Did you know that all public schools (district and charter) are required to include and educate students with special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)? Schools must create specialized academic plans, referred to as individualized education programs (IEP)s, for children with special needs. IEPs are tailored so the child can reach his or her full potential. Before a student can receive special education services, he or she must be evaluated for eligibility.
Understanding Your Rights
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
This federal legislation began in 1975 and continues today to ensure that all schools serve the educational needs of eligible children with disabilities. It’s long and it’s complicated, but you can find an explanation of it here.
DESE’s Website for Special Education
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has part of its website devoted to Special Education. Here is a link to the whole site.
Below we have pulled out some of the highlights from that site so that you can find them quickly.
- The Parents' Guide to Special Education in Missouri
- Procedural Safeguards
Parents' Bill of Rights
The Parents’ Bill of Rights is a one-page document that contains the highlights of the procedural safeguards. It may be a more manageable place to start than trying to understand the longer document.
Initial Evaluation Flowchart
When you or your child’s school suspect that there may be an area where your child could benefit from extra help, you ask for an evaluation. There is a flowchart that explains how this evaluation will go. You can find several different versions of the flowchart here depending on which situation applies to your child.
Who Can Help? Here are Some Resources
Missouri Parents Act (MPACT)
MPACT’s staff consists of parents of children with disabilities, therapists and educators who can help to answer some of your questions. They will work with you one-on-one to guide you through the process of figuring out what services your child needs.
Find out about the services offered at MPACT’s online resource or at 1-800-743-7634.
Kansas City Public Schools Exceptional Education
KCPS offers many special education services to students who live in their boundaries. Find more information online or call them at 816-418-8941.
FIRE Foundation for Inclusive Catholic Education
Several Kansas City Catholic schools welcome students with special needs into classrooms through the FIRE Foundation. The FIRE Foundation is a non-profit organization that makes it possible for partner Catholic schools to hire special educators and paraprofessionals and to acquire learning materials and technology that create successful learning experiences for all children.
You can learn which particular schools they work with on their website.
Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at University of Missouri
Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri has a wealth of resources and research about autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Understood.org is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to understand more about special needs. Explained in clear, easy English or Spanish, the site has a number of experts who weigh in on all kinds of issues. It is a great place to connect with others that have walked the path before you and to learn more about what your child is experiencing. You can sign up for informative newsletters and research based on your child’s needs. Definitely worth taking a look!
Some Local Schools for Exceptional Learners
Cornerstones of Care - Gillis School
Focus: intensive combination of special education and therapy services
Ages Served: 6 – 19
Grades Served: K – 12
Location: 8150 Wornall Rd
Kansas City, MO 64114
Phone: (816) 508-3500
Gillis provides educational day treatment programs with individualized curriculum, small class sizes, and a variety of therapeutic options. Students receive special education classroom teaching as well as therapeutic supports during the day before returning home each afternoon. Students acquire coping skills and new learning strategies that allow them to progress academically, socially, emotionally and behaviorally to help them successfully transition back to their school district or graduate from high school with plans for their futures.
Focus: dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia, receptive language disorder, expressive language disorder, dyscalculia, ADHD
Grades Served: 1 – 12
Location: 4901 Reinhardt Dr
Roeland Park, KS 66205
Phone: (913) 789-9443
Horizon Academy was founded in 1999 and uses research-based educational best practices and learning strategies for students struggling with dyslexia, other specific learning disabilities and/or ADHD. They have small classes that are led by teachers who are relationship-driven and understand that not every child learns in the same way. A multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning is the norm as they recognize each student’s learning style and celebrate each student’s strengths and challenges.
Focus: (1) gifted and talented students who have advanced developmentally beyond their peers and who require a more adult academic and social environment, (2) teenagers with learning disabilities who require a specially designed curriculum and daily individual attention, and (3) teenagers who are dissatisfied with their peer and family relationships which accompany problems at school
Grades Served: 7 – 12
Location: 3930 Broadway
Kansas City, MO 64111
Phone: (816) 561-0770
The Plaza Academy is an alternative school in which staff, students, and parents work together to achieve academic, social, and familial success for teenagers who have been unsuccessful at traditional schools. They offer rigorous college preparatory academics in an environment that encourages critical and creative thinking through both verbal and written expression. The school designs coursework to meet the needs of teenagers and their families as they prepare students for college and other post-high school environments. They have a civic education model and therapeutic curriculum that teaches students to take control and have ownership over their own livelihood.
Sherwood Autism Center
Ages Served: 5 – 21
Grades Served: K – 12
Location: 8030 Ward Parkway Plaza
Kansas City, MO 64114
Phone: (816) 333-3344
Sherwood Center’s Special Education Program is a comprehensive, school program that operates 225 days a year, including a nine-week extended term during the summer. Students are referred to Sherwood through their public school districts when a specialized school environment is recommended for the success of the student.