Range of Services and Least Restrictive Environment:
A full range of service options is available to implement each student's individualized education program (IEP) in accordance with the principle of least restrictive environment. The term "least restrictive environment" refers to the setting determined by the IEP team that gives the child as much contact as possible with age-appropriate peers in general education settings while meeting the child's unique educational needs. It also means that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of a child with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with or without the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Students often receive services in more than one setting. For example, a student may spend part of the day in a general education classroom and part of the day in a special education classroom. As a student's needs change, different educational environments may be appropriate.
Fairfax County Public Schools' IEPs, revised in March 1998 and again in January 2001 to reflect the changes in IDEA '97 and Virginia regulations, specify the special education services a student receives as well as the setting (including general education and/or special education classrooms) in which those services are delivered. The IEPs also specify the student's participation in general education with no direct special education support.
Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to inclusive schools in which students with disabilities can be educated with their peers while engaged in a challenging curriculum that allows for progress towards their IEP goals.
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Students who are eligible for special education services may require the additional support of a related service, defined as a service that is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. (Please note that related services are available only to students who are eligible for special education services.)
Following the determination of the need for special education services, the IEP team may determine what related services, if any, are necessary for the student to benefit from the education program. The IEP team then identifies the service(s) on the IEP, decides who will deliver the support, and determines the least restrictive environment in which the service(s) can be provided. The classroom teacher or other appropriate specialists may deliver the service. The goal for related services is to provide the student with an education program based on the student's individual needs. Like all special education services, related services should support the student's access to the general education curriculum, i.e., support curriculum goals, with as little disruption as possible to the instructional program.
The following is a list of related services with a brief description of each:
- Audiology: The interpretation of audiological results; the assessment of the classroom environment and individual auditory skills to make appropriate recommendations for assistive listening devices and habilitation; consultations with classroom teachers and support staff members regarding the student's hearing loss and technical aspects of hearing loss; the monitoring of hearing aid function and middle ear status and function using a variety of audiological tests and equipment; and the provision of parent counseling and in-service presentations to parents, teachers, and staff members regarding hearing loss and technology. Audiologists may act as liaisons between the school, the community, and hearing health care professionals.
- Counseling: Services provided by qualified social workers, psychologists, school counselors, or other qualified personnel.
- Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children: The implementation of a formal plan for identifying a disability as early as possible in a child's life (often referred to as Preschool Child Find, it includes the identification of children of all ages).
- Orientation and mobility services: Provided to blind or visually impaired students to enable those students to safely move within their school, home, and community.
- Parent counseling and training: Helping parents understand the special needs of their child and providing parents with information about child development; helping parents aquire the skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child's IEP.
- Physical and occupational therapy The observation or evaluation of students to determine the impact of motor and sensory problems on the student's ability to benefit from special education services; therapists working with the student and the educational team to help the student move about the school, develop motor skills, and increase general strength and endurance needed in the educational environment; and direct assistance to the student in improving the use of his or her hands, self-care abilities, appropriate sensory processing, and the eye-hand coordination needed for the student to benefit from the individualized (special) education program. Therapists make suggestions to students and to the educational staff members about ways to make accommodations or modify the educational program and the school environment to meet the needs of the student. Physical and occupational therapists may provide information, ideas, adaptive equipment, and suggestions for activities to the educational team or the student. (State law requires that all physical therapy services have a physician referral prior to beginning services.) Parents should also note that school-based physical or occupational therapy services are different than medically based services in that the former address functioning related to educational needs.
- Psychological services: Assessment procedures; interpreting assessment results, especially as they relate to learning; consulting with other staff members to plan school programs; and assisting in developing positive behavioral interventions.
- Recreation: The assessment of functioning in skill areas related to recreational activities; the provision of recreation programs and services. In Fairfax County, this is typically done through the physical education program.
- Rehabilitation counseling: Focuses on career development, employment preparation, the achieving independence, and integration in the workplace for a student with a disability. The Office of Career and Transition Services meets this need for students in Fairfax County.
- Social work services: Preparing a social case history about a child with a disability; providing group or individual counseling with the child and family regarding problems that affect the child's adjustment in school; serving as a liaison to connect families with school and community resources; and assisting in developing positive behavioral intervention strategies.
- Speech and language services: Identifying, assessing, and diagnosing specific communication deficits; providing habilitation for communication deficits; and counseling and guiding teachers, children, and parents regarding communication impairments.
- Transportation: Travel to and from school and between schools; the provision of specialized equipment, accommodations, and/or supports if they are required to provide transportation for a student with a disability.
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Special Considerations for Families
Students are entitled to an evaluation by qualified personnel. When appropriate, students are evaluated in the primary language of the home or in the primary mode of communication. Interpretation services may be requested by the school or parent.
Information to parents of special education students is provided in the primary language of the home or in the primary mode of communication (e.g., Braille) unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. Parents may also request that an interpreter be present at school meetings. Parents should request this through the school.
Translations of this handbook and other Fairfax County Public Schools documents related to special education are available from the Parent Resource Center at (703) 204-3941, TDD (703) 204-3956 or the Central Student Registration Section at (703) 876-5219.
- Children with disabilities or their parents are also entitled to:
- Nondiscriminatory testing and evaluation.
- Information on independent education evaluations.
- Annual individualized education program reviews.
- Triennial reevaluations for eligibility and placement.
- Access to student records and confidentiality of records.
- Availability of schools without architectural barriers.
- Impartial due process hearings, mediation, and/or administrative reviews to resolve disputes.