2. Special Education Overidentification Causes: System Errors

We are building a perspective on special education identification errors with reference to the federal categories of special education placement.

Knowledgeable special education personnel will know that the categories are unequal as to the risks they offer when pupils are placed in special education. Not only judgment errors occur, and system errors, but thoughtlessness of habit and compliance with respect to long-term impacts on academic and social achievements obtain.  

Here is the list of the categories we are dealing with:

“There are 14 specific primary terms included in IDEA under the lead definition of “child with a disability.” These federal terms and definitions guide how States define disability and who is eligible for a free appropriate public education under special education law.  The definitions of these specific terms from the IDEA regulations are shown beneath each term listed below. Note, in order to fully meet the definition (and eligibility for special education and related services) as a “child with a disability,” a child’s educational performance must be adversely affected  due to the disability.” 

1. Autism 

2. Deaf-Blindness

3. Deafness

4. Developmental Delay  

5. Emotional Disturbance..

6. Hearing Impairment

7. Mental Retardation

8. Multiple Disabilities

9. Orthopedic Impairment.

10. Other Health Impairment

11.  Specific Learning Disability

12.  Speech or Language Impairment

13.  Traumatic Brain Injury

14.  Visual Impairment Including Blindness

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The history of the IDEA category system should not be overlooked.  It is partly clinical and partly political.  Professional and parent groups argue for the labels which fit their missions and interests.  They lobby for word choice, and the choices bump up against one and another when decisions are made.  Political choices are not the best for accurate clinical assessments in many cases, “evidence-based” practice set aside.  Political choices are helping to distort the special education system and in turn causing placement errors.

The issue of misidentification is well identified and understood.  The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2002): 
“The Commission finds that the IDEA establishes complex requirements that are difficult to effectively implement at the state and local level. Nowhere in IDEA is this more complex than in the eligibility determinatioility in process.’

Errors are seen as the ‘root cause” in social organizations like schools using IEP eiligibility teams.

Quality managers argue over 85% of “errors” made in human performance and institutions are induced by systems.  From this we infer that special education and related services personnel such as school speech-language pathologists make special education placement errors because of  the “systems”  local districts have accepted and developed for that purpose.  For example, SLI and SLD categories induce errors because developmentally they are the same disability, albeit with different stage-wise symptoms.

“What’s wrong with using operator error as a root cause?  First, it draws regulators’ attention to weaknesses in your current training program and the management of the training program. In addition, it identifies flaws in the organization’s corrective actions and preventive actions (CAPA) program. Here’s why: the label “operator error” sends a blatant message that training wasn’t effective and that operations are not in control. That in turn leads to the impression that the CAPA program is weak because the firm conducts inadequate root-cause investigations.”  


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