Hello? Is This Thing On?

I’m not normally in the habit of recycling previous posts (especially those barely a month old), but I really need some feedback on this from teachers, CST specialists, parents, administrators, students, consultants – really, any stakeholder in the world of special education.  Here’s what I wrote last month:

So every member of my new Child Study Team has some ‘pet project’ that they contribute to the department, and along those lines, I’ve been approached to put together a website for the department (not sure if it’s just for CST or Special Services in general; will get more details in the summer).


Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments here – parents, what info can we make readily available to you?  Special ed teachers/service providers, what “frequently asked questions” or topics would you put on a site for the community?

Although this project is still in the very early stages, I have some thoughts as to what I think needs to go on this site at minimum:

  • “plain English” description of the NJ special ed determination process
  • downloadable PDFs of NJAC 6:14 (special education code), PRISE (Parental Rights in Special Education), and similar documents
  • little blurbs about each of the CST members (4 psychologists, 2 LDTCs, 1 social worker) and our supervisor, along with contact information (phone, email, fax)
  • information on transition services and options
  • links to useful external sources

I’m not quite at the point of creating a Twitter account for our Child Study Team, but I would like to do something a little more personalized than a static website, like maybe have a monthly blog post from a different CST member (a la a newsletter).  I did create a wiki for the Special Services dept. at my last school as part of my grad school internship project, so I do have a basic blueprint, but given the additional year and a half or so of technical experience I’ve gained since putting that up (plus the fact that I’ll be using locally hosted WordPress as my canvas), I think I can kick this site up a notch.

So what do YOU think needs to feature on this website?  Sky’s the limit, at least as we kick ideas around in this space.


  • How about a space for students to share what has worked for them? Ways they’ve found to advocate for themselves, ways of studying/learning/organizing? A place to ask questions?

    I’m not sure how you’d deal with this in terms of privacy though.

    What about information for the mainstream teachers too?

    Jackie Ballarini’s last blog post..To have a class blog or not to have a class blog

  • I like the idea of sharing successful strategies, but you’re right – handling the privacy issue (as well as the logistics of information organization, moderation, etc) might be a bit beyond my scope. What I could do is set up an email address for people to submit tips to, and I could then organize, edit, and publish as necessary. I had a “Helpful Hints from Teachers” section on the wiki I put up, but only one person ever submitted anything. Boo.

    It’s my understanding that this is going to be hosted on the school’s servers/webspace, so anything we put up needs to be in accordance with board policy & guidelines. I think that for that reason, the “submit via email” could work better than having students post directly.

    As far as info for mainstream teachers, that’s what I’m asking about – what kind of information would be helpful to know?

  • I would find it helpful to get more information than is provided in the IEP summary sheet I get (I’m not sure how it works in your school though). All I get in terms of diagnosis is the criteria under which they qualify for services. OHI/SLD… SLD tells me nothing. What is the specific disability? How does it manifest itself? Explanations in non-jargon would be wonderful.

    I have a background in special ed. I know I can go pull a case file and read the educational psych report. I know (kind of) how to interpret it. I’m not sure how many others do.

    Jackie Ballarini’s last blog post..To have a class blog or not to have a class blog

  • Here are some questions that could be addressed:
    -What is the purpose of an IEP and what kind of input should each participant bring to the meeting?
    -What is a functional behavior assessment?
    -What is a behavior intervention plan?
    -What are accommodations and how can it help the student?
    -What is assistive technology?
    – What agencies are available for help after the student graduates (like Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Security, etc.)

    Pat’s last blog post..Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/29/09

  • All great suggestions, Pat – thank you. Any thoughts on whether I should create separate sections for each (e.g. Behavior, Technology, etc.) or just make a general FAQ? I’m thinking I could do some cool things if I broke it up into sections and really went into detail, but not sure what the return on my investment would be (read: would anybody even look at the damn thing?).

    Jackie, I like the idea of including “what does this look like” descriptions of conditions, LDs, etc. I try to do that in my psych reports, but the teachers generally aren’t the target audience in those things. I think that could be a separate section all by itself.

    Another thought that occurs to me – if I’m trying to make the world of special education more transparent, I wonder if that will make some folks uncomfortable, and what kind of pushback I might expect. I certainly wouldn’t put anything up that violates confidentiality, but I think with as large a group of stakeholders as we have, I have to expect varying levels of comfort with a project like this. I’ll have to think about how to address that.

  • Speaking as both a SpEd teacher and a SpEd Parent, how about something that discusses the not so obvious advantages to graduating from HS with an IEP in place? Most parents try to get their college bound students de-certified, but there are advantages for the student (College disability resources, state rehab services, job placement, etc.) I think the lack of knowledge about the post HS advantages helps to contribute to the stigma associated “labeling” a child.

    Also, maybe include an article from a college disability services coordinator.

    Upon further thought, how about breaking the site into age groups. The concerns of elementary parents are very different than those of HS parents. Could cover social skills, behavioral, and academic issues.

    Karen Chichester (kchichester)’s last blog post..Call for a Paradigm Shift in Michigan

  • Good calls, Karen – I work in a high school, so I wouldn’t really be addressing anything below grade 9, unless we put up a section on transitioning from middle to high school for our rising freshmen.

    That’s interesting what you say about a push for de-classification as kids get close to graduation; in my (admittedly limited) experience, it’s been the exact opposite, including receiving quite a few eligibility referrals in 11th and 12th grade.

    I have learned a lot this year about post-secondary transition, and I do have some good handouts I could put online or link to as well, including some info from our local community college. Thanks for the suggestions!

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