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What's new in special education

Read this first-person account of an accomplished young woman's struggles with anxiety resulting from the stigma of having learning disabilities. Athena Hallberg is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with dyslexia and dysgraphia who tells her story of living with learning disabilities and the anxiety that came close to paralyzing her future.

New York State’s experiment with grade band certification for special educators is drawing to a close.  At its September 2022 meeting, the Regents voted to establish a new Students with Disabilities All Grades certificate. Future holders of the new certificate will be able to teach students with disabilities in grades Pre-K through 12 in public schools. This is what you need to know about the new certificate structure:

  • With the exception of the Pre-K-2 SWD certificate, issuance of new SWD grade band certificates will be phased out.
  • Existing certificates (grade band and permanent special education) will continue to be recognized. 
  • Because the new certificate has different requirements than existing certificates, holders of existing certificates will not automatically become eligible for the new certificate. 
  • Holders of existing certificates may, but are not required to, obtain the new certificate. 
  • NYSED will continue to issue professional certificates and reissue initial certificates to those who meet the requirements.
  • Special educators who hold a SOCE remain qualified to teach a special class in a subject area in grades 7-12.
  • Special educators with SWD 7-12 certificates who wish to become certified to teach a special class in a subject area may do so by obtaining a subject area extension (now 12 credits rather than 18 or passing a content specialty test) or a limited extension.

The state's summary and FAQ provides more detail about the rollout of the new certificate. Contact a certification specialist at 212-331-6311 if you have questions about your specific situation.

Check out how your school is doing in meeting the needs of students with disabilities.  In response to a local law passed by the New York City Council in 2015 and updated periodically thereafter, the DOE reports quarterly on compliance with students’ individual education programs. The report includes a narrative summary of the DOE’s progress and an Excel file with data on program and related service compliance disaggregated by superintendency, district and school. Compliance with transportation mandates is newly included in the September 2022 report. 

Peabody award-winning Molly of Denali hits the sweet spot in teaching informational text. Researchers found that 1st-graders who watched the PBS program and played related games were better able to use informational text to answer questions and solve “real world problems.” The return was high for a minimal time investment (one hour per week for nine weeks) and longer exposure yielded even greater benefits. Learn more » 

Who said phonics can’t be fun?  Check out Squats, Lunges, and Phonemes to learn how movement can reinforce key concepts that keep students engaged and Using Games to Help Improve Students’ Phonics Skills to find out how familiar games can provide the practice students need to solidify reading skills.

For students with Fragile X syndrome, minimizing hyperarousal and anxiety is the key to maximizing their cooperation and focus. Check out The Top 10 Things Teachers Should Know About Fragile X Syndrome: Strengths, Challenges and How They Learn to learn how you can get the most from your students with Fragile X.

Fidgets, when used with students with sensory needs and well-chosen, can help students self-regulate and become more available for learning. If you are wondering whether a fidget might help one of your students become more focused or redirect excess energy, Choosing the Right Fidgets for Students with Sensory Needs is a good place to start.

Take a few moments to consider The Many Strengths of Dyslexics. This short article describes ten different advantages that individuals with dyslexia may bring to the table.

The USDOE’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issue new guidance on disciplining students with disabilities. All four documents (OSERS's Dear Colleague Letter;   Questions and Answers: Addressing the needs of Children with Disabilities and IDEA’s Discipline ProvisionsPositive, Proactive Approaches to Supporting the Needs of Children with Disabilities: A Guide for Stakeholders; and, OCR’s Supporting Students with Disabilities and Avoiding the Discriminatory Use of Student Discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) focus on the agencies’ longstanding concern with disparities in the use of discipline for children with disabilities and appropriate implementation of the two statutes. Notable is new guidance on “informal” removals and the application of discipline in virtual environments.

The term “emotional disturbance” has been officially changed to “emotional disability” in New York State regulations. The new term will be used beginning on July 27, 2022 on all IEPs developed or amended and any related documents. The name change does not change the coverage, eligibility, or rights of students with disabilities who currently have this classification. Nor does this change require that any IEPs already developed for the 2022-23 be changed. 

The USDOE’s Office for Civil Rights is seeking to update and strengthen Section 504. Section 504 regulations, which have remained largely untouched for 45 years, have long been a source of confusion for schools, school staff, and families. Updates will be provided as the process progresses.