Workshop teaches EFMP families how to prepare for special education process

15 Aug 2011 | Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

During a workshop held at the Russell Marine and Family Services Center Aug. 11, parents and social workers of exceptional family members learned how to prepare their children for the upcoming school year.

The class focused on federal and state regulations for special education, the process for an Individual Education Plan, which is a legally binding document spelling out exactly what special education services a child will receive, new special education requirements, placement and eligibility and how to go about making the appropriate accommodations and modifications to the program put in place for their children.

“One of the most important determining factors in the success of students with special needs is positive parent support and involvement,” said Debbie Powell, and Exceptional Family Member Program caseworker. “When children believe that success is possible, they will try. So, you’re first priority is to help your children believe in themselves and their ability to learn.”

Special Education is governed by Individuals with Disabilities Act and covers from birth to age 21.

Powell reminded parents that the definition of a disability in the education world differs from the medical world and for students to be considered disabled they “Need special education (special designed instruction) and related services.”

According to IDEA, there are 14 areas of exceptionalities to make students eligible for special education, which include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment including blindness.

With the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004, to place a child in special education, school systems are required to perform research-based interventions before the referral process.

During the pre-referral process, parents meet with a team of professionals who perform no more than two six- to eight-week educational interventions. If the child is then identified as a special-needs student, the school system has a 90-day period to put and IEP in place and establish what special education programs the student will be placed in.

An IEP specifies the concerns of parents and is a statement of the students present level of performance, annual goals, modifications, accommodations and supports.

“Parents should remember that IEPs are a process, they’re a legal document, can be changed when needed, must be reviewed annually and that they are individualized to the specific students needs,” said Powell.

To find more information on preparing students for special education and the IEP process, visit,, or