Healthcare Transition and Medical Self-Advocacy

When young people turn 18, a lot happens. Adult responsibilities and decisions can feel scary and confusing for the unprepared. Becoming responsible for medical care is part of growing up, and that process is so critical that there’s a specific name for it: healthcare transition.

For example, at age 18 a young adult is responsible to sign official paperwork to authorize procedures or therapies. They must sign documents to say who can look at their medical records, talk to their doctors, or come to an appointment with them. Those rules are part of HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is a federal law that protects confidentiality, regardless of disability.

In this video, young adults living with various disability and medical conditions talk about their journeys in the adult healthcare system. They talk about how they make decisions and how they ask for help. Their ability to explain their needs, make decisions, and speak up for themselves is called self-advocacy. Take a look and listen to what they have to say in their own words!

For more information and resources around healthcare transition and self-advocacy, follow these links to the Family to Family Health Information website.

PAVE also has a Healthcare In Transition article that will give you detailed information for individuals transitioning from Pediatric (Children’s) to adult health care including information on health insurance and providers.

Another place for information is the Informing Families website, which includes a section called got transition.

Including Health Considerations in the Transition Plan

Parents, Students, and everyone on the IEP team should think about how health and healthcare can affect a student’s goals for college, work and living on their own. PAVE has made a fillable form that you can download when starting to think about this area in transition.

Including Health Considerations in the Transition Plan

IEP Tips: Evaluation, Present Levels, SMART goals

Getting services at school starts with evaluation. Eligible students get an individualized Education Program (IEP), which describes a student’s present levels of performance and how specially designed instruction supports progress toward annual goals.

This article provides a quick overview of the basic IEP process and provides tips for family caregivers to get more involved. PAVE offers a fillable worksheet to assist parents in developing suggestions to share with the IEP team.

Step 1: Evaluate

To determine eligibility for special education, the school district collects data to answer 3 primary questions:

  1. Does the student have a disability?
  2. Does the disability adversely impact education?
  3. Does the student need Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)?

If the answer to all three questions is ‘Yes’, the student qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

If the answer to any of the three questions is ‘No’, the student may be eligible for support through a Section 504 Plan.

TIP: Does the data being collected capture information in all areas of concern? District special education staff can provide input if more specialized evaluation tools are needed.

Step 2: Write the Present Levels of Performance (PLOP)

(Also referred to Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP)

When an IEP is drafted, information from the evaluation transfers to the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLOP for short). Students, family members, and outside providers may contribute additional information. There are required elements, depending on age:

  • Preschool: how disability affects participation in appropriate activities within the natural environment​
  • School-age: how disability affects involvement and progress in general education​

​​TIP: Does the PLOP list talents and skills to encourage a strength-based IEP? This section of the IEP can describe how teaching strategies support a student and create opportunities for progress toward goals.

Step 3: Write Goals to Measure Effectiveness of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)

Goals are written for each area of SDI that a student is eligible to receive. Remember that the 3-part evaluation determines whether SDI is needed. Evaluation, PLOP, and goals are tied to the same data points.

TIP: Here are some questions to consider when reading/writing goals with the IEP team:

  • Are a student’s natural talents and curiosity described and appreciated as part of goal setting?
  • What is the SDI to support the goal, and why is it a good approach or strategy for this learner?
  • Are goals providing opportunity for appropriate progress, given the child’s circumstances?
  • Do the goals properly address the concerns revealed through evaluation and explained in the PLOP?
  • Can the students use their own words to describe IEP goals and how they are making progress? Student goal-tracking worksheets are readily available online.
  • Is the goal SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound?

Grid for Goal Development

In accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an IEP goal is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriately, in light of the child’s circumstances. Parents/students have the right to participate in goal setting and progress monitoring.

These points can be used to design a grid to outline goal setting and to note whether written goals are SMART. A downloadable PDF shows these points in a grid format. A family participant on an IEP team can draft rewritten or proposed goals for the IEP team to consider. Submitting those suggestions to IEP team members before a meeting might help ensure that a parent’s suggestions are a critical part of the agenda.

  • Challenge: Identify the learning barrier/issue.
  • Skill: What needs to be learned?
  • SDI (Specially Designed Instruction): What is the teaching strategy?
  • SMART Goal: Yes/No? Use the following questions to determine whether the goals need improving.

Review whether IEP Goals are SMART:

  • Specific: Is the targeted skill clearly named or described? How will it be taught?
  • Measurable: How will progress toward the goal be observed or measured?
  • Achievable: Is a goal toward this skill realistic for the student, considering current abilities?
  • Relevant: Is the skill something that is useful and necessary for the student’s success in school and life?
  • Time-Bound: What specific date is set to determine whether the goal is met?

Learn more about SMART Goals in this short video:

Five Tips for a Smooth PCS

Military families are likely to switch schools more often than other families. This can require learning new rules and finding new resources. To help plan, here are five valuable tips for a smooth PCS (permanent change of station, which is the military language for “relocation”) with a special educational or medical needs child.

Tip 1: Organize your files.

Records are critical for planning and stability. Accessing records once you have left a duty station is far more complex than getting copies to take with you. Keeping track of your child’s records can make the transition to a new assignment far easier. With your child’s information and records organized and up to date, you can quickly find any new trends, needs, or program changes to consider when you PCS.

  • Save copies of evaluations, educational plans and programs, work samples, and behavior plans.
  • Monitor regression by comparing student work samples and grades before, during, and after your PCS.
  • Note what has worked to support your student through previous transitions and share these successes with the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), Individualized Education Program (IEP), or Section 504 team.

If your student comes from a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school, you may also have records and evaluations from a Student Support Team (SST) or Case Study Committee (CSC).

Tip 2: Know your resources.

When you are moving to a new place, it is important to know who can help you. Contact the School Liaison and Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) family service office as soon as possible. They have useful information about things that can support your child’s health, well-being, and quality of life, like assignment locations, schools, housing, and other essentials. In your new state, you can also reach out to the Family Voices program. They can help you apply for public benefits such as extra money (SSI) and healthcare (Medicaid). It is also good to know your child’s rights as a military student when switching schools between states. Learn about the protections under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and use this Step-by-Step Checklist for resolving school issues with the Interstate Compact.

Tip 3: Keep open lines of communication.

Building strong communication links with your child’s teachers and other school officials can be critical. Remember to keep track of notes, emails, texts, and conversations. Always follow up on agreements with a note summarizing what was agreed to and any timelines. Building a solid relationship with your child’s teachers will help you address potential difficulties while they are minor issues and build trust among all team members. Discuss all the efforts that are helping your child. Keep communication lines open by responding promptly and respectfully, and reach out to school staff with positive feedback, as well as for problem-solving concerns.

Tip 4: Ask questions.

The Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP), or Section 504 Accommodations Plan, are the heart of how your child will receive services, accommodations, and modifications tailored to their unique needs. Never feel that you shouldn’t ask questions. Terms can change from place to place, but what the service includes will follow strict guidelines set up through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since you will be the single consistent factor in your child’s educational career, the more you know, the better you can collaborate and plan within the IEP or 504 teams. Locate and contact the Parent Training and Information (PTI) center in your new state to assist you in navigating this process. Students and families in Washington State may contact PAVE for one-on-one support, information, and training through our Get Help request form.

Tip 5: Include your student.

All people need the ability to understand and communicate their needs and wants. The ultimate goal for our children is to help them become self-advocates to the best extent they are capable and comfortable. Providing them with tools early and on an ongoing basis will help them plan for their future. In the long run, it will help them to be the driver of services they need and want.

These are just a few tips on navigating the special education and medical systems when PCS’ing. If you want to learn more, register for an upcoming STOMP workshop or webinar.

Support a Child’s Resilience by Pointing to the Positive

Children learn best when they feel safe, relaxed, loved, and confident. Emotions that are the opposite can make learning a struggle.

Researchers who study Adverse Childhood Experiences, often referred to as ACEs, are flipping some of their work upside down to see what happens when children have Positive Childhood Experiences.

What their evidence shows is that healthy relationships, safe spaces, emotional intelligence, and feelings of belonging support HOPE—H.O.P.E. That acronym stands for Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences.

Here are some questions you can ask your child regularly to support HOPE. You might also make sure adults at school are asking questions like these, too.

  • Tell me, what is going well?
  • What is fun?
  • Where are you successful?
  • Can you tell me something that makes you proud?
  • Where do you feel like you belong?
  • Please, tell me something about how important you are.

Do you want to ask better questions that are more relevant for teenagers? Here are some examples to get you started: 

  1. Instead of asking “What went well for your child today?”, you could ask “What made you happy or proud today?” 
  1. Instead of asking “What did your child learn from a challenging situation?”, you could ask “Have you faced any difficulties recently, and how did you handle them?” 
  1. Instead of asking “What are your child’s strengths and how did they use them today?”, you could ask “What do you think you’re good at, and how did you show it today?” 
  1. Instead of asking “What are your child’s goals and what progress did they make towards them?”, you could ask “What are some things you’re working towards right now, and what steps have you taken to get there?” 
  1. Instead of asking “What positive things did your child notice in others or the world today?”, you could ask “Did you see anything that made you feel hopeful or inspired today?” 
  1. Instead of asking “How did your child show kindness or gratitude today?”, you could ask “Did you do anything nice for someone else today, or did someone do something nice for you?” 
  1. Instead of asking “What activities or hobbies did your child enjoy today?”, you could ask “What have you been doing lately that you really enjoy or find interesting?” 

Remember to make your questions relatable and create a safe space for teenagers to share their thoughts and feelings. 

Myth and Misunderstanding in Special Education

A Brief Overview

  • Everyone has moments when they hear something and pause to wonder, Is that true? This article and its companion videos describe some special education topics that may be misunderstood. Included is an explanation of what is fact.
  • Topics relate to special education eligibility, placement, support personnel, bullying, student discipline, and more.
  • Read on to see if there are things you haven’t quite understood about your student’s rights or educational services. PAVE hopes to empower families with information to make sure students with disabilities have their best chance for an appropriate and meaningful education.
  • The final myth described in this article is that PAVE provides advocacy on behalf of families—we don’t! But we can help you learn to be your child’s most important advocate. Click Get Help at wapave.org to request 1:1 assistance.

Full Article

Everyone has moments when they hear something and pause to wonder, Is that true?

Parents/caregivers in meetings with their child’s school can feel particularly confused when something doesn’t sound right. They might wonder whether it’s appropriate to question school authorities. They might not understand all the words being spoken. Fear of not knowing something can make it uncomfortable to speak up.

At PAVE, we encourage families to ask questions and make sure they understand the words school staff use. Ask for important answers in writing, and plan to research explanations that are confusing.

For example, if you ask for something and the school says no because of a law or policy, ask for a written copy of the relevant parts of that law or policy. Try to understand the school’s reason for saying no. Write down what you understand and send a reflective email to school staff to make sure you understand their position correctly.

Having everything in writing is important, especially if filing a complaint is a possible next step.

This article describes myths and misunderstandings some people might experience when navigating school-based services for students with disabilities. These topics apply to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), students with Section 504 Plans, and students with possible disability conditions impacting their educational access.

Parent Participation

MYTH: The school must hold a meeting without a parent if the parent is unavailable before an annual renewal deadline because the student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or eligibility will expire or lapse.
FACT: Parent participation is a higher priority than deadlines. Schools are required to accommodate parents/caregivers to ensure their attendance and participation at meetings where their child’s special education services are discussed. Those rights are affirmed in a court decision from 2013: Doug C. Versus Hawaii. If a meeting is delayed because a family member is temporarily unavailable because of illness, work, travel, or something else, services continue uninterrupted until the meeting. PAVE provies an article: Parent Participation in Special Education Process is a Priority Under Federal Law.

Evaluation

MYTH: The school is not required to evaluate a student who gets passing grades.
FACT: If there is a known or suspected disability condition that may be significantly impacting a student’s access to any part of their education—academic, social-emotional, behavioral, or something else—then the school district is responsible under Child Find to evaluate the student to determine eligibility for services and support. Child Find is an aspect of federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

MYTH: Section 504 doesn’t apply for a student without a plan or program.
FACT: Section 504, which is part of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, includes protections for students with suspected or known disability conditions that warrant evaluation. For example, if a student consistently misses school for reasons that may be connected to disability, the school may be accountable under the civil rights protections of Section 504 if an evaluation referral isn’t initiated.

MYTH: Section 504 eligibility does not involve an evaluation.
FACT: An evaluation process is required to determine whether a student has a disability condition impacting a major life activity. That evaluation process may include a review of grades, test scores, attendance, health room visits, parent and student input, teacher observations, medical or psychological evaluations, special education data, medical information, and more. If the student meets criteria, evaluation documents are used to support the design of accommodations and other individualized supports to ensure equity. The state provides a family-friendly handout, downloadable in multiple languages, to describe 504 eligibility, evaluation process, plan development, and civil rights complaint options.

Medical Diagnosis

MYTH: A student cannot be identified as eligible for services under the autism category unless they have a medical diagnosis of autism.
FACT: If there is a suspected disability condition and reason to believe there is a significant educational impact, the school is responsible under Child Find to evaluate the student to determine eligibility for services. Schools have evaluation tools to determine characteristics of autism, its possible educational impacts, and student needs. Medical information might help an IEP team design interventions, but families are not required to share medical information with the school, a medical diagnosis is not required, and doctors may not “prescribe” an IEP.

Placement

MYTH: Special Education is a location within the school.
FACT: Special Education is a Service, Not a Place, and PAVE provides an article by that title to further explain a student’s right to educational services in general education—the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)—to the maximum extent appropriate.

MYTH: The school district is in charge of placement decisions.
FACT: The IEP team determines a student’s placement. If placement in general education, with support, is not meeting the student’s needs, the IEP team is responsible to locate or design a placement that best supports the student in accessing their Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Placement might be general education, a segregated classroom setting where special education services are provided, day treatment, alternative learning environment, residential, home-based, something else, or a combination of any of these options. Once an IEP team designs a placement, the school district has some leverage in choosing a location. For example, if an elementary-age student who is struggling to read needs individualized services from a reading specialist, the district might bus them to a school in another neighborhood where a specially trained teacher provides reading instruction in a smaller classroom. The district doesn’t have to offer every placement or service within every building, but it does need to serve the IEP as written by the IEP team.

MYTH: Preschool IEPs are not required to serve students in the Least Restrictive Environment to the maximum extent appropriate.
FACT: An IEP is required to serve a student with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), to the maximum extent appropriate, regardless of age or grade level. WAC 392-172A-02050 provides specific language about state requirements for LRE, including for preschool students.

Adult Aids at School

MYTH: A 1:1 creates a “restrictive environment” for a special education student.
FACT: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) refers to placement. A helper is an aid, not a placement. Supplementary aids and services, including 1:1 support from an adult staff member, may support access to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for some students. If having a 1:1 enables a student to appropriately access learning in the general education setting, then that support is provided to ensure FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). FAPE within LRE is required by federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

MYTH: Support personnel should regularly rotate in their roles to ensure a student does not become “dependent” on specific individuals or relationships.
FACT: Healthy interpersonal relationships enable humans of any age to feel safe and secure. Because of the way our brains work, a person doesn’t learn well when a fight/flight nervous system response is activated. Connecting to trusted adults and receiving consistent help from safe, supportive people enhances learning. PAVE provides a collection of articles about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Washington State’s SEL Standards.

Section 504

MYTH: A 504 Plan is a watered down IEP.
FACT:
Section 504 is part of a civil rights law called the Rehabilitation Act, passed by the US Congress in 1973. The anti-discrimination protections of Section 504 apply to any person identified as having a disability condition that impacts their life in a significant way. Public agencies, including schools, are responsible to provide individualized accommodations and support to enable the person with a disability to access the service, program, or building in a way that affords them an equitable chance to benefit from the opportunity. A 504 Plan at school ensures the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Section 504 FAPE rights are upheld by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. PAVE provides a video series: Student Rights, IEP, Section 504 and More.

MYTH: Section 504 doesn’t apply to a student with an IEP
FACT: Section 504 protections apply to students with IEPs and those with Section 504 Plans. The civil rights protections of Section 504 are threaded throughout the IEP, especially within sections that describe accommodations and modifications. Section 504 includes specific provisions to ensure students are not discriminated against within student discipline, by unmitigated bullying, or through denial of support that is needed for access to what non-disabled students access without support. All aspects of school are protected, including athletic events, field trips, enrichment activities, specialized learning academies, and more—everything the school is offering to all students. PAVE provides a comprehensive article about Section 504 and its protections for all students with disabilities.

MYTH: If the student has found ways to cope with their disability, they don’t need support.
FACT: Section 504 forbids schools from using “mitigating measures” to justify denial of evaluation or support. A mitigating measure is a coping mechanism—for example, a deaf student who reads lips or a student with an attention deficit whose symptoms are improved by medication. PAVE’s article about Section 504 provides more detail about mitigating measures.

Bullying

MYTH: The best way to help a student with a disability who is being bullied is to remove them from the bully’s classroom.
FACT: Section 504 protects a student with disabilities in their right to be protected from bullying. That means the school must stop the bullying and support the victim to feel safe again. Schools may not punish or disadvantage the victim. OCR says: “Any remedy should not burden the student who has been bullied.” PAVE provides a video: Bullying at School: Key Points for Families and Students with Disabilities.

MYTH: An informal conversation is the best way to address bullying.
FACT: The best way to hold a school accountable to stop bullying and support the victim is to file a formal HIB Complaint. HIB stands for Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying. Washington State’s 2019 Legislature passed a law that requires school districts to write formal HIB policies and appoint a HIB Compliance Officer to spread awareness and uphold the laws. Families can contact their district’s HIB Compliance Officer for support with a complaint and to ensure student civil rights are upheld.

IEP Goals and Process

MYTH: An IEP provides education to a student with a disability.
FACT: An IEP is not the student’s education. An IEP provides educational services to enable a student to access their education. IEP goals target areas of learning that need support in order for the student to move toward grade-level curriculum and learning standards. Included are services for academics, adaptive skills, social-emotional skills, behavior—all areas of learning that are impacted by disability.

MYTH: If an IEP team agrees to change something about a student’s services or placement, the team must submit that idea to the district for approval or denial.
FACT: An IEP team has decision-making authority. The team is required to include a person knowledgeable about district resources (WAC 392-172A-03095) so decisions about program and placement can be made at the meeting. If a required IEP team member is not in attendance, the family participant must sign consent for the absence. The family can request a new meeting because a key team member, such as a district representative, is missing. PAVE provides more information and a Sample Letter to Request an IEP meeting.

Behavior and Discipline

MYTH: A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is used to figure out how to discipline a student more effectively.
FACT: An FBA is an evaluation focused on behavior. It helps IEP teams understand the needs behind the student’s behavior. A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is built from the FBA to provide positive behavioral supports, teach new or missing skills, and reduce the need for discipline. PAVE provides a video about the FBA/BIP process.

MYTH: A school isn’t responsible to track exclusionary discipline if a parent agrees to take the child home and no paperwork is filed when the school calls to report a behavior incident.
FACT: “Off books” or informal suspensions count as exclusionary discipline for students with disabilities. If a student with a disability misses more than 10 cumulative days of school because of their behavior, the school is responsible to hold a manifestation determination meeting to decide whether the behaviors are directly connected to the disability and whether school staff are following the IEP and/or behavior plan. If services or placement need to change, this formal meeting is a key opportunity to make those changes. PAVE provides a video: Discipline and Disability Rights: What to do if Your Child is Being Sent Home.

Privacy

MYTH: A parent or provider who visits school to support or evaluate an individual student is violating the privacy rights of other students just by being there.
FACT: Federal laws protect private medical or educational records. Visiting a classroom or other school space should not expose student records for inappropriate viewing. The Department of Education provides a website page called Protecting Student Privacy to share resources and technical assistance on topics related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The confidentiality of medical records is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Understanding HIPAA and FERPA can help parents /caregivers ask their school for documented explanations whenever these laws are cited as reasons for a request being denied.

Literacy

MYTH: Schools cannot provide individualized instruction in reading through a student’s IEP unless the student is diagnosed by a medical provider as having dyslexia.
FACT: No medical diagnosis is needed for a school to evaluate a student for any suspected disability that may impact access to learning and school. An educational evaluation might show that a student has a Specific Learning Disability in reading, with characteristics of dyslexia. When a disability that impacts education is identified through evaluation, the school is responsible to provide services to meet the identified needs and enable appropriate progress. PAVE provides an article: Dyslexia Screening and Interventions: State Requirements and Resources and a video: Supporting Literacy for Students with Learning Disabilities.

Graduation

MYTH: The school has to withhold credits for a student to receive services beyond a traditional senior year.
FACT: Credits do not need to be withheld, and a student doesn’t automatically earn a diploma by reaching the required number of credits. The IEP team determines the target graduation date for a student receiving services through an IEP and how transition programming for a student ages 18-21 might support learning and life planning. Receiving the required number of credits is only part of what a student needs to earn a diploma, and the IEP team individualizes a plan for the student with a disability to earn their diploma within the state’s options for graduation pathways. PAVE provides a Toolkit for life after high school planning.

Private School and Home School

MYTH: Public schools do not have to do anything for students with disabilities who are home schooled or enrolled in private schools by parent choice.
FACT: Child Find applies to all students with known or suspected disabilities who live within a district’s boundaries, including those who are home schooled or enrolled in private schools. Child Find means the public district is responsible to seek out and evaluate all students with known or suspected disabilities. If the student is found eligible for services, parents/caregivers can choose to enroll the student in the public school to receive special education services, even if the primary educational setting is a private or home placement. If the student is fully educated in the private setting, by parent choice, the private school provides equitable services.

Parent Support from PAVE

MYTH: PAVE gives the best advice and advocates on behalf of families.
FACT: PAVE does not give legal advice or provide advocacy. We support families in their work.  Staff from our Parent Training and Information (PTI) program provide information and resources to empower family advocates. Our goal is to ensure that family advocates have knowledge, understand options, and possess tools they need to work with schools to ensure that student rights are upheld and the needs of students with disabilities are met. Click Get Help at wapave.org to request 1:1 assistance. Help us help you by reading your student’s educational documents and having those documents handy when you connect with us!

Bullying at School: Key Points for Families and Students with Disabilities

Transcript of this video is below:

When students with disabilities are bullied, schools are legally responsible to end the bullying.

By law, schools must act to restore the safety and well-being of students who are harmed by harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

Those words—harassment, intimidation, and bullying, make an acronym: HIB. This video is about HIB protections for students with disabilities.

Please note that bullying increases the risks for suicide and self-harming behaviors.

For a mental health crisis, call 988

For crisis help on topics related to sexual orientation and identity, call The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386

What law says the school has to end the bullying and help my student?

Specific anti-bullying protections for students with disabilities come from Section 504, which is part of a federal law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The civil right to be protected from bullying applies to all students with disabilities, regardless of whether they have a Section 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). These rights are upheld by the Office for Civil Rights—OCR.

Anyone who knows about an incident of harassment, intimidation, and bullying at school or during a school-sponsored activity can file an OCR complaint at the local, state, or federal level.

What does state law require?

Washington State’s 2019 Legislature passed a law that requires school districts to write formal HIB policies and appoint a person called a HIB Compliance Officer to spread awareness and uphold the laws.

What can parents do?

If your child is bullied at school, ask for the name of your district’s HIB Compliance Officer. Talk to that person about your options and request a HIB complaint form.

If the act included a physical assault or serious property damage, file a police report.

Request an emergency meeting of the IEP or Section 504 team to add supports for the student to ensure emotional and physical safety at school.

What counts as harassment, intimidation, or bullying?

Washington State defines a HIB violation as an intentional act that:

  • Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property
  • Has the effect of substantially disrupting a student’s education
  • Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment
  • Or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of school

A HIB act may be electronic, written, verbal, or physical.

What does a school have to do when a child with a disability is bullied?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate what happened. That means they talk to everyone involved and any witnesses and write a detailed report.

OCR requires the school to stop the bullying now and into the future.

OCR also says that schools must make sure the student who was bullied is helped and not further injured by actions taken in response. The victim should not be suspended, for example.

OCR says: “Any remedy should not burden the student who has been bullied.”

To learn more about federal laws and complaints, contact OCR at 800-421-3481.

Type the word Bullying or Discipline into the search bar at wapave.org to find additional resources.

Student Rights, IEP, Section 504 and More

Getting the right help for students with disabilities is made easier when families learn key vocabulary and understand how to use it. PAVE provides videos to support learning about student rights and how to work with the school to get individualized support.

Video number 1: Pyramid of Rights Protections for Students With Disabilities

The first video provides a visual to help—a pyramid of student rights. Learn about special education rights, civil rights, and general education rights. Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are protected by the full pyramid of rights. Students with IEPs and Section 504 Plans have civil rights that protect their right to be accommodated and supported at school. All children in the United States have the right to access a free public education. Learn key terms from these rights: FAPE, equity, and access, and how to use those words to help a student get their needs met.

Here are resource links referenced in the video:

The video mentions that a civil rights complaint can be filed at the local, state, or federal level and may include elements of more than one civil rights protected area, such as disability discrimination, racism, and/or sexual discrimination. Here are resources with more information about civil rights complaint options and how to access forms:

  • Local: OSPI maintains a list of school officials responsible for upholding student civil rights. Families can reach out to those personnel to request a complaint form for filing a civil rights complaint within their district.
  • State: OSPI provides a website page with direct links to step-by-step instructions for filing a civil rights complaint with the state Equity and Civil Rights Office, or the Human Rights Commission.
  • Federal: The U.S. Department of Education provides guidance about filing a federal complaint. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is another option for dispute resolution related to civil rights.

The video provides information about some special education dispute resolution options. Here are related resources:

The Youth Education Law Collaborative offers some free legal assistance on topics related to educational equity, with a priority for families who demonstrate financial need:

Video number 2: Accommodations and Modifications

Our second video shares more detail about the rights of students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Key to protecting those rights is the accommodations, modifications, and supports that enable a student with a disability to access what typically developing students can access without support. Non-discriminatory practices related to bullying, student discipline, and attendance are protected rights. Click on the video to learn more about what the right to equity means.

Here are resource links related to this video:

PAVE article: Section 504: A Plan for Equity, Access and Accommodations

Video number 3: IEP Goal Setting

Our third video provides more detail about the rights of a student with an IEP. A three-step process is provided to help family caregivers make sure a student’s IEP goals are supporting the right help in the right way. Learn about Present Levels of Performance (PLOP), Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), and SMART goals to become a well-trained partner in the IEP team process.

To get help from PAVE’s Parent Training and Information staff, click Get Help to complete an online Help Request Form.

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Life After High School: Tools for Transition

Helping a student with disabilities prepare for life after high school requires thoughtful organization and planning. This presentation describes three ways to support this important time of life:

  1. High School and Beyond Plan
  2. IEP Transition Plan
  3. Agency Support

Here are resources referenced in the video:

  • OSPI Model Forms: Scroll down to find and open the IEP Form with Secondary Transition
  • OSPI Graduation Requirements, including links to download the High School and Beyond Plan in various languages
  • DDA: Developmental Disabilities Administration
  • DVR: Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • TVR: Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation, for Native Americans with disabilities
  • DSB: Department of Services for the Blind, for people with blindness or low vision
  • WAC 392-172A-03090, including description of Age of Majority rights that transfer to the student at age 18
  • PAVE article about Supported Decision Making
  • OSPI: The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has a family liaison for special education
  • OEO: The Office of the Educational Ombuds provides online resources and 1:1 support
  • OCR: The Office for Civil Rights can help with questions about equity and access
  • ESD: Nine Education Service Districts; each has a behavioral health navigator, and some are licensed to provide behavioral health services
  • Developmental Disabilities Ombuds
  • PAVE School to Adulthood Toolkit

Discipline and Disability Rights: What to do if Your Child is Being Sent Home

Learning the skills to maintain expected behavior and follow school rules is part of education. All students learn social, emotional and behavioral skills. Students with disabilities may get extra help in these areas of learning. Some have individualized behavior support plans.

When the pre-teaching and interventions fail to stop a behavior from causing a problem, the school might call a parent to say, “Take them home.” What happens next could depend on how well-informed parents are about the rights of students with disabilities.

This video provides key information about what to do if your child is being sent home. The first thing to ask is, “Are they being suspended?” If the answer is yes, the school is required to file specific paperwork. If the answer is no, a parent has choices and may support better long-term outcomes by carefully documenting what happens next.

Below are links to resources referenced in the video:

Behavioral Health and School: Key Information for Families

When a student struggles to maintain well-being, achievement at school can be a challenge. This video provides key information for families to seek school-based services for behavioral health needs. Included are two advocacy statements that this information might empower you to say in a meeting with the school:

  1. “I want to make sure my student’s rights are upheld.”
  2. “I’m providing information and resources to help the school follow the law and educational best practices.”

Included in the video is information about truancy and a new state law that schools must excuse absences for behavioral health reasons. Also included is information from the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which provided new guidance in summer 2022 about school responsibility to help instead of discipline students with behavioral health needs.  

PAVE staff cannot provide advocacy or advice. We share information to empower family members and young people who do have legal advocacy rights. You can learn this information and keep in handy when you aren’t sure whether the school is following the law or educational best practices. Please be patient with yourself while you are learning this information. It can feel like a lot! As you learn a little bit at a time, you can see how your increasing knowledge shifts options and outcomes for your student.

Here are resources from this training, listed in video order:

Helping a Loved One with a Fear of Needles Get Vaccinated

Families have different reasons for not vaccinating their children against COVID or other illnesses. The Washington Department of Health (DOH) reports that vaccination rates dropped 13 percent in 2021. If you’ve put off taking your child to get a vaccine because your child falls apart with fear at the sight of a needle, here are some tips and tricks to break through that barrier.

Tips and Tricks

  • Explain why they are getting a vaccination in words they understand. For example, “If you don’t get vaccinated you might get sick and miss your birthday party.”
  • Bring brave with you. A favorite superhero on a picture, a hat, a shirt, or a mask provides something to look at and makes them feel brave while they get their shot. If Grampa is their superhero, bring a picture of him!
  • Don’t lie. Be honest that this isn’t fun. Let them know you understand their feelings and reassure them that they are brave enough to get this accomplished.
  • Tell their doctor or nurse before the appointment that your loved one has a fear of needles and ask for ideas. Go in with a shared plan for how to calm, distract, or reward your brave one.
  • Ask if there’s a cream or spray to numb the injection site. If yes, use this information to explain why they probably won’t feel a thing.
  • Give them control. When do they want to go? Do they want company? Do they have any ideas about how to feel brave or how to earn a reward?
  • Practice breathing slow and easy and talk about how to use that breath anytime you are feeling afraid or anxious. You might mention that calm breathing reduces pain.
  • Bring a treat or preferred distraction for the waiting room: games, shows on the tablet, a favorite toy…or plan some new jokes.
  • If it’s better not to look at anything, help them close or cover their eyes. You can offer a hand to squeeze or something to hold or touch—like a favorite blanket, pillow or stuffed animal—to direct sensory attention away from the place where the needle goes in.
  • If they want you to stay during the injection, be calm yourself. Calm is contagious.

Resources and Related Information

  • Pediatricians build vaccination schedules for children at specific ages and stages to maximize their effectiveness. Waiting until later might harm your child.
  • The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detailed recommendations for Child and Adolescent Immunizations, including a schedule.
  • If a person is allergic to eggs, gelatin, polyethylene glycol, or yeast, let a doctor know. Some vaccines include these ingredients. If you ask, there may be another option.
  • All CDC recommended vaccinations go through a rigorous Testing and the Approval Process.
  • If you have read, heard, or thought about something that makes you nervous, tell your doctor. Always ask where information comes from, and check to make sure the source is trustworthy.

Willa Decides to Get Vaccinated

The decision to be vaccinated or when to mask can be confusing for anyone but for and individual that experiences anxiety, Autism, depression, or an Intellectual or Developmental disability the confusion around these decisions can be even more difficult. Willa experiences both High Functioning Autism and severe anxiety and this is a look into how she and her friends came to their own decisions based on learning about vaccinations and masking then talking together on what they felt is right for themselves and safe for the others around them.

Below are two different versions depicting Willa’s comic page in video form.

Video #1 is a video without narration:

Video #2 includes narration:
*Please note, you can view Spanish subtitles by clicking on the cog on the lower right hand of the video, choose subtitles and then click on Spanish!

Comic page about Willa a character that decides to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus
Comic page about Willa a character that decides to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus in Spanish

Click to see the comic above in PDF form.

Full text for this comic page:

Willa: Guys, I’m kinda freaking out.

Willa’s Friend: Why Willa? What’s wrong?

Willa: The convention we’re going to has a vaxx card and mask policy and I’m unvaccinated.

Toni: WHAT?!

Willa: Getting vaccinated is scary…and the clinics are intimidating, and I’m scared of needles, and this vaccine came out much quicker than the others, so it’s probably rushed…

Willa’s Friend: Willa it’s important for you to get vaccinated. You have bad lungs, right? So, you’re extra at risk. And the reason why the vaccine came out so quickly in comparison to the others is because it got the funding to be mass produced quickly because it was a global issue. The same amount of time went into researching the COVID vaccine as any other vaccine. It’s completely safe.

Willa: Oh, Okay. That makes-

Toni: Wait, what about me? Why do I have to wear a mask? I’m vaccinated and it’ll ruin my cosplay!

Willa’s Friend: Actually Toni, COVID – 19 is so nasty that getting vaccinated doesn’t give you a 100% chance of not catching the virus. It makes you far less likely to catch it. And if you do, it makes your symptoms much less severe. So, it’s still important to mask to protect the more vulnerable people around you.

Toni: Oh!

Willa’s Friend: So, what are we going to do?

Willa: Get Vaccinated.

Toni: And wear a mask.

COVID Considerations for Families to Plan for Fall 2022

A Brief Overview

  • Free COVID vaccinations are available for adults and for children as young as six months.
  • Washington State does not require students to be vaccinated against COVID to enroll for school in the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Local school districts establish their own policies and procedures for health and safety and illness response.  

Full text of video

Over a million Americans have died of COVID, and transmission rates  in Washington State remain high as we head into the 2022-23 school year.

Individual school districts decide what restrictions and policies to put in place for students, teachers, and staff. Families can ask their school district for specific information about safety measures and what to do if a student is ill or exposed to someone who is ill or testing positive for COVID.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, OSPI, provides guidance and suggestions for school staff and families on its COVID-19 Resources Page.

Whether to vaccinate your children remains a personal choice. The Washington State Board of Health has the authority to require COVID-19 immunization for children in K-12 schools but has not done that, as of Summer 2022.

Although not responsible for deciding whether to require vaccines, the state’s Department of Health, DOH.wa.gov, is a place to get current information and recommendations.

What protections against COVID are there for children and teens?

The federal government is providing COVID-19 vaccines free of charge to everyone living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status.

Free vaccinations are available to people 6 months and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, has approved the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations for toddlers, children, and teens.

Here are three ways to find out how and where to get vaccinated for free:

  1. Search vaccines.gov
  2. Text your ZIP code to 438829
  3. Call 1-800-232-0233

Children and teens ages 5 through 17 are advised to get a third “booster” dose of the vaccine if they have moderate or severe difficulties with their immune system.

All employees in educational settings are required to be fully vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption. OSPI provides more information about that requirement in a document that includes Frequently Asked Questions.

The Washington Department of Health has created Requirements and Guidance for minimizing transmission of COVID in schools and childcare settings, including isolation of anyone who shows symptoms of COVID.

Click Get Help at wapave.org for individualized support from PAVE.