Self-Advocacy: Becoming an Active Member in Your Community

Brief overview:

  • Self-advocacy means taking responsibility for telling others what you need and want in a respectful and direct way. Anyone can be a self-advocate
  • This article will share ways to learn and practice self-advocacy.
  • It will share ways you can get involved in your community and how being a good self-advocate can help you do that.

If you have ever defended your rights or the rights of other people, you were acting as an advocate. Self-advocacy means taking responsibility for telling others what you need and want in a respectful and direct way. Anyone can be a self-advocate. Speaking up for yourself or someone else can help you be independent, and in charge of decisions for your life. However, it’s not always an easy thing to learn to do. It takes time and practice. This article will share ways to learn and practice self-advocacy. It will share ways you can get involved in your community and how being a good self-advocate can help you do that.

When you might need to be a self-advocate:

  • In your IEP meeting if you are in high school
  • When you ask for accommodations in high school or college
  • Asking for accommodations on the job
  • Asking for assistance and accommodations so you can be involved in your community
  • At a medical appointment

Things you need to know to become a better self-advocate:

  • Understand your civil rights and responsibilities
  • Know about the topic you are speaking about
  • Listen to other people and think about what they are saying
  • Make decisions based on what you need or want
  • Know that it’s ok to change your mind
  • Know that it’s ok to make mistakes
  • Express your feelings clearly and calmly
  • Ask to be always treated with dignity and respect
  • Learn to be assertive without being aggressive or disrespectful

Nemours TeensHealth has resources that can help you practice self-advocacy by being assertive. Assertiveness is the ability to speak up for yourself in a way that is honest and respectful. The articles have a built-in listening app (ReadSpeaker) to hear articles instead of reading them.

One way to help meetings and discussions be calm and respectful is to ask for meetings to be a “gracious space”. “Gracious space” is about people meeting together in person or online. It has a lot in common with being a good self-advocate. “Gracious space” is a way to describe how meetings and discussions can include people, and how people can behave during a meeting.

  • If the meeting is in-person, the physical meeting space is accessible for people with all types of disabilities. If it is online, the people setting up the meeting make sure the online platform is accessible for people with all types of disabilities.
  • People feel safe in the meeting. This means everyone treats everyone else with dignity and respect. Make an agreement about how everyone at the meeting will behave with each other.
  • People in the meeting are willing to listen and think about different opinions
  • The people in the meeting get to know each other

Learn more about Gracious Space:

Person Centered Planning:

Your person-centered plan, if you have one, can help you find ways to be involved in your community. Your person-centered plan team can help you practice being a self-advocate with people you already know and trust. If you don’t have a person-centered plan, and are interested in how they work, here are links to information from PAVE: What is Person Centered Planning?

PAVE has programs and resources to help individuals build and strengthen self-advocacy skills.

Ways to get involved in your community, including people with and people without disabilities

  • What are you interested in? Here are some ideas:
  • Work with other people to change government policies and advocate for people with disabilities
  • Volunteer for a cause you believe in
  • Share what life is like living with a disability with other people with your type of disability
  • Careers and businesses that can work well for people with disabilities.
  • Friendship and socializing with other people with disabilities
  • Join a club or group to do activities you like, such as sports or crafts or music or board games or movies

When you join a group or talk with someone in a group you are interested in, you can use your self-advocacy skills to make sure that people in the group or program can give you assistance, accommodations if you need them, and treat you with respect.

You can find groups and organizations that do all these things on social media!

Social media gives you ways to meet people through online groups, if you have difficulty with in-person activities. You can check if a group or organization is disability-friendly in their profile. Remember to use social media safely!

You can also do an internet search using terms like “disability organizations in [name of state or town]. And of course, you can ask your family and friends and, if you have one, the people on your person-centered plan team!

Becoming a strong self-advocate is important for successful independence and healthy living as an adult in your community. Always remember there are many people who are ready and willing to help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance along the way!

Medicaid Basics

A Brief Overview 

  • Medicaid is state-run health care for those with limited income or individuals with chronic or complex health care needs with special circumstances. 
  • Medicaid is available to many families In Washington state who are not eligible for Medicare and are below certain income levels. 
  • Apple Health for children has broader eligibility requirements, meaning that more children in Washington state can be covered for low or no cost. 
  • You can apply for Medicaid through the Washington Health Plan Finder
     

Full Article 

Medicaid is a federal health care program that each state manages based on their own states legislative system. It is set up for individuals and families with limited income or special circumstances such as a genetic, medical, or job or accident-related disability. This health care covers physical and mental health and can be low to no-cost. To be eligible for fully subsidized (free) Medicaid you must meet the household income eligibility and not be eligible for Medicare. However, Medicaid for those with Medicare can help with some expenses not covered by Medicare for those with low income. It is available for an individual on classic Medicaid whose parent or guardian has died and whose benefits pass to their child. In the state of Washington, Medicaid is generally known as Apple Health and is administered by the Health Care Authority

There are two main types of Medicaid available in the state of Washington: Apple Health (income based), and Classic Medicaid. The day-to-day administration of Apple Health and Classic Medicaid is run by one of five Managed Care Organizations, or MCOs. Apple Health covers individuals up to the age of 6 and eligibility is based on household income. Apple Health has higher income limits for children than adults, meaning that many children in Washington State are eligible for free Apple Health, even when their parents or guardians are not..  If you have Apple Health, you will get healthcare from the providers at one of those MCOs. If you are found (determined) to have a disability or a disabling medical condition and are under the age of 65, you are eligible for Classic Medicaid if you are on Social Security Income or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is also considered Apple Health and under one of the 5 MCOs. If an infant, child, or youth through age 21 is in the foster care system they will be covered by Apple Health and will get their healthcare from one specific MCO no matter where they live in the state. 

Determining Eligibility for Apple Health 

Apple Health has different eligibility requirements for children and adults. These differences are listed below, including the maximum monthly household income requirements that families may have to obtain coverage. 

Eligibility for Apple Health for Children: 

  • Children of public employees with access to health insurance coverage under the PEBB or SEBB programs are not eligible for Apple Health for Kids with premiums. 
  • Low-cost coverage (Apple Health with premiums) is only available to children who are uninsured when household income is too high to qualify for free Apple Health (no premiums) 
  • Income requirements for free coverage: (2024) 
 Single Person 2-Person Household 3-Person Household 4-Person Household 5-Person Household 6-Person Household 7-Person Household 
Apple Health for Kids $2613 monthly $3534 monthly $4455 monthly $5375 monthly $6296 monthly $7217 monthly $8138 monthly 
  • Income requirements for Tier I subsidized coverage ($20 monthly per child; $40 family maximum): 
 Single Person 2-Person Household 3-Person Household 4-Person Household 5-Person Household 6-Person Household 7-Person Household 
Apple Health for Kids Tier I $3220 monthly $4355 monthly $5490 monthly $6625 monthly $7761 monthly $8896 monthly $10031 monthly 
  • Income requirements for Tier II subsidized coverage ($30 monthly per child; $60 family maximum): 
 Single Person 2-Person Household 3-Person Household 4-Person Household 5-Person Household 6-Person Household 7-Person Household 
Apple Health for Kids Tier II $3852 monthly $5210 monthly $6568 monthly $7925 monthly $9283 monthly $10641 monthly $11999 monthly 

Eligibility for Apple Health for Adults: 

  • For those aged 19 through 64. 
  • For U.S. citizens or those who meet Medicaid immigration requirements. (Including Washington residents from the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia) 
  • For those who are not entitled to Medicare.  
  • Have annual household income at or below the Medicaid standard: 
 Single Person 2-Person Household 3-Person Household 4-Person Household 5-Person Household 6-Person Household 7-Person Household 
Apple Health for Adults $1677 monthly $2268 monthly $2868 monthly $3450 monthly $4042 monthly $4633 monthly $5224 monthly 

How to Apply 

There are a couple of ways to start the process of getting Medicaid or other subsidized health care plans. The Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator provides estimates of health insurance premiums and subsidies for people purchasing insurance on their own in health insurance exchanges or “Marketplaces.” The Washington Health Benefit Exchange can help families and individuals find subsidized health care in their area.  

When ready to apply for coverage from Apple Health: 

  1. Review adult and/or child income eligibility requirements. 
  1. Read the Eligibility Overview to determine if Apple Health is the best fit for you and your family. 
  1. Create an account on Washington Health Plan Finder
  1. Collect and enter information into the Washington Health Plan Finder application, WAPlanfinder Mobile App, downloadable paper form, or call the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633. 
  1. Review the five Integrated Health Care Plans responsible for Medicaid in Washington, not all of which may be available in your location. 
  1. If you need further help, contact a free Health Plan Navigator

To get signed up with Medicaid Classic, go online to Washington Connection and select “Apply Now,” or call 1-877-501-2233. For additional help signing up for Medicaid in Washington, help is available from Parent help 123, which can be contacted at 1-800-322-2588, or PAVE. If, in looking at the information above, you feel that you or the person you care for has lost Medicaid through a mistake or a problem with the system and going through the Washington Connection is not resolving the issue, the Federal Government is asking that you go through Healthcare.gov to get help with re-enrollment.  

ABLE: An Account to Overcome the SSI Resource Limit for Adults with Disabilities

A Brief Overview

  • The Stephen Beck Jr. ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act of 2014 allows individuals to save up to $18,000 annually without affecting their public benefits.
  • An account holder may save up to $100,000, bypassing the $2,000 resource limit for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and other public benefits programs.
  • Funds may be used for qualified disability expenses (QDEs) that improve or maintain the account holder’s health, independence, and/or quality of life.
  • ABLE accounts are savings accounts and the account holder may choose to distribute a percentage of the funds to investments, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
  • Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have ABLE Savings Plans with some states accepting out-of-state enrollment.
  • Washington State ABLE Savings Plan began in 2018, following Oregon ABLE Savings Plan, so some Washingtonians signed up early through that option or through the national ABLE For ALL Savings Plan.
  • Download this cheat sheet to Qualified Disability Expense (QDE) Tracking Form.

Full Article

Living with a disability can be difficult and costly. Adults who receive benefits from the Social Security Administration because of disability often are challenged to improve their life circumstances because of a $2,000 resource limit. This limit means that a person receiving payments from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program cannot have a bank account balance or any other resources on hand that exceed $2,000, without losing part of their benefit.

Savings of $2,000 or less can be limiting for someone who might want to move into a new home, invest in a vehicle or save for higher education or a vocational training program.

The government provides a way for individuals with disabilities to overcome this barrier and save money. The Stephen Beck Jr. ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act of 2014 allows individuals to save up to $18,000 annually without losing benefits. ABLE is modeled after college savings plans. The savings and/or investment account bypasses the SSI resource limit and can grow interest tax-free.

There are some restrictions:

  • The account holder must meet criteria for a disability that began before age 26.
  • The account may not receive more than $18,000 per year.
  • If the account balance exceeds $100,000, Social Security benefits are impacted but Medicaid benefits will remain in place.
  • Most accounts have a total lifetime balance limit of $500,000.

How can money in an ABLE account be used?

ABLE account money may not be spent on just anything. Generally, the funds can be used to pay for expenses that may help improve or maintain health, independence and/or quality of life. These are called Qualified Disability Expenses (QDEs). In this webinar recording, presented by ABLE National Resource Center, the ABLE expert presenters noted that “QDEs should be broadly understood and should not be limited to expenses for which there is a medical necessity or expenses that provide no benefits to others (outside of the benefit to the beneficiary).”

Here are a few examples of qualifying expenses: 

  • Housing
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Personal support services
  • Assistive technology
  • Health and wellness
  • Employment training and support

ABLE accounts are subject to IRS or SSI audits, so the account holder should keep a record of how money has been used, including:

  • the purpose or cause of the expense
  • how the expense relates to improving or maintaining health, independence, and/or quality of life
  • a copy of the proof of purchase or payment

PAVE has created a QDE Tracking Form to make it easier to keep track of your ABLE account activity.

What type of financial account is ABLE?

The ABLE account is a savings account, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). A chosen percentage of funds in the account may also be allocated as uninsured investment money. The account holder can choose a low-, median-, or high-risk investment strategy. Low-risk is the safest, most conservative option, with the lowest possibility for return. A high-risk investment might make more money but also could lose more. A median-risk investment is somewhere in between. Based on the account holder’s choice, the money is automatically allocated into some combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

An individual considering these options may want to consider how long the money will be in the market and risk tolerance. ABLE does warn that invested money is not insured and that money, including principle, may be lost over the course of an investment period.

The account holder, family and friends can deposit funds into the account using post-taxed dollars. Contributions are not federally tax deductible; however, some states may allow for state income-tax deductions for contributions made to an ABLE account.

Where are ABLE programs available and open for enrollment?

Although the program was federally enacted, ABLE is state-run. Washington’s program opened for enrollments in July 2018. So far, enrollments have been low, with the State Department of Commerce reporting that only a few hundred people have opened accounts. Commerce estimates about 30,000-50,000 people in Washington are eligible for the ABLE Savings Plan and have the financial assets to open an account.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have ABLE Savings Plans. Oregon’s plan was a year and a half ahead of Washington’s, so some Washingtonians signed up early through that option or through the national ABLE For ALL Savings Plan.

Individuals can shop around for the best program to meet their needs, and some states accept clients from all 50 states, including Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska, and Tennessee. Virginia is among the few states that issue a debit card for the account. The ABLE National Resource Center provides tools for reviewing the various state programs to find the best fit. Washington State ABLE Savings Plan links directly to a clickable form to determine eligibility.

When does the ABLE Age Adjustment Act go into effect?

With the 2023 passing of the Omnibus Spending Bill, the ABLE Age Adjustment Act was passed into law. Beginning on January 1, 2026, the age of onset of the disability will increase to 46 years of age.

Additional Resources:

Dial 711 for Telephone Relay Service (TRS) or teletypewriter (TTY), or call:

Step-By-Step Guide to Requesting Accommodations on SAT and ACT Exams

The transition from high school to college can be a daunting experience for any teenager. Part of the transition process is preparing for and taking the entrance exams for college. If the student is receiving accommodations in school, they may qualify to receive special accommodations while taking a college entrance exam.

The ACT and College Board Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) do not approve accommodations for all college entrance exams. Contact your school, college, or testing center for the CLEP and ACCUPLACER tests. Students with documented disabilities may request accommodations on PSAT-related assessments with the help of their school counselor.

Differences Between SAT and ACT Exams

Most universities accept both SAT and ACT and the length of both tests is approximately the same.  ACT has more questions in that same period, so fast workers may prefer it.  However, the best one for a student is the one they feel best about, so trying sections of both before choosing which one to study for is recommended by most test prep professionals. Both ACT and SAT have free practice sections available.

SATACT
Reading (65 min, 52 Questions)Reading (35 min, 35 Questions)
Writing (35 min, 44 Questions)English (45 min, 75 Questions)
Math (80 min, 58 Questions)Math (60 min, 60 Questions)
Optional essay (50 min)Science (35 min, 40 Questions)
Scored 400-1600Optional essay (30 min)
Scored 1-36

A student must have approval from the College Board SSD (for the SAT) or ACT to use accommodations on an exam. If a student uses extended test time or other accommodations without prior approval, their test results will be invalid.

The process of requesting accommodations varies depending on the exam. These are the steps to request accommodations on SAT and ACT college entrance exams:

Step 1: Document the need for accommodations.

The student must have a documented disability. Documentation can be a current psycho-educational evaluation or a report from a doctor. The type of documentation depends on the student’s circumstances. The disability must impact the student’s ability to participate in the college entrance exams. If the student is requesting a specific accommodation, documentation should demonstrate the difficulty the student has performing the related task. The College Board provides a disability documentation guideline and accommodation documentation guideline, as does the ACT. Doctor notes and Individualized Education Program (IEPs) or 504 plans may not be enough to validate a request for accommodations; you must provide supporting information, such as test scores. 

While students typically only receive accommodations if they have a documented disability, some (very few) students who have a temporary disability or special healthcare need can also be eligible. The request is different in these circumstances for those who wish to take the SAT exam and students are often urged to reregister for a date after they have healed. If the student cannot postpone their test, the request form for temporary assistance must be completed by a school official, student (if over 18) or parent, doctor, and teacher. Then, the form must be faxed or mailed to the College Board for processing.

Step 2: Allow plenty of time for processing.

It takes time to apply for accommodations, including a processing period of up to seven weeks after all required documentation has been submitted to the College Board SSD or ACT. If they request additional documentation, or if a request is resubmitted, approval can take an additional seven weeks. Start as early as possible before the exam date to allow enough time for processing, responding to a request for more documentation, and additional processing time. If the student will take the exam in the fall, they should begin the process in the spring to allow sufficient time for processing.

Step 3: Identify appropriate accommodations.

If the student has a formal education plan, review the current plan, and note accommodations listed throughout, especially (but not only) those the student uses during assessments. Read through recent medical evaluations, prescriptions, and records to ensure all accommodations have been included in the formal education plan, if the student has one, or to locate appropriate accommodations recommended by medical professionals. You may recognize some of the Possible Accommodations for SAT and ACT Entrance Exams.

Some accommodations may only be provided during certain sections of the exam, depending on the specific accommodation requested. For example, a student with dyscalculia may receive extended time during the math section of the exam but not for any other subject.

Step 4: Submit the request for accommodations.

The easiest way to request SAT accommodations is to go through your student’s school. If you choose to go through the school, the school’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Coordinator (Special Education Coordinator, Guidance/School Counselors, etc.) can go online to review the SAT Suite Accommodations and Supports Verification Checklist and submit the application. Having the coordinator submit the application will help streamline the process. Homeschooled students or those who choose not to go through the school may request accommodations on the SAT exam by printing the Student Eligibility Form and submitting all documentation by fax or postal mail.

Requesting accommodations for the ACT exam requires working with a school official who is a part of the IEP team. The accommodations requested should be similar to the accommodations currently being received in school and must be approved by ACT before the test. All requests, including appeals, must be submitted by the late registration deadline for the preferred test date. Homeschooled students may request accommodations on the ACT exam by creating an ACT account online and submitting the required documents electronically.

Step 5: Register for the college exam.

Once the student is approved for SAT accommodations, they will receive a Service for Students with Disability (SSD) number that must be included when registering for the test. The school’s SSD Coordinator should ensure all the correct accommodations are in place when it is time to take the college exam. Approved accommodations will remain in effect for one year after graduation from high school.

Additional Information

Dyslexia Screening and Interventions: State Requirements and Resources

A Brief Overview

  • Dyslexia is a common condition that makes it hard to work with language. Reading difficulties are one sign of dyslexia.
  • Washington passed a law in 2018 requiring schools to screen young children for indicators of dyslexia. The law took effect in the 2021-22 school year.
  • Dyslexia isSpecific Learning Disability. Students with learning disabilities are eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) if they demonstrate a need for Specially Designed Instruction (SDI). SDI is key when a student isn’t keeping up with grade-level work and standard teaching strategies aren’t working.
  • The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 320.260) requires schools to support literacy with “multi-tiered” programming. That means schools provide different levels of help for all students who need it, regardless of special education eligibility.
  • Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has handouts about dyslexia screening and supports in WA Schools, some in multiple languages.
    [ ខ្មែរ (Khmer), 한국인(Korean), ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (Punjabi), Русский (Russian), Soomaali (Somali), Español (Spanish), Filipino/Tagalog, 中國人(Traditional Chinese), and Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)] They are listed at the end of this article.

Full Article

A child who struggles to read can quickly fall behind in school. Nearly every learning area includes some reading, and children might become confused or frustrated when they don’t get help to make sense of their schoolwork. Behavior challenges can result, and sometimes schools and families struggle to understand why the student is having a hard time. Reading difficulties affect a student’s literacy. One definition of literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in ways that let people communicate well. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 320.260) requires schools to support literacy with “multi-tiered” programming to help with reading difficulties.

One cause of difficulty with reading is a specific learning disability called dyslexia. The state’s definition of dyslexia, adopted in 2018, is similar to a definition promoted by the International Dyslexia Association. According to Washington State’s definition:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin and that is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities that are not consistent with the person’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities.”

Understood.org provides a video and additional materials to learn about dyslexia. Here’s their plain language definition: “Dyslexia is a common condition that makes it hard to work with language.”

Washington State requires dyslexia screenings (tests to find out if a student may have or be at risk for dyslexia) and interventions (help with reading). Lawmakers in 2018 passed Senate Bill 6162 to require schools to screen children from kindergarten through second grade using state-recommended literacy screening tools. The law took effect in 2021-22.

Since reading is used in almost every learning area, this law means schools have a duty to identify students who show signs of possible dyslexia while they are in their early reading years. The law also requires schools to provide “interventions” (help) to students identified through the screening.

OSPI offers a Fact Sheet about the screening in multiple languages. It includes the reason for the screening, who gives the screening, the skills that are screened, the process, and information about dyslexia.

What happens if the screening shows indicators (signs) of dyslexia?

The law requires the school to:

  • Notify the student’s family of the identified indicators and areas of weakness
  • Share with the family the school’s plan for multitiered systems of support to provide supports and interventions (help with reading)
  • The notice should include resources and information about dyslexia for the family’s use.
  • Update families regularly on the student’s progress

How can families tell if a student has trouble, or may have trouble with reading and language? Families can look for these signs in children who are toddlers and pre-kindergarten:

  • Trouble learning simple rhymes
  • Speech delays
  • following direction
  • Difficulty reading short words or leave them out
  • Trouble understanding the difference between left and right
    -Child Mind Institute Parent Guide to Dyslexia.

Screening happens in kindergarten through grade 2. If a student is already older than that, families can check for these signs of reading and language difficulty at home.

Understood.org states: “Dyslexia can also cause trouble with spelling, speaking, and writing. So, signs can show up in a few areas, not just in reading.” Understood.org lists these signs for students older than grade 2: Signs a Student May Have Dyslexia (handout)

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) offers a Family and Caregiver Discussion Guide that may help when families are planning to speak to their child’s teacher or school administrators about their student’s reading difficulties, behavior, or other concerns.

What happens if the screening shows a student has signs of dyslexia, or if families or teachers notice signs and want a student to get help?

The school puts multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) into action. “Multi-tiered systems” usually means beginning reading help as part of regular classroom reading instruction. If a student’s reading difficulties continue, the student may get more intensive instruction in smaller groups, and perhaps move up to intensive one-on-one time with a reading instructor. For any of these levels, the reading instruction must be “evidence-based” methods which means the methods have been tested and shown to be useful in helping with reading difficulties.

This guide for schools from OSPI has details about MTSS.

These more intensive levels of reading help may work very well. Not every reading difficulty is due to dyslexia, and not every person with dyslexia has the same level or type of reading difficulty.

At any point during these interventions, families or teachers may see a student is not making progress and ask that the student be evaluated for special education to see if the student qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP can provide Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), which means instruction will be based on the student’s unique needs and provide extra instructional time, assistive technology, and other supports.

The federal law that provides special education eligibility and funding is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to the IDEA, Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Disability. Specific Learning Disability is a category of eligibility for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). IDEA states that students have the right to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), and the IEP is a key factor in a student having FAPE.

What types of help can a student get with reading and literacy?

Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) use instruction methods that have been proven to work for many students, starting with help in the general (regular) classroom. If a student doesn’t make progress that way, the student may join a smaller group for that gives each student more time with a teacher or reading specialist and even move on to one-to-one instruction with a reading specialist. These options are available to any student who shows signs of dyslexia or reading difficulty. OSPI offers Dyslexia Guidance (for schools): Implementing MTSS for Literacy with more specific information.


IEP: Students can get Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) based on their unique needs, such as particular areas of language and literacy where they have difficulties. Reading programs offered by the school can be included in an IEP. IEPs can include accommodations, which may include texts and instructions in audio format, text-to-speech/speech to text software, recording oral answers to assignment or test questions, access to distraction-free location for reading, allowing extra time to complete work or tests, and many more. Accommodations for Students with Dyslexia by the International Dyslexia Association lists many other options.

Section 504 Plan: Section 504 plans don’t include Specially Designed Instruction. They do include accommodations.

The National Center on Improving Literacy has information on when a Section 504 plan may make sense for a student with reading difficulties or dyslexia. They note that Section 504 Plans, which fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, do not provide for Specially Designed Instruction. If a student’s reading has improved without an IEP by receiving multitiered systems of support, a Section 504 plan may offer Assistive Technology options, spelling checks, extended time on assignments and testing and other accommodations.

PAVE has articles and a video with more information about special education, IEPs, and Section 504 plans.

Interventions (help with reading) are schoolwide

Not all students who need reading support will need IEPs or a Section 504 Plan. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 320.260) requires schools to support literacy through “evidence-based multi-tiered” programming. That means schools provide different levels of support for all students who need help, whether or not the student has an IEP or Section 504 Plan.

Some schools have reading programs funded by Title 1, which is part of a federal law called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title 1 is funded to close opportunity gaps related to poverty and other measures.  

TIP: Ask about all options for reading support at your school. If a student with an IEP participates in a schoolwide reading program, then the IEP can list that program as part of the student’s services.

Dyslexia can be identified and helped without a diagnosis

Students do not need a diagnosis of dyslexia to be evaluated (tested) for special education eligibility. If the family has concerns, they can ask the school to evaluate the student. Requests should be in writing. PAVE provides a sample letter to help families request an educational evaluation.

Here’s a sentence to include in the evaluation request letter:

“I need my child tested for a specific learning disability. I believe there is a problem with reading that is disability related.”

TIP: When a student’s need for reading help qualifies for an IEP, there are important things that families need to know about how IEPs work, what the goals are for the student’s reading abilities, what type of reading help will be given, where the Specially Designed Instruction will take place, and what the parent’s and student’s roles and responsibilities are when their student has an IEP. These are the basics:

  • IEP Eligibility is based on a student’s needs
  • Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) serves the identified needs
  • The IEP tracks learning progress with specific goals in each area of SDI

What options do families have if they disagree with a school’s decisions about their student’s reading supports or other decisions?

  • If a student has not been screened for signs of dyslexia and the family has concerns, a first step is to meet with the student’s teacher. This article by the International Dyslexia Association offers specific steps families can take.
  • Families can request an evaluation to see if the student qualifies for an IEP or a Section 504 Plan.
  • If families disagree with the evaluation, they can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) from a provider outside the school. This article from PAVE gives steps and a sample letter to request and IEE: Evaluations Part 2: Next Steps if the School Says ‘No’
  • If the student has an IEP, this article gives specific steps to follow: Parents as Team Partners: Options When You Don’t Agree with the School.
  • For students with a Section 504 Plan, OSPI recommends:
    “The Section 504 coordinator in each district makes sure students with disabilities receive the accommodations they need and respond to allegations of discrimination based on disability. [Section 504 coordinators are members of a school’s Section 504 team which develops 504 Plans to accommodate a child’s needs]. A discussion with your school principal, or Section 504 coordinator at the school district, is often the best step to address your concerns or disagreements about Section 504 and work toward a solution. Share what happened and let the principal or coordinator know what they can do to help resolve the problem. If you cannot resolve the concern or disagreement this way, you can file a complaint.”

What else to know:

Keep in mind that families and schools don’t need to use the term dyslexia at all. They can talk about a student’s learning disability in reading, writing, or math in broader terms such as “Specific Learning Disability.” Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), dyslexia is a Specific Learning Disability that qualifies a student for special education.

Specific Learning Disability is defined by the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 392-172A-01035):
“Specific learning disability means 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, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia, that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.”

The state’s definition of learning disability excludes “learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

Here’s a handout on Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Dyslexia.

Resources

From PAVE:

Special Education is a Service, Not a Place
Student Rights, IEP, Section 504 and More (video)
Steps to Read, Understand, and Develop an Initial IEP
Supporting literacy: Text-to-Speech and IEP goal setting for students with learning disabilities
IEP Tips: Evaluation, Present Levels, SMART goals
Section 504: A Plan for Equity, Access and Accommodations
Evaluations Part 2: Next Steps if the School Says ‘No’
There’s more: just type “Special Education,” “IEP” or “504” in the search bar

From OSPI:

Family and Caregiver Discussion Guide with Educators and Schools
Understand Literacy Screening: Parents and Families
Available in ខ្មែរ (Khmer), 한국인(Korean), ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (Punjabi), Русский (Russian), Soomaali (Somali), Español (Spanish), Filipino/Tagalog, 中國人(Traditional Chinese), and Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
Best Practices for Supporting Grades 3 and Above
Section 504 & Students with Disabilities (web page)
Dyslexia Guidance (for schools): Implementing MTSS for Literacy

Dyslexia awareness is promoted by the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL), which provides resources designed to support families, teachers, and policy makers. On its website, the agency includes state-specific information, recommends screening tools and interventions and provides research data about early intervention.

The International Dyslexia Association has many detailed resources for families.

School to Adulthood: Transition Planning Toolkit for High School, Life, and Work

Looking to the future can feel exciting, hopeful, confusing, overwhelming—or all emotions at once. For families supporting a young person with a disability, it’s never too soon to begin planning to ensure a smooth process from the teen years toward whatever happens next. This toolkit supports families as they organize this multiyear project.

For a visual map of the ages and stages of high school transition process, check out PAVE’s infographic: What’s Next? High School Transition Planning Timeline.

Learn the Words

A good place to begin is a Glossary of Key Terms for Life After High School Planning, which provides vocabulary building and an overview of topics relevant to this important phase of life. 

Pandemic Impacts

A student receiving special education services has a right to education through age 21, if needed, to meet requirements and achieve readiness. Some IEP teams may determine that because of COVID-19 a student who has not yet received a diploma needs to stay in school beyond 21 to access Recovery Services, a term developed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to help students recover learning losses related to the pandemic. Decisions about Recovery Services are made by IEP teams, which include parents and students.

OSPI provides a Family Information Session on Transition Recovery, available on YouTube from June 2, 2021. The presentation slides are also available online, and families may call OSPI at 360-725-6075 with questions about Transition Recovery Services.

Earning a Diploma

To earn a high-school diploma in Washington State, students must:

OSPI provides a two-page summary of graduation requirements to support families and students. Included is this statement: “Students who receive special education services under an Individualized Education Program (IEP), also have an IEP Transition Plan, which begins by the school year when a student turns 16 or sooner. The HSBP is required to align with their IEP Transition Plan to ensure a robust planning process toward post-high school goals.”

Various state agencies collaborated to provide a guidebook: Guidelines for Aligning High School & Beyond Plans (HSBP) and IEP Transition Plans.

The state’s 2019 legislature changed graduation requirements (HB 1599). Students may earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) or a Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) to graduate. How a student earns a CIA is determined by their IEP team.

Students with disabilities seeking a diploma through General Educational Development (GED) testing may be eligible for testing accommodations. A website called passged.com lists a variety of disability conditions that might make a person eligible for testing supports.

Commencement Access

Regardless of when a diploma is earned, a student can participate in Commencement at the end of a traditional senior year, with peers, under a Washington provision called Kevin’s Law. Families may want to plan well in advance with school staff to consider how senior year events are accessible to youth with disabilities.

The Big Picture

The right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) includes the right to school-based services that prepare a young person with a disability for adult life.

Here are links to a training video, infographic, and article:

Various state agencies collaborated to provide a downloadable guidebook: Guidelines for Aligning High School & Beyond Plans (HSBP) and IEP Transition Plans. Included are career-planning tools and linkages to current information about Graduation Pathways, which changed in 2019 when the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1599.

Student Self-Advocacy

As they move toward adulthood, many students benefit from opportunities to practice skills of self-advocacy and self-determination. One way to foster those skills is to encourage youth to get more involved in their own Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). To support that, PAVE provides this article: Attention Students: Lead your own IEP meetings and take charge of your future. Included is a handout that students might use to contribute to meeting agendas.

The RAISE Center (National Resources for Advocacy, Independence, Self-determination and Employment) provides a blog with transition related news, information, ideas and opinions. Topics in 2020-21 include how to “Be the Best You,” how issues of race and disability intersect with equity, and how “The Disability Agenda Could Bring Unity to A Fragmented Society,” by RAISE Center co-director Josie Badger, who is a person living with disability.

Student Rights after High School

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) ends when a student leaves secondary education. The protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are ongoing throughout the lifespan.

These laws provide for appropriate accommodations in public programs and facilities. To support these disability protections, The IEP accommodations page or a Section 504 Plan can travel with a student into higher education, a vocational program, or work. Often a special services office at an institution for higher learning includes a staff member responsible for ensuring that disability rights are upheld. PAVE provides an article with general information about Section 504 rights that apply to all ages: Section 504: A Plan for Equity, Access and Accommodations.

Universal Design supports everyone

Asking for rights to be upheld is not asking for special favors. A person living with disability, Kyann Flint, wrote an article for PAVE to describe how Universal Design supports inclusion. Her article can provide inspiration for young people looking for examples of what is possible, now as ever: COVID-19 and Disability: Access to Work has Changed.

Agencies that can help

Washington State’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provides services for high-school students engaged in transition planning as well as adults seeking employment. PAVE provides an article that describes Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and more: Ready for Work: Vocational Rehabilitation Provides Guidance and Tools.

DVR’s website includes a section with information about Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (TVR), which is available for people with tribal affiliations in some areas of the state. Each TVR program operates independently. Note that some TVR programs list service areas by county but that sovereign lands are not bound by county lines. Contact each agency for complete information about program access, service area, and eligibility.

Services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are provided by Washington’s Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth (CDHY), which was formerly called the Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss (CDHL). This statewide resource supports all deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, regardless of where they live or attend school.

Services for individuals who are blind or living with low vision are provided by Washington’s Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). Youth services, Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), Vocational Rehabilitation, Business Enterprise Program, and mobility and other independent-living skills are served by DSB.

The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) also has a variety of school-to-work and waiver programs that support youth. PAVE provides a video to support families through the DDA eligibility process. An article provides further detail: How to Prepare for a DDA Assessment.

Not all youth with disabilities are able to access employment-related services through DVR, TVR, DSB, or DDA. A limited additional option is Goodwill, which provides access to a virtual learning library. Students can take classes at their own pace for skills development. Employment skills, workplace readiness, interviewing skills and more are part of the training materials. To request further information, call 253-573-6507, or send an email to: library@goodwillwa.org.

Graduation’s over: Why is school calling?

Schools are responsible to track the outcomes of their special education services. Here’s an article to help families get ready to talk about how things are going: The School Might Call to Ask About a Young Adult’s Experience After High School: Here’s Help to Prepare

Benefits Planning

A consideration for many families of youth with disabilities is whether lifelong benefits are needed. Applying for social security just past the young person’s 18th birthday creates a pathway toward a cash benefit and enables the young person to access Medicaid (public health insurance) and various programs that depend on Medicaid eligibility.

The Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (gowise.org) provides benefit planning information and resources through a program called BenefitU.

When a person 18 or older has a disability, family members may want to stay involved in helping them make decisions. Supported Decision Making (SDM) is the formal name for one legal option. Washington law (Chapter 11.130 in the Revised Code of Washington) includes Supported Decision Making as an option under the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act. The law changed in 2020 when the state passed Senate Bill 6287. The changes took effect Jan. 1, 2022. PAVE’s article about Supported Decision Making has more information about this and other options for families to support an adult with a disability.

Possible Accommodations for SAT and ACT Entrance Exams

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Extended time

  • Only if the disability causes them to work more slowly than others
  • May not be necessary for every section
  • If necessary for reading, will be provided for every section

Reading and seeing accommodations

  • Large-print test book
  • Braille with raised line drawings
  • Tactile graphics with a human reader or prerecorded audio
  • Assistive technology, such as text-to-speech

Recording responses

  • Large-print answer sheet
  • Recording answers accommodations
  • Computer for word processing for essay and short answer only
  • Record answers in their test books
  • Scribe to record both multiple-choice and essay or short answer

Use of four-function calculator

Assistive technology

  • Must request each device or software separately
  • Electronic magnifying machines
  • Text-to-speech (screen readers) and speech-to-text
  • Electronic/talking calculators

Breaks

  • Extended time (10 minutes)
  • Additional (5 minutes each)

Other accommodations

  • Signing or orally presenting instructors
  • Printed copy of verbal instructions
  • Colored overlays
  • Preferential seating
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • School-based setting
  • Permission for food, drink, or medication
  • Permission to test blood sugar and access to testing supplies

COVID – 19 Updates:

  • Check the for updates related to COVID-19 and guidelines for participating in testing
  • Check the test center’s website for any additional or specific entry requirements, including College Board or local public health guidelines
  • If students don’t feel well on test day, they should contact Customer Service immediately to set a new test date.

Source:

Accommodations and English Learner Supports for Educators

Accommodations on College Board Exams

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

Transition Triangle

The transition triangle talks about the relationship between the High School and Beyond Plan , the IEP transition plan and Agency supports from DDA, DVR and DSB. within that triangle of support is the student asking themselves: Who they are, what is their future and their goals.

The planning process to support a student with disabilities toward their adult life plans requires coordination and organization. This graphic provides a visual overview of the work and who is responsible to help.

The center upside down triangle describes key questions for a student as they move through school and toward adulthood:

  1. Who am I? Answers include what the student is interested in, what they are good at, what they struggle with, and how they see themselves.
  2. What’s my future? Students can begin to imagine where they might work, whether higher education will be part of their future, and how they might live.
  3. How do I reach my goals? The answers are a long-term project. A good planning process ensures that work done today is moving the student toward their vision for adult life.

The three colored triangles on the corners of the graphic represent three tools that help students ask and answer these questions.

The purple triangle on the bottom left represents the High School and Beyond Plan. Washington State requires schools to begin supporting all students with a High School and Beyond Plan before they leave middle school. The plan includes questions to help the student think about where they might work someday and how much education they will need to get that job. The plan is designed to make sure time spent in school is moving the student toward adult goals. The High School and Beyond Plan addresses the same questions that are listed in the center of our triangle and is often managed by staff in a school’s counseling center.

The blue triangle on the bottom right represents the transition plan, which is required in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) by the school year when they turn 16. Goals in the IEP Transition Plan include further education/training, employment, and independent living as parts of a student’s program. A student with disabilities has the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until they earn a diploma or turn 21. The IEP includes a target graduation date, determined by the IEP team. The state requires the IEP Transition Plan to align with the High School and Beyond Plan. School staff and the family collaborate to make sure these two tools match up to best support a student’s progress.

The teal triangle on top of the pyramid represents agencies that might provide Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) has a variety of school-to-work programs for eligible students: A DDA case manager can provide information about options. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provides Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) for students still in school as well as vocational rehabilitation services for adults with disabilities. As they transition out of school, members of some Native American tribes may access Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (TVR) services. The Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) is a separate agency providing Pre-ETS for youth and vocational rehabilitation services for individuals who are blind or low vision. Staff from these agencies may work with an IEP team and counselors at school to make sure everyone is working together to support the student in the center.

Ideally a student with disabilities has people supporting all of the features on this transition triangle. Best practice is for all agencies and supporters to collaborate as they help a student move toward a successful adult life.

PAVE has made a fillable worksheet to help you answer these questions.

In addition, PAVE has a college readiness workbook ready for you to use. For direct assistance from PAVE, click Get Help. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provides information about graduation requirements for a student in Washington State

How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Talk with your parents and/or guardians:

  • What are my abilities and strengths?
  • How does my disability affect my learning and ability to show what I know on tests?
  • What accommodations do I need to be successful?
  • What postsecondary education or training programs do my teachers and school counselors recommend for my areas of interest?

Talk together about your concerns with Student Support Services / Disability Office

  • A school’s location could deter your child, even if the program is perfect. Where is the school located and does that school setting (urban, suburban, or rural) meet your student’s needs? If they cannot live independently, what is the distance from home?
  • Does the student/instructor ratio ensure your student can access office hours with their instructor as needed?
  • Not all programs provide the same accommodations, and colleges do not make modifications to alter academic requirements.  Accommodations are what make it possible for your student to access the curriculum.  An inaccessible program would be a waste of time and money.
  • Are the housing options accessible for your student’s individual needs?
  •  Will they require someone to assist with self-help (like bathing), managing their medications and medical treatment, or nutrition and hygiene needs (like laundry, washing dishes, cooking)? 
  • Do they have a service or emotional support animal?

* High school counselors and teachers are resources for connecting with colleges and training programs. Many schools have “College Fairs.”

*This resource describes a typical process to ask for accommodations, and also lists key questions to ask of the Disability Office: How to Request Disability Supports in College

*You can also call postsecondary school admission officers to request brochures and fact sheets about the school and its programs. Schools almost always include information about their programs online.

Source: PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment – Preparing for Postsecondary Education

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program Worksheet

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Fill in your answers to the questions.

Talk With Each Other

  • What are my abilities?
  • What are my strengths?
  • How does my disability affect my learning and ability to show what I know on tests?
  • What accommodations do I need to be successful?
  • What postsecondary education or training programs do my teachers and school counselors recommend for my areas of interest?

Talk Together About Your Concerns With Student Support Services

  • Where is the school located and does that school setting (urban, suburban, or rural) meet my needs?
  • If I cannot live independently, what is the distance from home?
  • Does the student/instructor ratio ensure I can access office hours with my instructor(s) as needed?

Not all programs provide the same accommodations, and colleges do not make modifications to alter academic requirements.

  1. Does the program offer the accommodations I need to be successful?
  2. Are the housing options accessible for my individual needs?

Do I require someone to assist with:

  1. Self-help (like bathing)?
  2. Managing my medications and medical treatments?
  3. Nutrition and hygiene needs (laundry, washing dishes, cooking?)
  4. Do I have a service animal?

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

College Experience Terms: Non Degree Post-Secondary Transition Programs

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

These are some terms for post-secondary education programs that are unique to those supporting students with intellectual disabilities.

Click on each term for more information.

Transition and postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disability (TPSID)

  • A federally funded model demonstration grant that allows schools to create and/or further develop their program.
  • Programs receiving the TPSID grant are more likely to have accommodations to support students with IDD because they’re literally being paid to create and expand their programs.
  • Students attending schools that are CTP approved can apply federal funding from the Department of Education to pay for non-degree programs.
  • Some programs may use the acronym “IPSE” to indicate they are focused on supporting students with IDD.

Inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE)

Sometimes used to refer to college programs for students with intellectual disability; also referred to as inclusive higher education programs.

Comprehensive transition program (CTP)

Approved by the U.S. Department of Education and eligible for federal student aid.

*If a student has an IEP and they intend to participate in a non-degree college program, their transition goals don’t have to be focused on a major to help them prepare for higher learning.

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

Requesting Accommodations in Post-Secondary Education

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Post-secondary schools each set their own procedures and requirements to request accommodations. Here are some key points and tips on effective ways to request accommodations.

Accessibility is one important way a post-secondary school can show it is inclusive. Over the last few years, many colleges and universities have been highlighting accessibility and the services they offer students with disabilities. This may help a student to decide to apply to a particular school and make it easier to find out how to apply for accommodations at a school they have selected. (Check out the College Readiness Workbook created by PAVE to see resources for post-secondary program selection.)

To request accommodations:

  1. Begin by locating the campus disability services office on the school website. Type “disability” into the search bar.  Often, the first result will be the office that provides accommodation for students with disabilities.

Name of Office:                                                                Phone:      

  1. Call the office to make an appointment and request any forms you can complete beforehand and how to obtain them (such as by mail or downloading from the school website).  Make your appointment well before classes begin.  It may take 6-8 weeks to process your request, so start early to have accommodations in place by the time you need them.
  • Note that some accommodations, such as Braille or interpreter services, may take more time than others to arrange.
  • If you have an IEP, note that transition planning is mandatory beginning at age 16. Parts of a transition plan can include selecting a post-secondary program, deciding which accommodations you will need, and starting the request process on time.

Appointment Date:                                             Time:                           Contact:   

Requirements to document a disability range widely from one post-secondary program to another. It’s important to reach out to disability services to learn their specific requirements, and if possible, talk with other students who have experience with school services. DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism, & Mentoring) Group has lists of student organizations to contact for this type of information.

Schools may ask for documentation from a medical or other therapeutic provider, or disability services may be able to use a student’s current IEP or 504 plan.

3. You will need to submit proof of a disability that impacts activities of daily living, to meet the requirements to provide accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The proof may be a form letter for a medical or therapeutic provider to fill out, or it may be notes from such a provider. It may be your most recent IEP or 504 plan. It must be specific to the condition or conditions for which accommodation is requested.

  • Be aware that a disability which is ‘mitigated’, that is, made less of an impairment by a device, an accommodation, or any other strategy for coping does not change a student’s rights under the ADA or Section 504.
  • The same is true for a condition that ‘comes and goes. For example, bipolar disorder, an autoimmune disorder, a gastrointestinal condition, or similar conditions in which symptoms are present at some times and not at others.
  • From a medical or therapeutic provider, schools often require that documentation must be in writing, must be current within three years, and include the following where appropriate:
    • A description of the student’s disability and how he/she is affected educationally by the presence of the disabling condition.
    • Identification of any tests or assessments administered to the student.
    • Suggestions for educational accommodations that will provide equal access to programs, services, and activities.

4. Documentation submitted to the college should provide clear evidence of need and demonstrate a history of use of the accommodations requested.  While a high school IEP or 504 plan does not “transfer” to the postsecondary program, the disability office may accept these plans as proof of disability or use them as guidance in determining appropriate accommodations.

Collect and check the documentation you need:

  • Most recent Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Most recent 504 plan, Accommodations Plan, or Service Plan
  • Most recent educational evaluations
  • Diagnosis and/or treatment plan
  • Medical or professional service providers notes, including suggested accommodations (colleges may have a form for this)
  • Make copies of the completed request forms for your home file
  • Other

Remember to check the school website for any disability-specific or need-specific documentation requirements.  For example, a student may be required to provide the results of a hearing assessment with expected progression or stability of the hearing loss, when requesting accommodations for a hearing disability.

5. Meet with the disability office staff to request and discuss accommodations.  Complete the How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program worksheet to help you prepare for this meeting, including organizing your questions and concerns.

Write down any additional questions to help you remember during the meeting.

6. When you receive written notice of the decision regarding your eligibility for accommodations and the list of approved accommodations, make enough copies to share with your instructors and keep a copy with you in class, in the event of a substitute instructor.  Put the original in your home file for safekeeping.

Understand the limits of what the school is providing for assistive technology. For instance, many schools limit the loan of portable screen-readers to specified uses or time frames. Students may have to provide their own equipment or software outside those limits.

It is the student’s responsibility to give the eligibility notice with specific accommodations to each instructor every semester.

7. If accommodations become ineffective or you are not receiving approved accommodations, contact the disability services office immediately for assistance.

8. All accommodations are provided on a case-by-case basis.  If your request for accommodations is denied, contact the disability services office to determine the process for appeal and equitable resolution.

9. Once at college, this resources may help:
So, you’re in college, now what next?
College Readiness Workbook

Additional Resources:

So, you’re in college, now what next?
College Readiness Workbook (contains this article and many other helpful resources)

Sources:

How to Request Disability Supports in College

Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, WA Access Services

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

Keeping Kids Busy Through Summer: Summer Camp Alternatives

A Brief Overview

  • There are many inexpensive ways to entertain children over the summer
  • Check with local parks and recreation for activities, including those for children and youth with disabilities
  • Washington State Parks are wonderful for exploring as a family
  • Consult with family organizations, schools, and educators for ideas and information on programs

Full Article

Summer camp is an excellent way for children to spend the long summer days. However, camps are often filled quickly, and many are out of the financial reach of families. Here are some alternatives to those summer camps to entertain children and give caregivers some much needed respite.

Local parks and recreation departments in larger communities boost their options for children over the summer. These can include sports, preschool classes, and outdoor activities. Some of the parks and rec departments, especially in larger communities, have adaptive or accessible classes, for those with disabilities and/or sensory issues. Boys and Girls Clubs have activities, classes, and day camp for a small fee. The YMCA also can offer day camp options, along with their usual sports and recreation options. For families in more rural areas, 4H has many opportunities for children and youth to engage in hands-on learning, skill building, and community interaction.

Washington State Parks provide for a wide range of outdoor activities this summer and even have special events that can be viewed on their calendar. For children four and up, their Junior Ranger Program has activities to print out and ideas for indoor and outdoor fun. For those with physical limitations, an interactive ADA map of park facilities shows the wheelchair accessible options throughout the State Park system.

Libraries often have surprisingly varied options, including reading programs, arts and crafts, educational classes, and movie nights. Many libraries now have take-home kits for creative activities to do with the whole family. Summer reading lists are available both on library websites and in-person.

Movie theaters sometimes offer sensory-friendly film viewing at certain scheduled times, check with the theater. Good for those hot afternoons!

Parent groups and family organizations are often up to date on the latest summer activity offerings around the community. The Arc of Washington and Parent to Parent are both focused on families with children with disabilities or special health care needs, are aware of many opportunities, and may even offer some events for families and kids.

Some school districts have enrichment activities over the summer beyond the extended school year (a.k.a. summer school) options. Local school district websites will have full listings for anything they may offer. Often schools and school districts also have recommendations for summer activities and information on summer events. Teachers are a useful resource for summer ideas and information, as they have heard a lot about what their students are doing this summer, so a quick chat with them may be in order.

Several websites focus on community events and classes that children and youth can be involved in over the summer. The most prominent is Macaroni kid, but others include Parent Map, and Family Day Out. The local Chamber of Commerce and local newspapers also will post some event highlights and may list on their community calendars. Summer is also the time for County Fairs, most of which take place in August.

Lifespan Respite has a list of registered providers that is accessible to everyone, where it is possible to find recreation and respite options by county, age served, disabilities served, and respite type. The options listed under Recreation on the “Respite Type” menu has an array of interesting options that may have flown under a family’s radar, such as equine therapy, music classes, and sensory-friendly playgrounds.

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 four 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.

Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth

A Brief Overview

  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that affects how the brain works.
  • Approximately 1.7 million people receive traumatic brain injuries every year. Of children 0-19 years old, TBI results in 631,146 trips to the emergency room annually, 35,994 hospitalizations, and nearly 6,169 deaths.
  • Children have the highest rate of emergency department visits for traumatic brain (TBI) injury of all age groups. TBI affects children differently than adults.
  • Although TBI is quite common, many medical and education professionals may not realize that some difficulties can be caused by a childhood TBI. Often, students with TBI are thought to have a learning disability, emotional disturbance, or an intellectual disability. As a result, they may not receive the type of educational help and support really needed.
  • Students with TBI who are not eligible for special education might be eligible for a Section 504 plan.
  • TBI is a category of eligibility for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Washington State Administrative Code (WAC)
  • Washington law requires evaluation referrals in writing. The state provides a form for referrals, downloadable from a website page titled, Making a Referral for Special Education. The person making the referral can use the form or any other format for their written request.
  • PAVE provides a Sample Letter to Request Evaluation.

Full Article

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that affects how the brain works. TBI can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. The exact definition of TBI, according to special education law, is referenced later. This injury can change how the person thinks, behaves, and moves. A traumatic brain injury can also change how a student learns and behaves in school. The term TBI is used for head injuries that can cause changes in one or more areas, such as:

  • thinking and reasoning,
  • understanding words,
  • remembering things,
  • paying attention,
  • solving problems,
  • thinking abstractly,
  • talking,
  • behaving,
  • walking and other physical activities,
  • seeing and/or hearing, and
  • learning.

The term TBI is not used for a person who is born with a brain injury or for brain injuries that happen during birth.

How is TBI Defined?

The definition of TBI below comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is the federal law that guides how schools provide special education and related services to children and youth with disabilities.

IDEA’s Definition of TBI

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines traumatic brain injury as

“…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 student’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; psycho-social behavior; physical 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.” [34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.8(c)(12)]

Washington State’s Definition of TBI

“Traumatic brain injury means 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 student’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury 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; physical functions; information processing; and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.” (WAC 392-172A-01035)

What Are the Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury?

The signs of brain injury can be quite different depending on where the brain is injured and how severely. Students with TBI may have one or more difficulties, including:

Physical disabilities: Individuals with TBI may have problems speaking, seeing, hearing, and using their other senses. They may have headaches and feel tired a lot. They may also have trouble with skills such as writing or drawing. Their muscles may suddenly contract or tighten (this is called spasticity). They may also have seizures. Their balance and walking may also be affected. They may be partly or completely paralyzed on one side of the body, or both sides.

Difficulties with thinking: Because the brain has been injured, it is common that the person’s ability to use the brain changes. For example, students with TBI may have trouble with short-term memory (being able to remember something from one minute to the next, like what the teacher just said). They may also have trouble with their long-term memory (being able to remember information from a while ago, like facts learned last month). People with TBI may have trouble concentrating and only be able to focus their attention for a brief time. They may think slowly. They may have trouble talking and listening to others. They may also have difficulty with reading and writing, planning, understanding the order in which events happen (called sequencing), and judgment.

Social, behavioral, or emotional problemsThese difficulties may include sudden changes in mood, anxiety, and depression. Students with TBI may have trouble relating to others. They may be restless and may laugh or cry a lot. They may not have much motivation or much control over their emotions.

A student with TBI may not have all the above difficulties. Brain injuries can range from mild to severe, and so can the changes that result from the injury. This means that it is hard to predict how an individual will recover from the injury. Early and ongoing help can make an enormous difference in how the student recovers. This help can include physical or occupational therapy, counseling, and special education.

It is also important to know that, as children and youth grow and develop, parents and teachers may notice new problems. This is because, as young people grow, they are expected to use their brain in new and different ways. The damage to the brain from the earlier injury can make it hard for them to learn new skills that come with getting older. Sometimes families and teachers may not even realize that the student’s difficulty comes from the earlier injury.

How to Access Support

If a student is having a tough time at school and has a known or suspected disability, the school evaluates to see if the student qualifies for special education. A student is protected in their right to be evaluated by the Child Find Mandate, which is part of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). if they do have a disability and, because of the disability, need special services under IDEA. These services can include:

Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT): A system of family centered services to support infants and toddlers with disabilities (before their 3rd birthday).

Special education and related services: Services available through the public school system for school-aged children and youth, including preschoolers (ages 3-21). It is important to remember that the IEP is intended to be flexible. It can be changed as the family, school, and the student learns more about what support and services are needed at school.

If the student is not eligible for special education, a Section 504 Plan may help. Under Section 504, students with disabilities can access the accommodations, aids, and services they need to access and benefit from education. It also protects students from discrimination based on disability.

When students with TBI return to school, their educational and emotional needs are often quite different than before the injury. Their disability has happened suddenly and traumatically. They can often remember how they were before the brain injury. This can bring on many emotional and social changes which may result in mental and/or behavioral health needs. The student’s family, friends, and teachers also recall what the student was like before the injury. These and other people in the student’s life may have trouble changing or adjusting their expectations of the student. Therefore, it is important to plan carefully for the return to school.

Tips for Families and Caregivers

  • Learn about TBI. The more you know, the more you can help yourself and your student.
  • Work with the medical team to understand your loved one’s injury and treatment plan. Ask questions. Share what you know or think. Make suggestions.
  • Keep track of your loved one’s treatment. A 3-ring binder or a box can help you store this history. As your youth recovers, you may meet with many doctors, nurses, and others. Write down what they say. Put any paperwork they give you in the notebook or place it in a box.
  • Plan for your student’s return to school after the injury. Contact the school. Ask the principal about an evaluation for special education or a Section 504 plan. You may also consider asking the medical team to share information with the school.
  • Talk to other families whose loved ones have TBI.
  • Stay connected with your student’s teacher. Tell the teacher about how your student is doing at home. Ask how your student is doing in school.
  • Sometimes students who do not qualify for the IEP will qualify for accommodations and other support through a Section 504 Plan. PAVE has an article about Section 504, which provides an individual with protections throughout the lifespan.
  • Protections against bullying and discriminatory discipline are aspects of Section 504. Watch PAVE’s video, Behavioral Health and School: Key Information for Families.

Help from PAVE

PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) team provides 1:1 support and additional resources. Click Get Help or Call 1-800-5PARENT (572-7368) and select extension 115, English or Spanish available, to leave a dedicated message.

For information, help during a crisis, emotional support, and referrals:  

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK): After July 16, 2022, call 988.
  • Text “HEAL” to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.
  • TeenLink (1-866-833-6546; 6pm-10pm PST)
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital has a referral helpline. Families can call 833-303-5437, Monday-Friday, 8-5, to connect with a referral specialist. The service is free for families statewide.

Further information on TBI:  

Family Support

  • PAVE’s Family-to-Family Health Information Center provides technical assistance to families navigating health systems related to disability. Click Get Help at wapave.org or call 800-572-7368 for individualized assistance. Family Voices of Washington provides further information and resources.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) has a link to Washington TBI Support Groups.
  • Brain Injury Association of America works to create a better future through brain injury prevention, research, education, and advocacy.