Reading Rockets, an educational initiative of the public television station in the Washington area, has a nice, easy-to-read web page about accessible instructional materials. Though the guide is written for parents, teachers and administrators could also find this information valuable. IDEA 2004 requires textbook companies to adhere to a certain technical standard (the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, or NIMAS) when they create the source files that are used to create textbooks. This digital source file can then be used to produce the standard textbooks we all know and love, as well as Braille versions, audio versions, large-print editions, and ...


They may have other policy differences, but when it comes to special education, Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican John McCain all want the same thing for states--more money. My colleague Michele McNeil has already written in her lively blog about Clinton's pledge to "fully-fund" the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That gets into a tricky area. In 1975, when IDEA first was passed as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the law said that the federal government would eventually kick in to the states 40 percent of the nationwide average cost of educating a ...


This must feel familiar to those in the gifted education field: Every year that the Bush administration has created a budget, it has proposed eliminating the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, the only federally funded program specifically directed toward enhancing the ability of schools to meet these students' special education needs. And every year, the program has been maintained through Congressional action. This year is no excepton. The fiscal 2009 budget released earlier this week by the White House proposed eliminating the Javits program and 46 others. Compared to the $59.8 billion in discretionary spending ...


The Journal News, based in White Plains, N.Y., recently ran a nice article about a therapy dog that has apparently prompted wonderful results in a classroom of children with special learning needs. One 6-year-old with selective mutism -- a social anxiety disorder that prevented him from speaking -- apparently broke his silence just so he could talk to his mother about Boo, a 7-year-old Labrador mix. Therapy dogs have had a long history in schools, but they are not universally accepted, for a variety of reasons. A few years ago, I wrote about a family that wanted their specially-trained ...


An article I wrote recently about New Jersey shifting the burden of proof in individualized education program hearings is generating a lot of thoughtful reader comments. The issue: When a school creates an IEP for a student and the provisions of the plan are disputed, who has to prove their case? Does the school have to prove that it is doing the right thing, or do the parents have to prove that the school's plan is wrong? In 2005, the Supreme Court decided in the case Schaffer v. Weast that, in the absence of any other state law, the "party ...


The No Child Left Behind Act has to offer a way for general education teachers to receive professional development so they can teach students with special needs effectively, said three researchers that I interviewed as part of a story on a study by the National Council on Disability, "The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report." Considering all the information that the presidential advisory council compiled for its report, I found it interesting that this issue came up repeatedly. "When it comes down to the school level, that's the challenge. They're the ...


Just in case its position wasn't clear yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics is promoting a mercury-in-vaccines study in its journal because of the controversy over the ABC drama "Eli Stone." The show, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern time, features a lawyer who successfully argues that a mercury preservative in a vaccine caused a child's autism. The AAP demanded that the "reckless" episode be yanked, but ABC has agreed only to run a disclaimer. The University of Rochester (N.Y.) study says that babies excrete thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines, much faster than originally thought. ...


The American Academy of Pediatrics sent out a huffy press release this week, demanding that ABC cancel the premiere episode of a new television show, "Eli Stone," because the main character, a lawyer, successfully argues that a child's autism was caused by mercury in a vaccine. The show might scare parents away from vaccines, the release said. ABC's response? No way. But the network has agreed to add a disclaimer to the premiere. (See The New York Times article here.) Some disability advocates have argued that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, has played a role in the explosive growth of autism ...


The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may have stalled, but that's not stopping education groups from trying to mold the law in their favor. One of the latest suggestions for an amendment, backed by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, would start a pilot program to allow "out-of-level testing" for students with disabilities. The chief sponsor of H.R. 4100 is Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California. The bill is sitting in committee. Under the pilot program, a 6th grade student reading at a 3rd grade level could take a 3rd grade reading test. This ...


It's safe to say that school organizations are still stung by a federal decision made in December to stop reimbursing schools for some of the services schools provide to students with disabilities. (See my last story on this topic here.) When schools offer programs like speech or occupational therapy to low-income students, Medicaid pays them back. However, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the government agency responsible for administering Medicaid, decided to cut out reimbursements for getting those kids to school. School is primarily an educational setting, the agency said. The government also won't pay school personnel for the ...


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