent, we still do that. It’s important to be able find language to describe our children. We can’t provide special assistance if we can’t inform people about why it’s needed.

We’ve found there are five types of learning problems that students have that cause us to take a second look and refer them for special education assessment.

  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Autism
  • Disorders of Hearing, Sight and Physical Disability
  • Emotional Disturbance

I am guessing at the order, there are probably numbers to tell us which of these is the most common, but I don’t have them handy. It really doesn’t matter; these areas of concern have created a bureaucracy of support for special education that is costly and complex. The bureaucracy has developed because of Public Law 94-142, the legislation mandating the least restrictive environment for educational services.

Today, most disabled students can be helped in resource rooms, or classrooms that pull students out for a period during the day for special education. There are however, substantially separate classrooms for students with severe problems. These are the students who have a one on one aide that help them with toileting, physical therapy, and other services we must provide by law.

School Committees all over the country bemoan the cost of these provisions, but at the end of the day, it’s an investment in our future. All students need the best we can give, regardless of cost.

Another part of the law is the requirement that parents be part of the team that outlines the type and duration of any services their children will receive. Schools may have different names for the teams, but it’s usually called the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team. When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004, there were changes regarding IEP team members. Parents must be included, but there are others invited to team meetings including the classroom teacher, district administrators and others who are charged with providing services. Meetings occur two times each year, and amendments are made to treatment plans (individual education plans). For instance, parents can request that their children have special equipment. A tool called “Kurzweill” is commonly requested. This software reads aloud for the student and assists struggling readers. Students may also have readers during testing.

I’ve talked a lot about behaviors in classrooms and the costs we incur in our efforts to help at risk students. We can’t forget about the students with the most serious disabilities. Even though we may have substantially separate classrooms for some, this does not mean marginalization. In modern schools, every attempt is made to pull these children into everyday activities in the community at large.

Do you have questions for me? My readers answer more questions than they pose, but I welcome your involvement in this blog.


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John Funk – Logic and Reasoning

This post is authored by John Funk, the Educational Programs Manager for Excelligence Learning Corporation and a clinical instructor at the University of Utah.

How and Why Do We Teach Logic and Reasoning to Young Children?

            When my oldest son was about 15, we were having a ‘discussion’ about something he wanted to do for which I had refused permission.  As things were becoming just a little bit too emotional, I remember saying to him, “I’ve never been the parent of a 15-year-old before.  I’m trying to do what I think is right, but there are no directions for how to do this.   I’m sorry you have to be the test case.”   My son stopped and stared at me — and then said, “I never thought about that.  Now I understand why you screw up sometimes.” 

While that was not the answer I wanted to hear, my comment and his response brought some logic and reasoning into the discussion, and the emotions disappeared.  That is usually what logic and reasoning can do for a situation.  When you are having an emotional disagreement with someone, not much gets accomplished while emotions are in the way.  When everyone has calmed down, logic and reasoning usually reappear, and a thoughtful discussion can occur.  I feel very strongly that if we don’t help children to develop these critical skills, they will not be able to function successfully and truly get along with other people.

            The basis of logic and reasoning is the ability to search for clues, determine what makes sense, and make decisions based on concrete information.  Forcing children to know the correct answer and be prepared to regurgitate it on a test does not develop the thinking that creates logic and reasoning.  However, allowing children to explore with materials to make decisions about the timing and organization of a project, and, most important, to make mistakes will create the resilience that children need to be logical thinkers. 

The Excelligence Product Development Team knows I like open-ended products that promote divergent thinking.  Divergent thinking is when we take one idea and go many different directions with it.  From one concept or product, we can get many different outcomes or possibilities.  Think about our Biocolor or Liquid Watercolor. With one of these products, a child can create a myriad of projects.  The possibilities are endless.  Some of my favorite teaching products are blocks, dough, crayons and paints.  I like them because they provide endless opportunities to promote learning, and they promote divergent thinking.

I also like products that promote convergent thinking.  Convergent thinking is using many different ideas or data points to lead to one necessary conclusion.  Think of all the products we have to help children learn the alphabet.  Identifying the letters is the ultimate goal, but there are many different pathways that can lead to that knowledge.  As we provide more products for supporting curriculum standards, it is important that our products allow the child and teacher to explore different avenues to help the child learn each standard skill.

My son, who is now 35, said to me the other day when we were discussing his 10 year-old daughter, “It is really hard being a parent.  Sometimes you just don’t know what to do.”   That comment brought us full-circle and reaffirmed to me that justice is alive and well in our lives, and I suggested that he discuss it with his daughter.  Hopefully, logic and reasoning will find its way into every generation of parenting.

Personalized Placemats

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.
Special Needs Application:
In addition to fostering imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, and providing an opportunity to manage sensory issues, art activities support a full range of social emotional benefits particularly as they build self esteem. And what better way to build self esteem than “framing” a child’s work of art!

I stopped in my tracks when I saw these super adorable placemats at the Hollywood Los Feliz JCC. They gave me such a smile! What is it about these clever placemats that draws you in to take a closer look? Is it the playful expression on the children’s faces? Or the colorful freestyle painting behind each photo? Or is it the solid construction paper background that frames it all and makes it pop out from the page? I think it’s “all of the above”! By using a laminator or clear contact paper to cover each picture, you can use your placemats for the whole year.

Try this sometime and you’ll discover a clever new way to identify each child’s place setting for lunchtime or snacks. A big thank you to the creative preschool staff of Hollywood Los Feliz Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.

Paper Towel Quilt

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Eduation.
Special Needs Application:
Enhances social emotional interaction and cooperation

In the paper quilt shown here we also created circular coffee filter art using the same materials and techniques. Find directions for these in the Smart Art Lesson for Coffee Filter Art shown here. Finished paper squares and circles were laid out onto a piece of white mural paper, ready to be mounted with simple white glue. This simple paper craft shows off the beautiful brilliance of color. Isn’t it wonderful eye candy?

I love watching simple paper towels come to life with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor. To create this “eye popping” paper quilt, we filled bingo bottles with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor and dabbed the color onto folded paper towel squares. These detailed patterns were created by school aged children, but younger children will create more free-form patterns with equally beautifully results. For best results use “2-ply” paper towels (better quality versions) since they soak up more color than “1-ply” paper towels and give your artwork a richer result.

Autism Society of America Conference Recap!

Thank you to everyone who came to our Achievement Products booth at the recent Autism Society of America conference! We loved meeting all of you and continue to reflect on your stories, input and interaction with our products, especially the sensory sensations of Bubber™ (APDBUBGR), Sensory Snow (AP7251), IncredibleFoam® Dough (APDFOAMSAM), Moon Sand® (APDMOON), and Slippery Spheres (AP23334) we had on display!

We were delighted to hear that many of the items we feature in Achievement Products are already helpful to the children in your programs and care, and we want to remind you all to take a look at the over 40 new items in our newest catalog and to take advantage of the special 15% off Sensory Stimulation products offer.

We were particularly excited to learn that, while the age focus for most of the items we offer is in the 1-5 years range, many programs find the items in Achievement Products are helpful for older children with autism as well, beginning with the five sensory sensations items we list above. Other products appropriate for older children on the autism spectrum include:

Items for social emotional and communication issues:
Talk About How We Feel (AP3577) – A photo card activity featuring images of youngsters in the early teens age range.

Trading Faces (AP72200) – An illustrated game focusing on emotional intelligence that features the likenesses of 10-12 year olds.

Talk Blocks (AP4412) – A set of five, 3”x3” blocks that record messages up to 30 seconds in length each.

Sensory calming and stimulation items:
Classroom Light Filters (AP92301)
Vibro Tactile Mit (AP91044)
Natural Sound Machine (AP6953)
Room Effects Projectors and Wheels, Range from AP5610AP5620

Fidgets:
Fuzzy Tangle – Set of 2 (AP2900)
Therapy Tangle (AP3300)
Hairy Tangle (AP1290)
Mini Massage Fidget – Set of 12 (AP3311)
Squeeze Rings – Progressive Resistances Set of 3 (AP302)

Arts & Crafts items:
Colossal Barrel of Crafts (AP723)
Scented Markers (APDSNIFF)

It was clear that parents and educators of teens on the autism spectrum are creative in their approach to reaching, and succeeding with, the teenagers in their care. We invite you to share your success stories with teens you know and provide for who are on the spectrum.

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

Special Needs Application:
In addition to fostering imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, and providing an opportunity to manage sensory issues, art activities support a full range of social emotional benefits particularly as they build self esteem. And what better way to build self esteem than “framing” a child’s work of art!



Inexpensive photo frames make a colorful Wall Gallery and allow you to easily change out artwork. These were purchased from Ikea for six dollars each, but Target, the 99cents store, and other value oriented retailers carry similar bargains. Make the project even better by decorating your own frames using simple and affordable beads, pipe cleaners and lace.

It’s important to display artwork tastefully to show off its value. Mounting or framing the simplest artwork brings out its aesthetic appeal. You may even know a woodworker or retired hobbyist who could handcraft simple wooden frames for your Gallery Wall. Don’t forget when you display art to make sure everyone’s artwork is included.

Recycle a Tomato Trellis and Make a Wishing Tree

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

Special Needs Application:
A good outlet for social emotional issues.

Here’s an artful way to put a tomato trellis to good use…turn it into a Wishing Tree! Simply take a metal tomato plant trellis, put it into a soil filled pot and have children design their own wish to attach it to the “tree”.

These wishes were created on rice paper, but you could also use hand-painted paper or construction paper with collage materials on top.

With summer coming up, you could even create this to decorate an outdoor vegetable garden.
 

 
This creative idea came from a volunteer at A Window Between Worlds, a shelter for battered women and their children in Venice, CA.