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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-092

On December 1, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Hamilton School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2008-2009 school year, properly used a sensory technique.

During the January 2008 Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting, the occupational therapist (OT) suggested the special education teacher use a weighted sensory blanket as a way to promote self calming. The OT provided training to the special education teacher on how to use the weighted sensory blanket and a follow-up to determine the effectiveness of its use. The child responded well to the use of the blanket. The parents participated in this IEP team meeting and were aware of the purpose and the use of the weighted sensory blanket. Although the use of the blanket was discussed at the IEP team meeting, it was not documented in the child’s IEP. The IEP did not include the use of sensory techniques and did not describe the circumstances under which these should be used.

On October 29, 2008, the child’s behavior proceeded to biting, spitting, kicking, and hitting the head on the floor, which was harmful to the child and others nearby. The teaching staff stayed with the child to prevent further physical harm. The behaviors eventually subsided. When the child became calm, the child requested the weighted sensory blanket. The teacher gave the blanket to the child, and the child placed the blanket first on top of the legs and then pulled it up to the waist while lying face up on the floor. After less than one minute, the parent and principal came into the room, spoke the child’s name, and the child got up and greeted the parent.

The IEP must specify the services to be provided to the child to ensure parents and staff understand those services. Although sensory techniques including the use of a weighted sensory blanket had been discussed at the January 2008 IEP team meeting, the techniques were not included in the child’s IEP. On November 19, 2008, the IEP team, including the parents, reconvened to review and revise the child’s IEP and to determine the child’s placement. The parent expressed concern about use of the weighted sensory blanket, and the team determined the blanket would no longer be used. The current IEP includes a description of the sensory techniques and the circumstances under which the techniques will be used. The district must, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan to ensure special education teaching staff and administration understand when implementing a prescribed sensory technique for a child with a disability, such as a weighted sensory blanket, the child’s IEP must include the use of such a technique and describe the circumstances under which the technique will be used.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST/SJP 1/28/09
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy