District 102 offers a full continuum of Special Education services to those students who have undergone a case study evaluation and have been found eligible to receive additional educational support during their school day. Following state and federal laws that establish criteria for eligibility, schools are required to provide services to a child between the ages of 3 and 21 to address the adverse effect of a disability on his/her education.
Special education is instruction and related services provided by special education personnel or by a general education program that has been modified through the use of special education support services, supplementary aids, or other special programming. Related services are support services that may be provided to assist a student in accessing his/her academic program. Related services include, but are not limited to, the following: occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, social work services, and speech and language services. The student’s IEP will determine the services and amount of time needed to meet the student’s academic or behavioral needs.
Students with disabilities who do not qualify for an individualized education program under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, may qualify for services underSection 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if the student (i) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of a physical or mental impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment. Questions about the identification, assessment and placement of students should be directed to Terry Sofianos Wohlgenant, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education at 708-215-7016.
Lead Special Educators
These professionals assist the district with building-level coordination of services. Although your child’s case manager should be the main contact for special education-related matters for parents and guardians, you can also reach out to the appropriate LSE for information or to connect you with the relevant staff.
Barnsdale - Tina McLane, Special Education Teacher
Congress Park - Ella Farmer, Psychologist
Cossitt - Shannon Kelly, Psychologist
Forest Road - Alysann Stimac, Special Education Teacher
Ogden - Kathy Hadraba, Special Education Teacher
Park - Megan Locke, Special Education Teacher
Special Education Department Action Steps 2019-2020
These action steps are directly related to the District's overall Strategic Plan goals.
Strategic Plan New Actions as of October 2019
Create a volunteer special education parent ambassador group and provide appropriate training in order to implement the program incrementally throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
Review best practices and research for serving students through the Connections and Cross-categorical programs and develop a list of recommendations and an accompanying action plan in response to the review by February 2020.
Collect data on “pathways to special education” in order to ensure appropriate identification and to reduce disproportionality among racial and ethnic groups and create a list of recommendations and actionable followup steps in response to the data collection by June 2020.
- There have been some recent Special Education Updates which involve changes to IEP meeting paperwork and procedures in order to promote more meaningful participation by parents and guardians. Some of these improvements have put into place through new legislation, while others have been developed through collaboration between families, staff, and administration. Details can be found here: September 12, 2019 Letter to Parents
- Actualizaciones sobre Educación Especial, 2019-2020
- We are also pleased to announce the debut of volunteer Special Education Parent Ambassadors. This is a new and exciting development in our district that is intended to provide interested families with parent-to-parent camaraderie and support. If you are a parent of a student with special needs, please consider applying for this role. Click here.
- The state has released an excellent dyslexia guide that will be helpful for families and educators. The Dyslexia Guide for Parents, Educators, and Students, ISBE Division of Special Education Services (July 2019)
- The Special Needs Advisory Panel (SNAP) has set three meetings for the 2019-2020 school year. SNAP is an advisory committee to the district, made up of parents, general educators, special educators, and administration. If you are not an official member of the committee but would like to attend a meeting, please RSVP to Terry Sofianos Wohlgenant, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meetings will be held in the Park Junior High School LRC.
- Monday, September 16th, 9 am - 11 am
- Wednesday, December 4th, 4 pm - 6pm
- Tuesday, March 3rd, 9 am - 11 am
Special Education Teachers
Early Childhood Teachers
Occupational and Physical Therapists
Vision and Hearing Itinterants
Does my child need special education?
Referrals – Kindergarten through Grade Eight
Regardless of the source of the referral, if the referral is appropriate, the school district must notify the parent(s)/guardian(s) and referring party in writing of their decision to initiate the evaluation process. Once a referral is initiated, the team, including parents, will come together at a Domain Meeting to review and evaluate existing information about the student. Upon reviewing the information, the team members shall determine whether additional evaluation data are needed, and which qualified members of the team will conduct the evaluation. The following areas (domains) may be assessed: academic/developmental skills, functional skills, cognitive functioning, hearing/vision, health, motor abilities, communication status and social/emotional status. Written parental consent must be obtained prior to conducting the evaluation. Illinois Rules and Regulations that govern special education mandate that a case study evaluation and an IEP Eligibility Conference be completed within sixty school days from the date of written consent.
A-B-Cs of Special Education Acronyms List
Accommodations: Techniques and materials that allow individuals with disabilities the same access to the school environment as non-disabled peers. Accommodations do not change any learner outcomes expected from the class.
Annual Goals: Education goals developed for a student to address identified deficits.
Annual Review (AR): A yearly meeting with the family to review a student’s progress toward goals.
Assistive Technology and Services: Equipment and services that are required for a student to function independently and access basic tasks related to learning.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Any of a range of behavioral disorders in children characterized by symptoms that include poor concentration, an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty in paying attention, and impulsivity. A person can be predominantly inattentive (often referred to as ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of these two.
Behavior Intervention/Modification Plan: A plan that includes positive strategies, program modifications, and supplementary aids and supports that address a student's disruptive behaviors and allows the child to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
Co-Morbidity: The simultaneous presence of one or more disorders.
Consent: The written approval a parent gives to have their child evaluated and to receive initial services. Consent is always voluntary and a parent may revoke it at any time.
Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM): A standardized procedure used for General Outcome Measurement (GOM) and method for monitoring student progress. FastBridge is an example of a web-based CBM system.
Direct Instruction: An instructional approach to academic subjects that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.
Domains Meeting: A meeting to determine what data is needed in order to conduct an evaluation. Parental consent is obtained through this meeting in order to proceed with the evaluation.
Due Process Hearing: The legal proceeding between a school district and family who are unable to reach agreement on issues related to special education.
Dyslexia: A learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language. (Mayo Clinic) Children with dyslexia may qualify for an IEP under the category of Specific Learning Disability or a 504 plan. Some students with milder dyslexia may have their needs met through tiered reading support through MTSS or a general education differentiation plan.
Early Childhood Education (ECE): Part of the special education continuum available for children three to five years of age.
Eligibility: IDEA identifies fourteen disability categories for which special education eligibility may be considered. The categories and definitions are as follows:
Autism: A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three.
Deaf-Blindness (D-B): Concomitant [simultaneous] hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs.
Deafness (D): A hearing impairment so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.
Developmental Delay (DD): A category of disability for children ages three through nine. The student must experience developmental delay in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development.
Emotional Disability (ED): A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
• An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
• An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
• Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;
• A general pervasive mood of anxiety or unhappiness or depression; or
• A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
Hearing Impairment (HI): Impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but is not included under the definition of "deafness."
Intellectual Disability (IntD): Significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Multiple Disabilities (MD): Concomitant [simultaneous] impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.
Orthopedic Impairment (PI): A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).
Other Health Impairment (OHI): Having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that:
• Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, or sickle cell anemia; and
• Adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Specific Learning Disability (SLD): A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.
Speech or Language Impairment (SLI): A communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; psychosocial functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.
Visual Impairment (VI): Impairment in vision that even with correction adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.
Eligibility Determination Conference (EDC): A meeting within sixty school days of parental consent to evaluate which determines if a child is eligible for special education services. In most cases, if the student is determined eligible, an IEP is also completed at the same time.
Evaluation: Procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and/or determine if the effects of a disability are such that special education and related services are required.
Executive Function: A person's ability to manage or regulate a collection of basic cognitive and emotional processes. This includes planning, initiation, organization, and execution of tasks as well as the ability to cope with transitions or regulate emotional responses.
Expressive Language: The aspect of spoken language that includes speaking and written language.
Extended School Year (ESY): Special education services provided beyond the regular school year for those children whose disabilities render the traditional school year insufficient and for whom significant regression is experienced over extended periods of non-instruction. The intent of ESY is to minimize loss of skill and maintain skill level. It is not intended to promote growth, as is the focus of the traditional school year.
FastBridge: Created by FastBridge Learning, this system combines Curriculum-Based Measures (CBM) and Computer-Adaptive Tests (CAT) for reading, math and behavior, and delivers accurate, actionable reports for screening, skill analysis, instructional planning, and more to ensure educators have the right tools and the right data to provide timely and targeted supports. FastBridge assessments are used to benchmark and progress monitor students as a way to track progress in basic skills and measure achievement on IEP goals.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): The Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability. The legal framework of this is an education, which will provide some benefit to the student.
High Incidence Disability: A disability that occurs in high numbers within a population.
Inclusion: A philosophy and practice where children with disabilities are educated, or participate in, programming with non-disabled peers to the extent appropriate. Inclusion often refers to including children with more significant disabilities in general education settings for a variety of benefits aligned to the least restrictive environment, including increased socialization opportunities with more typical peers as well as greater exposure to the grade-level curriculum. Inclusion also refers to any opportunity where students can learn alongside more typical peers.
Independent Educational Evaluation: If a family is in disagreement with a school evaluation, they have a legal right to request an independent evaluation at public expense. The school district has the right to deny a request, but must prove the evaluation performed by the district was appropriate.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A plan outlining special education and related services specifically designed to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.
Individualized Transition Plan: A plan starting at the age 14 ½ for transitioning a child from school into adulthood.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the law that guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ): A measure of someone's intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test, where an average score is 100. In the educational setting IQ scores are used for determination of Intellectual Disability eligibility.
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE): The State Education Agency (SEA) for Illinois. The ISBE is responsible for the state supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.
La Grange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE): LADSE is a special education cooperative that collaborates with its member districts to provide high-quality, evidence-based programs and services that result in positive outcomes for students. La Grange 102 is a member.
Local Educational Agency (LEA): A public board of education or other public authority within a state that maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district or other political subdivision of a state.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The assurance that children with disabilities will be educated with children without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.
Low Incidence Disability: A disability that occurs in low numbers within a population.
Mediation: A method for solving a problem that uses persons trained in helping people resolve their own problems. In mediation, the school district and parent will try to reach an agreement with which both parties are satisfied. The Illinois State Board of Education provides mediators to school districts and parents, free of charge, in order to help resolve disputes.
Modification: Often incorrectly used interchangeably with the term accommodation. A modification is a change or adjustment to the classroom expectation, which alters what is expected of the student (learner outcomes). An accommodation does not change learner outcomes.
Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS): An instructional framework designed to maximize academic achievement and positive behavior. Using a tiered system of support, MTSS is an articulated process that includes: an emphasis on outcomes, data-informed decision making, responsive evidence-based interventions and a focus on progress within the classroom. MTSS also incorporates response-to-intervention (RTI) as a problem-solving process. RTI is used as the primary component to determine special education eligibility under the category of Specific Learning Disability.
Multi-Disciplinary Team/Student Services Team (Student Services Team, or SST): A team of educational specialists that develop interventions that address targeted student problem area(s). Targeted areas may include academics, behaviors, and speech/ language.
Occupational Therapy (OT): Services to improve, develop or restore functions impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation, improving the ability to perform tasks (eating, dressing, toileting) for independent functioning in the school environment and necessary to benefit from special education services. These services address fine motor needs that impact a student’s educational performance and do not take the place of any private medical therapy a child may need.
Out-of-District Placement: An out-of-district placement places a child in a specialized school specifically designed to address special learning or behavioral needs. These schools have the benefit of providing the highest degree of structure, routine, and consistency throughout the school day. However, they remove any possibility of interacting with regular education students.
Paraeducator: Also known as instructional aides and teachers’ aides, these individuals provide assistance to students in the classroom if identified as a need in the IEP as a unique and specialized accommodation that is necessary for a student to access their education.
Physical Therapy (PT): Services to allow the child to move about the school environment and benefit their special education services. These services address gross motor that impact a student’s educational performance; they do not take the place of any private medical therapy a child may need.
Present Level of Academic Performance and Functioning: A statement of a student’s baseline performance from which goals originate.
Placement: Determination of where IEP services will be delivered. The goals drive this decision with a consideration toward maintaining least restrictive environment.
Receptive Language: The aspect of spoken language that includes listening, and the aspect of written language that includes reading.
Re-evaluation: A mandated three-year evaluation to determine the on-going need for special education services.
Referral Process: When a child is suspected of having a disability, a referral is made to evaluate the child for special education services. Once parents give written permission for the evaluation, the school has 60 business days to complete the assessments and hold an eligibility meeting.
Related Services: School-based services necessary for a student to meet their special education goals. Related services are not stand-alone services but must attach to broader eligibility and specific goals. These services should not be confused with medically based services, which the family still pursues. Related services can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
• Speech and language therapy
• Audiological services
• Physical and occupational therapy
• School health services and school nurse services
• Social work services in schools
• Special transportation
Response-to-Intervention (RTI): The practice of providing high-quality instruction and educational interventions matched to student needs and measured against learning rate over time along with level of performance in order to make important educational decisions for students. RTI utilizes a problem-solving process in order to determine what interventions and instruction best meet the needs of individual students. It also describes a state-mandated process for determining eligibility under the category of Specific Learning Disability.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities, public or private that receive federal financial assistance. This law conforms to the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Standardized Testing: A test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized tests are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.
La Grange District 102 is ahead of the curve, compared to many districts in the state and across the country, in early identification and treatment of dyslexia. This status is the result of years of collaboration between parents and district staff that has resulted in the acquisition of appropriate reading interventions and training of staff. Although school-based evaluations do not directly assess and diagnose students for dyslexia, our school psychologists are well-versed in spotting the signs of dyslexia and how this condition affects the development of literacy skills. We also carefully consider the needs of students with private diagnoses of dyslexia in order to ensure that instruction matches educational needs, whether that results in special education, tiered instruction, and/or differentiation of instruction within the general education classroom.
Multi-sensory interventions continue to be the gold standard for reading instruction of students with dyslexia. Every school in the district utilizes a form of multi-sensory reading instruction for those students who require that type of instruction. Both general and special education teachers have received training in some form of these interventions. Many students with dyslexia who receive special education in our district receive instruction in Fundations, Orton-Gillingham, or Wilson. Some of our special education teachers have received the highest level of certification through Wilson. In fact, I know of no other district with such a large group of teachers who have received this level of distinction.
Additionally, direct instruction and computer-assisted instruction can be used with students who have dyslexia. Which intervention to use is a highly individualized decision, informed by data and a student's unique profile.
Physical therapy is a related service for those students who qualify. This related service is not clinical in nature, but instead functional and school-based, and requires a doctor's note for the specific concerns. We are lucky to have two full-time physical therapists in our district who are directly employed by La Grange 102. They are integral members of school-based teams and collaborate closely with all staff in order to provide this highly specialized service to students who are eligible.
We are in the process of shifting our curriculum-based measurement assessments for progress monitoring from AIMSweb to FastBridge. The FastBridge system is a web-based assessment suite that provides us with the ability to track basic pre-literacy, numeracy, literacy, and mathematics skills and concepts. Some of our students are assessed with measures for both reading and math, while others may just be assessed with one or the other, or perhaps neither, depending on their IEP. We hope to have FastBridge fully up and running by the end of the month. Your child may be assessed with another type of curriculum-based measurement until the system is fully operable.
There have also been some updates to the way we conduct meetings and provide you with advance paperwork as well as service logs for related services. Please see the announcement sidebar for more information.
We hope that your child and your family has had time to establish your own back-to-school routines and are well on your way to a successful school year!
Terry Sofianos Wohlgenant, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education
Part of our educational planning included the writing of an academic intervention manual, compiled by a small group of special education staff, under the coordination of Ella Farmer, a former psychologist for Ogden and Cossitt, who will now assume the role of psychologist and Lead Special Educator at Congress Park this school year. The intent of the intervention manual is to provide guidance to staff about best practices and research for reading, math, and writing interventions which will greatly enhance the individual education planning process. The creation of the intervention manual was one of two final special education department goals for the 2018-2019 school year.
The second final special education department goal for last school year was the creation of an online parent handbook with a projected publishing date of August. Although the handbook is ready to go live, the district is in the midst of finalizing a total revamp of its website at this time. The special education parent handbook will debut in September as part of the new website conversion. In advance of that time, certain components of the handbook, such as new resources available through the state, will be posted on the current website prior to the start of the school year.
We are also pleased to announce the debut of volunteer Special Education Parent Ambassadors. This is a new and exciting development in our district that is intended to provide interested families with parent-to-parent camaraderie and support. If you are a parent of a student with special needs, please consider applying for this role. https://forms.gle/khLgJwGpbSwzYymC7
Finally, we would like to welcome our new assistant director of special education, Traci Milledge, to the team, along with several new special education teachers and specialists. Look for an upcoming profile of Traci in the next community newsletter. On behalf of the special education department, I wish you a pleasant start to the school year, full of wonder, joy, and discovery.
Terry Sofianos Wohglenant, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education
The months of February and March are very busy ones for future planning purposes in special education. We are currently working on refining special education enrollment and staffing projections for next year, along with completing our series of observations of staff for evaluations. We kicked off our spring parent education series, "Special Education 101," and we also prepared a presentation to the board. At the board meeting, our new assistant director of special education for the 2019-2020 school year, Mrs. Traci Milledge, was introduced. There was also an update on specific activities in the department, along with a featured presentation by students, staff, and a parent involved in the Nora Project. It was an inspiring and meaningful glimpse into this general and special education partnership that serves to build empathy for people with disabilities. Currently taking place at Forest Road and Cossitt, we are working to expand the program to more schools within the district. More information about the Nora Project can be found here: https://www.
Although January marks the start of the calendar year, planning is well underway in the special education department for next school year, more than half a year in the future. During the winter, we take stock of our student numbers and begin to track projections for staffing and programming purposes. Our special education department goals have once again been updated, and plans are already underway for areas of focus for next school year.
I think you will see that excellent progress has been made on the special education department goals, and several are currently being fully implemented.
Stay warm out there!
Special Needs Advisory Panel (SNAP)
Monday, September 16th, 9am - 11am
Notices, Additional Forms, and Other Helpful Information
- ISBE Required Notice and Consent Forms (Multiple Languages)
- Confidential Release of Information - Records Request
Procedure regarding classroom observations
If small group observations are requested, permission to observe the group must be granted by the parents or guardians of the other individual students in the group. Each observer is accompanied by a District professional of like-role or background. Parent or guardian observations are accompanied by an administrator. The guidelines and procedures around classroom observations ensure that meaningful parental participation takes place while also protecting the confidentiality of individual students.
Procedure regarding recording meetings
La Grange District 102 promotes and encourages the free and open exchange of information between parents and staff members during meetings in order to best serve students. For this reason, the use of audio, visual and other recording devices at IEP, Section 504 and other student meetings, as well as meetings between school personnel and parents/guardians, shall be prohibited.
Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis when a parent/guardian, student or staff member is a qualified person with a disability and/or has a language barrier that prevents his/her access to or meaningful participation at a meeting. The decision regarding whether recording the meeting is a reasonable accommodation will be made in the sole discretion of a School District administrator.