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IDEA Complaint Decision 19-046

On June 24, 2019 (form dated June 19, 2019), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues, which occurred during the 2018-19 school year, are described below.

Whether the district properly conducted a special education evaluation; and properly considered information from outside evaluations provided by parents.

The student who is the subject of this complaint is identified as having a disability in the area of Specific Learning Disability (SLD). The individualized education program (IEP) in effect for the student during the 2018-19 school year was developed and revised at IEP team meetings held on September 25, 2018, October 19, 2018, February 5, 2019, and May 7, 2019.

During the October 19, 2018, IEP team meeting, team members discussed and reviewed the student’s progress and addressed additional information provided by the student’s parent from an outside psychological consultation conducted in September. The IEP team also reviewed speech and language testing conducted by district staff to consider continued eligibility for speech and language as a related service and an occupational therapy (OT) sensory profile evaluation, as recommended by the outside psychologist. The OT evaluation states: “Based on formal assessment and observations… the student exhibits typical sensory processing abilities as compared to peers and does not require the services of occupational therapy to help the student benefit from special education”. The speech and language therapy data demonstrated the student’s articulation had improved to being consistent with developmental expectations. The district speech and language pathologist also noted that the student did not demonstrate social language developmental traits or characteristics typical of a student identified under the impairment area of autism. The IEP team reviewed the recommendations by the outside psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech and language pathologist and included social instruction, visual schedule, and visual examples to complement oral directions to the student’s IEP as supplementary aids and services.

On February 26, 2019, the IEP team met again to develop the student’s annual IEP and determine whether the student continued to exhibit a need for speech and language therapy as a related service. The IEP team determined the student no longer required speech and language services. The IEP team also added graphic organizers and visual cueing to the IEP as supplementary aids and services and included specialized instruction in the area of self-advocacy. During the IEP meeting, the parent requested the district consider the additional disability area of autism. The student’s parent informed the district that the student received a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and provided the district medical information. The IEP team informed the parent they would need to hold a reevaluation to consider the new information. At the end of the meeting, a Notice of Reevaluation was initiated and given to the parent.

On May 7, 2019, the IEP team met to determine the student’s continuing eligibility for special education, including consideration of the additional impairment area of autism and to review an outside neuropsychology evaluation report provided by the student’s parent. The IEP team reviewed the information, including district assessments and evaluations, teacher observations, outside medical information provided by the parent, and current staff and parent information. The IEP team reviewed medical information provided by the parent and included the information in the evaluation report. As part of the evaluation, district staff administered the Autism Spectrum Rating Scale (ASRS). The evaluation report explains, “The ASRS is a rating scale which helps assess characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for children when compared to a national sample of same aged peers.” The rating scale was completed by the student’s parent, special education teacher, and regular education teacher. The scores on the parent’s scale resulted in a ‘very elevated’ composite score, meaning the student indicates many behavioral characteristics similar to youth diagnosed with ASD. However, both the special education and regular education teachers rated the student within the ‘average’ range as compared to same-age peers. The district did not conduct additional intellectual assessments on the student; however, the September 2018 neuropsychology evaluation provided by the parent demonstrates the student’s full scale intelligence in the low average range of functioning. The outside speech and language evaluation completed in February 2019 found the student has overall average receptive and expressive language skills. The IEP team also reviewed observations conducted by the school psychologist on six different occasions in several locations during different activities including the regular education classroom, hallway, playground, and during music and gym class. The student did not present any behaviors or social functioning at school that would indicate characteristics of autism. During the IEP meeting, a district staff member handed out copies of the autism eligibility checklist to all the members of the IEP team. The staff member read each item on the autism eligibility checklist out loud during the meeting and asked every team member, including the parents, to provide input. The IEP team properly considered all input in determining the student did not meet the criteria necessary to qualify under the impairment area of autism. The student continued to be eligible for special education under the impairment area of SLD. The district properly conducted a special education evaluation and properly considered information from outside evaluations provided by parents.

Whether the district properly determined whether a student with a disability requires extended school year (ESY) services.

A school district is required to provide extended school year (ESY) services to a student when the student requires these services to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If the parent or any other IEP team participant expresses a desire to discuss the student’s need for ESY, the IEP team, including the parent, must determine on an individual basis whether the child requires ESY services in order to receive FAPE. In determining whether ESY is required, the IEP team should consider multiple factors including the likelihood of regression and the recovery time from this regression. The primary issue is whether the progress the student made during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if ESY is not provided during the summer. On May 7, the IEP team met to determine if the student required ESY services. The IEP team reviewed present level information and a review of the student’s current progress towards IEP goals in the areas of math and reading. The student’s reading and math scores show the student making progress, placing the student at or slightly below grade-level benchmarks. The team also determined that based on district level assessments and informal testing, there was no evidence of regression on previously mastered skills after extended absences. The district properly determined the student did not need ESY services.

This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.These issues may be addressed through other dispute resolutions, including mediation and due process hearings. Visit http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution for more information.

Sincerely,

//digitally signed by BVH 1/9/20
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support
BVH:sao

For questions about this information, contact DPI Sped Team (608) 266-1781