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The Recent Supreme Court Decision- Ramifications and Repercussions

Mar 25, 2017 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

As some of you already know, the Supreme Court has just handed down a pretty important decision regarding Special Education and kids with disabilities. I should indicate clearly first of all that I am not an attorney or lawyer- so this is not legal advice or a legal opinion, but just some thoughts about all involved.

Basically, in the case of Endrew F. vs Douglas County School District there was some concern about what is termed “de minimis” education. In other words, the Court is basically saying, in my opinion that you just can’t put a child in Special education and allow them to just sit there and renew and renew the goals and objectives year after year- there has to be some growth and hopefully learning going on.

This is plausible and reasonable- but in some instances difficult and schools are now going to have to show some type of growth- either by using a very specific adaptive behavior scale that is broken down or perhaps the Brigance, or perhaps show growth in some other way.

One issue behind this decision, that is also reasonable, is that nowadays, we know more about ABA- Applied Behavior Analysis and the TEACCH program and PECS and other methodologies for teaching and reaching kids with autism, or who are on the spectrum as they say.  There have been SOME, underline some, put some in parentheses developments in terms of medications to work with kids with autism. The work of Isabel Rapin comes to mind.

Now, implications —

1) We are obviously going to need more teachers. ( The Supreme Court does not concern itself with the teacher shortage in America, but they are concerned about the growth and development ( however measured ) of children with autism, and other related disorders ( pervasive developmental delay and the like )

2) Teachers already in Special Education may need a lot more training in working with kids with autism.

3) We will need more School Psychologists to provide testing for children suspected of being autistic.

4) Schools may have to make some difficult decisions as to whether to pay to place a child with autism into a residential treatment facility as the parents had to do in this case.

5) Colleges and universities are going to have to provide training to both regular ed and special ed teachers to work with children with severe or profound or low incidence conditions.

6) IEP’s are going to need to be ” reasonably calculated ” which seems to be the new term to ensure that the goals and objectives are realistic, reasonable, rational, and appropriate and attainable within a certain time frame.

7) If goals and objectives are NOT met, the team needs to look at why—it may be that the goals were unrealistic, unreasonable or inappropriate OR it may be that the child was absent 30, 60, 90 days in the past school year for whatever reason.

8) Parents of children with autism need to be aware of these various issues in terms of collaborating with the schools to develop goals and objectives that will show progress.

9) Residential schools may find an increase in their numbers as public schools may decide that it may be better to pay a large sum of money to a special school, with special staff, with specialized training than attempt to service a child inadequately or minimally and risk a lawsuit or legal action.

10) IEP’s ( Individual Education Plans ) are going to need to be very carefully reviewed in light of the child’s present level of functioning and what can reasonably be taught, and learned over a certain period of time.

Chief Justice John Roberts has indicated ” The IDEA demands more…..it requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances”

I personally interpret his works ” in light of the child’s circumstances ” to refer to the child’s condition- be it vision, hearing, intellectual disability, autism, Down Syndrome and to the child’s adaptive behavior as well as to the child present level of functioning as well as the child or adolescents intelligence quotient or cognitive functioning.

In closing, we are going to need a lot more teachers, who are better and better trained, and a lot more specialists who are educated to work with this population and who know the latest methodologies for working with certain populations, such as children with autism, and autism spectrum disorders.

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