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Participating in a positive and enriching educational program is the right of all students with or without disabilities. This section makes suggestions about whom to contact and how to create an educational plan that can help you or your loved one obtain a quality education and become as independent as possible.
The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance has many educational materials for parents and educators. To request information or for assistance in finding educational resources for your child, call the Alliance at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442. A Resource Facilitator is available to assist parents and professionals to identify resources and help with problem solving.
Educational Rights of Persons with Disabilities
ADA) is comprised of civil rights laws that protect persons with disabilities from discrimination. Schools are required to provide accommodations for students. Some examples of accommodations include alternative format testing, preferential seating and textbooks on audio tape.
The ADA prohibits the discriminatory assignment of students with disabilities to segregated classes or facilities by state and local governments. Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits similar actions by any organization or program that receives federal funding.
These laws apply to elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools. In elementary and secondary schools, students with disabilities may be assigned to separate facilities or courses of special education only when this placement is considered the least restrictive environment (LRE) and necessary to provide equal educational opportunities. Any separate facilities, and the services provided in separate facilities, must be comparable to other facilities and services.
Individuals with Disabilities Act and Individual Education Plans (IEPs or IIIPs)
The 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all local school districts provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities from birth through 21 years of age. IDEA gives parents the right and responsibility to participate in the development of the Individual Education Plan (IEP or IIIP) that should be created for each child with a recognized disability, including brain injury. An IIIP is a new option where all services and agencies involved with the child and family work together.
An Individual Education Plan (IEP or IIIP) describes a child's abilities and learning needs. An IEP or IIIP should list the type of assistance your child may require in order to learn. Each child should have an IEP or IIIP that is responsive to his or her specific needs.
An IEP or IIIP should be written with the input of at least four people: a person from the school district who can ensure that the plan will be implemented; the student's mainstream teacher; a special education teacher; and one or more parent or guardian. Transition-age students (age 14-21) are encouraged to participate in their IEP or IIIP meetings. At least one member of the evaluation team should be an education professional who is knowledgeable about brain injury, also known as a TBI Specialist.
An IEP or IIIP for children age 14 and older should include planning that deals with the transition from school to adult life. Transition planning should address a variety of needs and may include job training and placement, continuing education, income, housing, recreation and leisure activities, community access, insurance, guardianship and medical care. The Rehabilitation Services Vocational Rehabilitation program (RS) can assist individuals with the transition to school or employment through assessment services, support, and training. Click here for more information about RS.
It is a parent's right to assist in the development of his or her child's IEP or IIIP. A parent must sign the IEP in order for it to be a legally binding document. Parents are encouraged to work with the school district every step of the way. The parent or guardian may not be aware that they actually lead the team. Let the school know if your family needs an interpreter and translated materials during a meeting with school officials.
The parent or the school may request an evaluation. If, after an evaluation, your child qualifies for special education services, you can expect the school to provide free and appropriate public education to meet the individual needs of your child. Your child may receive certain services for which he or she qualifies, including alternative transportation, speech and language therapy, physical therapy or assistive technology. When the services are educational based, you can expect the school district to make the necessary financial arrangements to provide or pay for the services. Minnesota law requires school districts to pursue third party reimbursement for special education students who receive some health related services such as Occupational Therapy (OT) or Speech Therapy. You may be asked to sign a release of information to allow the schools to receive this important funding. Your school district can answer any questions you may have about this.
The PACER Center (Parental Advocacy Center for Educational Rights) is an organization comprised of professionals, called parent advocates, who assist families to understand their child's education rights. The organization holds free classes and provides informational material to help parents navigate the educational system and advocate for their children. For more information about this valuable resource, call PACER at 952-838-9000, 800-537-2237 or visit www.pacer.org.
Options for Children Under Three Years of Age
A family-centered program is available for infants and toddlers with disabilities up to three years of age. To be screened for early childhood intervention early intervention services, call the county in which you live and request your child be screened for services. Please see the phone number listings for the number to your county office. If your child qualifies, a team that includes the family and service providers will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP or IIIP), which is the heart of early childhood intervention. The IFSP is both a process and a document. For more information, call Minnesota Children with Special Needs at 651-201-3650 or 800-728-5420 to receive a phone number of an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) agency in your area or your local school district's special education department.
If your child qualifies, a team that includes the family and service providers will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP or IIIP), which is the heart of early childhood intervention. The IFSP is both a process and a document. For more information, call Minnesota Children with Special Needs at 651-201-3650 or 800-728-5420 to receive a phone number of an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) agency in your area or your local school district's special education department.
Early Childhood Educational Options
During the past several years, researchers learned a great deal about how children develop during their first five years of life and the manner in which actions of parents can foster positive development.
Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), or mainstream pre-kindergarten programs can be very important for young children with brain injury. Some programs are geared toward children, while children and parents learn skills together in other programs. One such program is Head Start, a pre-school program for children from low-income families. If your child qualifies for waivered services through medical assistance, it could help provide funding for the Head Start and pre-school program. Call your county and ask that your child be screened for a Waiver.
For more information about an ECFE program or Head Start, call your school district's early childhood education specialist or community education department.
Services for Students Ages 3-21
If your child has sustained a brain injury, notify the school principal and the district special education director as soon as possible and provide medical documentation. Request an evaluation for special education services in writing. It is strongly recommended that a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) specialist from the school district be involved in the evaluation process.
Once your child qualifies for special education services, a TBI specialist should be a member of your child's educational team. If you have any questions about school re-entry, the evaluation process, or the special education team, you are encouraged to contact the special education case manager, the principal and/or the special education supervisor assigned to your child's school, or the district's director of special services. If you still have questions, call the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance for assistance identifying TBI services and professionals in your area.
College, Adult, and Community Education Services
A college or university student should call the main telephone number of his or her institution and ask for the office or person in charge of working with students with disabilities, often called the disability services office. Universities and colleges have support staff that coordinate services and accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Under the ADA, post-secondary institutions that receive federal funding are required by law to provide any reasonable accommodation or modification necessary for students with disabilities to have equal access to educational opportunities and services as those of non-disabled students. Examples of available accommodations may include alternative format testing, note taking, priority registration or accessible housing. You will need to provide recent medical documentation of your disability in order to request reasonable accommodations. Students should expect to self-advocate for their needs with individual instructors.
For more information about the services that colleges are required to provide, call the Alliance for Higher Education and Disability at 777-948-7779 or visit www.ahead.org. For more information about how the Americans with Disabilities Act affects institutions of higher learning, call 800-949-4232.
The Rehabilitation Services Vocational Rehabilitation (RS) program can assist individuals with the transition to school or employment through assessment support and training. Click here for more information.
Hospital/Homebound Educational Services
A child may need educational services at home upon release from the hospital or rehabilitation center, based on his or her medical condition, mobility and need for supervision. Hospital/home-bound educational services are available through your local school district on a short-and long-term basis. For more information contact your school's principal. The hospital discharge planner may assist with this process as well.
Many community education programs offered through your school district have adults with disability programs. These programs offer customized enrichment and ongoing education classes. They also provide inclusion services for all community education classes. Call the adult program coordinator of community education in your district for more information.
Many tools exist to enable persons with brain injury to improve their quality of life and participate more fully in the community, such as a pager-sized device that clips to an individuals belt and is programmed to vibrate to remind them to stay on task, assistive listening devices to block extra noise and planners to help with memory challenges.
The STAR program, established in 1989, works closely with the disability community to develop a statewide network of resources related to assistive technology. To help you navigate that network, STAR has created a Directory of Funding Resources for assistive technology. For more information about assistive technology and funding resources, contact STAR at 651-201-2640, 888-234-1267 or www.admin.state.mn.us/assistivetechnology.
Continue to the next section, "Financial Planning/Resources."