The state of Arizona offers residents and visitors alike some of the most beautiful scenery and natural resources anywhere in the country. In fact, I’d venture to say anywhere in the world! But our state’s rich resources don’t end with the scenery.
We are also blessed with incredibly valuable educational resources.
If your family has a child with special needs, these resources make all the difference in your ability to get the very best for your child.
The state’s educational system promotes a program called the Exceptional Student Services program (ESS). This program exists to ensure all public education agencies in the state provide special education programs that comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
For families with special needs children, ESS is an important and invaluable resource. It guarantees a free education, accommodation, support and other resources to special needs individuals and their families.
ESS extends to adults with special needs as well, providing free professional learning opportunities, technical assistance and ongoing support.
ESS is made possible with funding from both state and federal sources. Because of this, certain screening and monitoring efforts are made to ensure compliance with the rules and laws governing the use of those funds.
One requirement of ESS is that recipients must qualify. To do this, the special needs child must qualify under these specific terms set forth by the state:
In order to qualify for special education under the regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child needs to be a child with a disability, meaning that the child has been evaluated as having a qualifying disability, and by reason thereof needs special education.
- The child must have a qualifying disability as defined by the IDEA regulations;
- The disability must have an adverse effect on the child’s educational performance;
- The child must need specially designed instruction in order to access and make progress in the general education curriculum.
The state also specifically defines qualifying disabilities. These include:
- Development delay
- Emotional disturbance
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
- Preschool severe delay
- Specific learning disability
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment
The state utilizes a formal testing and assessment procedure to determine need and eligibility. Once the child is determined to meet the qualifications for special needs education, he or she will be accepted into the state special education program.
The types of special education provided by the state to any child is determined by the child’s needs for learning and physical accommodation. The standard for the types and quality of special education provided is established at the federal level.
In short, the state must provide special needs children with an educational experience that meets their needs “as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met.”
This means that the technical, physical, emotional, psychological and learning needs of the special needs child must be accommodated throughout their education in the state’s system. For adults, the requirements extend to ongoing education, accommodation and training.
Physical accommodation in schools can include a range of things such as elevators to assist special needs individuals in wheelchairs or braces, visual and hearing accommodation, and even dietary accommodation for individuals with life-threatening food allergies.
Educational accommodation also can include specialized reading, math, speech and other accommodation to assist individuals with learning needs.
Children with emotional and mental needs also must be accommodated. Often, the strategies for best accommodating these individuals can include specialized social settings and teaching methods.
I have dedicated my career to working with Arizona families and children. I know first-hand how very important it is to seek early assessment of potential special needs and to work diligently in getting the best and most comprehensive accommodation possible for the child.
From early childhood and preschool, through high school and into adulthood, our state and federal laws work together to provide special needs individuals with the best possible education and accommodation. It’s there for our use, and for the betterment of our entire state.
I enjoy assisting Arizona families in getting the most of available resources, now and throughout their lifetimes. The process can feel overwhelming at first but with professional guidance, it is painless.
If you have a special needs child and would like assistance in planning your family’s affairs, contact me. I’m here to help you.Together, we can ensure you and your special needs child can get the education and other assistance available to Arizona families.
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