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Houston - Special Needs Children

IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

In America, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) can cover any behavioral or learning difficulty, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Deafness/hearing impairments, Dyslexia, Physical handicaps, Short term illness, Visual impairment.

Informative website regarding the Act; includes a useful glossary under ‘definitions’ or definition page on commonly used acronyms.

Whether your child has special health care or education needs, Houston has excellent facilities and personnel to deal with any eventuality. The two concepts are dealt with as separate entities for ease of understanding the Texas methodology, however; they may be closely linked in practice.

Parents of children with special needs need to inquire ahead of time before coming to a new location. Things you have to consider are:

- Type of special education you are requiring for your child.
- School district that offers a good program best suited for your child.
- Recommendations for doctors, therapist, agencies, special education teacher and other professionals
that you will need once you get there.
- Prepare your child for the move. Discuss it and if possible show pictures, map of the new location, food, schools or anything to familiarize them with the place.
If you decide to put your child in public school system (which is your best option for children with special needs) it is very important that you choose a very good school district. In that way you can be sure that he or she will be given the help that he or she needs. Try to visit the school within the district and talk to the school’s special education department head. From talking to them and seeing the school yourself, you can decide if it is the school you want for your child. From there you can start looking for a place to live because you need to be in the same district. Remember they will not enroll your child if you cannot show them any proof that you live within that district.

The next thing you have to do is make an appointment with the school’s diagnostician or Head of the Special Education Department to determine the eligibility of your child in the program. They would schedule an ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) meeting. This is where they discuss and create an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) for your child. Prior to your meeting, prepare all the necessary papers you have for your child. I would recommend bringing the latest Psychological Evaluation together with the Diagnostic Impression and Recommendations for your child’s education signed by the doctor and any other professional that was involved in the process. That way, you can start discussing with them what your child needs and implementing what was written in the report. They may decide whether they want their own evaluation or not. But even if they do, they still need to comply with whatever recommendation your doctor has written. As a parent, you know which program is best suited to your child’s needs, so you must insist on this certain program to be used.

While discussing your child’s IEP make sure everything you discussed and agreed upon are written on the plan. What is not written on the paper is not implemented. Also, make sure you have enough time for the meeting. Some parents leave before the meeting ends and sign the paper not knowing what will be on the final IEP. Then, it is too late to alter it when the final copy is made because everyone has supposedly agreed to it. Don ‘t let things like that happen. Stay on top of everything.

Transition services for your teenager
Federal and state laws require schools to have a process for preparing student with disabilities to become independent and successful adults. This is called “transition” or “transition planning”. This involves not just the school, but also the student; the family; and other agencies, programs or individuals who have a role in helping the student become an independent and successful adult. This must begin no later than the age of 14. By the time they reach 16, there must be a written plan called ITP (Individual Transition Plan).

In the ITP, you have to tell the ARD committee what services you think your child needs, and also training courses that he or she can take to be able to work and live independently. The services the school district must provide will also be in the student’s IEP. So he or she will have transition services addressed in two places: the IEP and the ITP.

Issues that may be addressed in the transition plan can include:
- Vocational evaluation and training (i.e. job training for jobs available in the community)
- Independent living skills (i.e. using public transportation, functional reading)
- Post-secondary education (what kind and what requirements must be met)
- Supported employment (i.e. identifying support needs, working with a job coach)
- Leisure/recreation activities (i.e. participation in community activities with others)
Of course, transition service needs may change, as the student gets older. This should be reviewed annually and revised as needed.

In Texas, a person is considered to be an adult at the age of 18. The district will notify both you and your child that the right to make educational decisions will transfer to the student when he or she is 18. If you want to stay involved in his educational decision you need to get a guardianship. Without guardianship, parents will continue to receive notice of ARD meetings but it is not an invitation to the meeting. Parents will no longer have the right to attend ARD meetings unless invited by the school district or the student. If you do attend the meeting, you will not be an educational decision maker.
Guardianship is a legal process designed to protect vulnerable persons from abuse, neglect (self-neglect), and exploitation. Guardianship provides for the person’s care and management of her money while preserving to the largest extent possible, the person’s independence and can make decisions affecting his or her life.

You can always apply for a limited guardianship if you are not comfortable with full guardianship. You have to keep in mind that guardianship does not happen overnight and you never know when you will need it.

Services from the school district
Under IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Educational Act) students with disabilities are eligible for services from the school district until they turn 22 or until they graduate with a regular diploma. A student can still participate in graduation ceremonies with his age group without losing his right to continue getting education services from the school district, as long as he is not given his diploma at the ceremony.

Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a Worldwide sports training and competition for individuals ages 8 and up with special needs. Every school district has a special Olympic program. Your school could provide you with information about the program. This is a chance for your child to participate in sports that they like and enjoy. They have basketball, soccer, skating, track, tennis, bowling, baseball, golf and many others. They compete with the other school districts and receive medals and trophies for their performance and participation. They also have an annual sports banquet and dance. Volunteer coaches are usually teachers from the same school district and regular students who want to contribute their time and effort. Usually siblings of the special Olympians help out with the team. This is a great bonding experience for them, and usually, these sports events become family affairs.

CSHCN" Stands for Children with Special Health Care Needs

CSHCN is part of the Texas Department of Health. Although designed to help financially needy families, this care facility is a good place to start should your child suffer from:

Bone, muscle & joint problems, cancer, heart problems, cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders, cleft (split) lip, cleft palate (roof of mouth), craniofacial anomalies, diabetes, epilepsy, ear or eye problems, spina bifida, certain blood problems, such as hemophilia and sickle cell disease, certain metabolic and genetic disorders amongst others.

The contact point for the Houston area is:

Texas Department of Health, PHR 6 & 5

5425 Polk Avenue, Suite J
Tel: + 1 (713) 767 3110

The Texas State website also has information on Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities and Reading and Special Education amongst other topics.

Everything about children who may need special health care - frequent doctor visits, medicine, equipment or operations.

Texas Education Agency
Everything is in alphabetical order, regarding special needs children and their education.
The Office for the Education of Special Populations is comprised of seven divisions: Special Education, Migrant Education, Student Support Programs (formally Accelerated Instruction), Services for the Deaf, Parent Involvement and Community Empowerment, State/Federal Waivers, and Program Evaluation.