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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-006

On January 26, 2018 (letter dated January 22, 2018), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the Superior School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year, properly discontinued occupational therapy as a related service for a student with a disability.

Occupational therapy means services provided by a qualified occupational therapist and includes improving, developing, or restoring functions impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation; improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning if functions are impaired or lost; and preventing, through early intervention, initial or further impairment or loss of function. Related services are developmental, corrective, and other supportive services required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. Occupational therapy is a related service that may be included through the evaluation process if needed to benefit from special education. Occupational therapy may be removed from an individualized education program (IEP) during an IEP team meeting if the IEP team, including the occupational therapist, determines the student no longer requires the related service to benefit from special education. This is determined by the IEP team after reviewing the student’s disability-related needs and annual goals and identifying needed special education and related services. Occupational therapy may also be ended pursuant to documented beginning and ending dates as determined by the student’s IEP team. When the ending date is reached, the therapy ends without another IEP team meeting. Occupational therapy may be added again through the reevaluation process if the IEP team determines the student needs the therapy to benefit from special education.

Any time a district proposes or refuses to make a decision concerning the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of free appropriate public education to the student, the district must send the parents prior written notice regarding the team's decisions, including a description of the action proposed or rejected by the district, an explanation of why the district proposes or rejects to take the action, a description of other options the IEP team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected, a description of any other factors relevant to the district’s decision, and a statement indicating parents have the right to utilize dispute resolution options available under special education law if parents disagree.

The student’s IEP, developed on January 10, 2017, includes 90 minutes per month of occupational therapy through June 2017, and 30 minutes per month beginning September 2017, through January 9, 2018. The IEP team determined the student needed occupational therapy to meet a goal in the student’s IEP related to writing skills. Specifically, the student would copy two sentences demonstrating correct sizing of letters, line placement, and spacing. On January 5, 2018, the IEP team met to develop the annual IEP and determine continuing placement. An occupational therapist attended the meeting. The IEP documents that the student is below peers in writing and is unable to keep up with the rigor of the classroom during this subject. The parent also expressed concern about the student’s writing. The IEP team determined one of the student’s disability-related needs is to develop writing organization and mechanics. As required, the previous year’s goals were reviewed during the meeting. The occupational therapist shared samples of the student’s handwriting demonstrating the student is able to print letters using correct sizing, line placement, and spacing. In addition, the regular education teacher confirmed that the student is able to legibly complete assignments in a timely manner and that the student’s handwriting skills are commensurate with peers. The parent expressed concern about hand tremors the student sometimes experiences at home, but district staff assured the parent the student does not exhibit hand tremors during school to an extent that interferes with work production. With the exception of the parent, the IEP team agreed the student had met the previous year’s objective and no longer needed occupational therapy. The parent was provided the notice of placement that day, however the notice did not include documentation of other options considered and the reasons rejected. Within thirty days of this decision, the district must provide the parent with written notice and submit a copy to Anita Castro at the Department of Public Instruction, 402 Graham Avenue, Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54701.

This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.

//signed CST 3/7/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support
For questions about this information, contact Margaret Resan (608) 267-9158