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Monday, October 7, 2013

New IDEAs for a Brighter Education

IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate high quality public education, just like any other children in the United States. The law has been subject to revision many times throughout the years.

This reform was made to shed light on special education, and help with the problems they face every day. The new law promotes excellence in special education with reforms based on academic results for students, early intervention, parental choice, and paperwork reduction.
NASP, National Association of School Psychologist has been highly involved with the new reform by helping policymakers develop new state regulations, advocating for provisions that will improve the lives of children with disabilities, and promoting the significant contributions the school psychologists make in the school system.

The most recent amendments were passed by Congress in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006 (Part B for school-aged children) and in September 2011 (Part C, for babies and toddlers). So, in one sense, the law is very new, even as it has a long, and powerful history.

IDEA 2004 continues to follow the problem solving models of early intervention and disability identification that have been in place for the past twenty years. However, there is a stronger support in the law for the use of a process that determines whether the child responds to scientific, research based intervention as part of the evaluation procedures. Also, states no longer require districts to consider an IQ/Achievement discrepancy criterion. These changes in the law present new challenges and opportunities for school personnel working with special needs populations. With the implementation of the new regulations, new roles and responsibilities have started to emerge for the school professionals; especially for the school psychologists.
• Taking in consideration the above mentioned changes in the law, can you discuss some of the strategies developed to help implement them?
• We often see how working “straight from the books” differs significantly from working in the applied field. How do you think the IDEA 2004 changes affect the practice of special education?
• As a school psychologist one of the main focus of training to help identify a learning disability is cognitive testing. What are your thoughts on the new law that allow educational agencies to eliminate the IQ/Achievement discrepancy requirement? Do you think it is detrimental to the school psychology practice?

Under IDEA, no state or local educational agency personnel can require a child to obtain a prescription for a substance covered by the Controlled Substances Act as a condition of attending to school, receiving an evaluation under subsection (a) or (c) of section 614, or receiving services under this title.
• Do you agree with this? Also, do you think teachers and school psychologist should be able to tell a child or his/her parents that the child should take medication in order to succeed academically?

The new IDEA reform requires that local educational agencies “take measurable steps to recruit, hire, train, and retain highly qualified personnel to provide special education and related services.” The reform focuses on early intervention to prevent over- identification of the students who may need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in general education from the students in need of special education services.
• Do you think over-identification and false diagnosis have been a problem? Do you think that early intervening services can help?

Chapter 12 of the Practical Handbook of School Psychology focuses on functional behavior assessment (FBA). The text defines FBA as “a systematic process for identifying variables that reliably predict and control problem behavior. Functional behavior assessments came to the forefront in 1997 after the inception of Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA). IDEA requires schools to review or conduct FBA before a child with a disability is disciplined. FBA’s are important because two different children can display the same behavior, but the function of the behavior may serve two different purposes. For example, two children scream and yell out consistently in class despite the teacher’s requests for quiet. One student may be screaming because they do not like the teacher or they are trying to impress their friends. Another student may be yelling because he or she has Asperger Syndrome (AS) and is having difficulty communicating. When something like this occurs, it is important for the teacher to be aware that the student has a disability and to let the school psychologist know about the behavior.

Even though there is not a universal framework or model to conduct an FBA, the text provides a framework that seems useful. It includes the following steps:
1. Clarify the purpose of assessment.
2. Define the problem.
3. Develop a progress monitoring system.
4. Identify variables that are functionally related to targeted responses.
5. Design interventions.
6. Evaluate interventions.

• How do you feel about FBA? Do you believe it is effective? Why or why not?

This Blog was created by Florencia Torres, Craig Barriale and Lawrence Carter.

Re-Defining Behavior...

A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is defined as “a systematic process for identifying variables that reliably predict and control problem behavior. The purpose of FBA is to improve the effectiveness, relevance, and efficiency of behavior intervention plans by matching treatment to the individual characteristics of the child and his or her environment” (Peacock, Ervin, Daly III, & Merrell, 2010, p.192). Most behaviors exist within their context, as behaviors often result from what is happening in the students’ environment, warranting more time to be spent assessing the environment, rather than the child (Peacock et al., 2010). It is presumed that identifying antecedents and consequences, and linking these components to treatment, can most effectively treat target behavior, enabling goals to be met. Each student must be approached individually, tailoring FBAs to their personal applicable domains. There are six main components which coexist in the conceptualization of an FBA: clarify the purpose of assessment, define the problem in an objective manner, develop a progress monitoring system such as response to intervention (RTI), identify variables that are functionally related to target response, design interventions, and evaluate interventions (Peacock et al., 2010). There are seven identified interventions including: skill acquisition through teaching interactions, improving fluency through increased opportunities to respond, altering establishing operations to address performance deficits, differential reinforcement to address performance deficits, altering established operations to reduce performance excess, differential reinforcement to decrease performance excesses, and extinction of either positive or negative punishment (Peacock et al., 2010). Ultimately, the purpose of conducting an FBA is to enhance student outcomes, utilizing a positive behavior support plan, utilizing interventions that address skill deficits, performance deficits, and performance excess. Of the interventions discussed, which do you believe is the most effective?

Framed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) , FBAs are a mandated practice, prior to the formulation of an individualized education plan (IEP) (Peacock et al., 2010). The IDEA had no prior requirements for FBAs and behavior intervention plans (BIP) until its revisions in 1997 and 2004. IEP teams had the option to consider when it was appropriate to them to use positive behavioral interventions in addressing problem behaviors that impeded on the students learning (Zirkel, 2011). The language in the 1997 IDEA was vague and left for the IEP team to determine appropriate interventions for problem behaviors. It was not until IDEA 2004 revisions, where the earlier requirements of addressing behavior was strengthened by the establishment of a more straightforward approach, mandating all IEP teams to “consider the use” of FBAs and BIPs at all times when dealing with problematic behavior (Zirkel, 2011). An FBA was deemed necessary in order to determine if the child warranted an alternative educational setting due to what is called a manifestation of determination. A manifestation of determination is a meeting for student with special needs, who accumulate ten out of school suspensions within a school year. The Child Study Team and administrators, meet with the parent(s) of the student to determine the student’s educational future, in relation to their current school setting. This past class we discussed ethical issues and our role as school psychologists, upholding ethical guidelines. Prior to mandating FBAs and BIP in the 2004 act, school districts had the option to consider if the behavior being exhibited warranted an FBA or BIP. As future school psychologist, we must use FBAs and IBP at all times when dealing with chronic problematic behaviors, which impede a student from learning to their full potential. If we fail to complete FBAs and BIP when warranted, it would be unjust, as it could negatively affect the student. How important do you think it is to conduct an FBA in the school setting? Do you think the functions of an FBA assist in determining whether interventions are deemed necessary?

Peacock, G. G., Ervin, R. A., Dally III, E. J., Merrell, K. W. (2010). Practical handbook of school psychology: Effective practices for the 21st century. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Zirkel, P. (2011). State special education laws for functional behavioral assessment and behavior intervention plans. Behavioral Disorders, 36(4), 262-278.

This Blog was created by Giselle Batista and Udoka Franklin Nwigwe.