Austin ISD Special Education

Parent and Community Newsletter October 26, 2021


Greetings Parents and Community Friends!!

We are in the midst of exciting changes that will result in improved services for you, your children, and campus staff. We have committed to developing and sending a series of newsletters as our first step in ensuring timely communication, transparency, and an opportunity to share resources that will allow our stakeholders to remain informed with the latest news coming out of the Special Education Department.

Thank you for everything that you do for our children!

Dr. Theresa Arocha-Gill, Executive Director of Special Education Services

Dyslexia AND 504

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Hear, Ye! Hear, Ye! Governor Gregg Abbott has officially declared October is "Dyslexia Awareness Month" in the State of Texas! See the Governor's proclamation! Austin's Mayor Adler has issued a Proclamation too. See the Mayor’s proclamation.

The Dyslexia Department is sharing resources to celebrate Dyslexia Awareness month with you! Check out our BINGO game board with resources in English and our Lotería game board with resources in Spanish. Go for a traditional Bingo pattern or blackout the card!

Senate Bill 2075 was passed by the 86th Legislature requiring school districts to notify the parents or guardians of students who have or are at risk to have dyslexia or other reading difficulties of the Talking Book Program (TBP) maintained by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The TBP offers audio books at no-cost. For more information, contact the TBP at 1-800-252-9605 or 512-463-5458 or visit their website.

Read about AISD’s Dyslexia Department updates here:

Dyslexia Department Updates 2021 Family Facing-English

Dyslexia Department Updates 2021 Family Facing-Spanish

These Dyslexia Fact sheets are published by the Texas Education Agency:

TEA Dyslexia Fact Sheet for Families English

TEA Dyslexia Fact Sheet for Families Spanish

Visit the bilingual museum exhibit that explores aspects of dyslexia in Houston, TX:

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science in Houston is opening a new bilingual exhibit that explores the successes of those faced with the challenges of dyslexia. The exhibit also spotlights some of the tools and resources for diagnosis and pathways to success. Beautiful Minds: Dyslexia and the Creative Advantage will be displayed at The Health Museum, at 1515 Hermann Dr, Houston, TX 77004, from September 18, 2021, to May 22, 2022.

Section 504: Department Vision and Mission:

Vision: The vision of the Section 504 Department is to ensure staff, families and students with disabilities are knowledgeable about civil rights protections under Section 504 and the ADA. The Section 504 Department will make certain that all eligible students receive free appropriate public education through the implementation of Section 504 plans to prepare scholars for success in career, college and/or military readiness.

Mission: The Section 504 department will build educator capacity to consistently implement compliant systems and ensure that students with disabilities are provided free appropriate public education and have access to high quality, equitable educational experiences.

What is Section 504?

The Power of Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (Amended Act 2008) are non-discrimination statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress for the purpose of prohibiting discrimination and ensuring that students with disabilities are given a free appropriate public education (FAPE) which provides educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to other students. An eligible student under Section 504 is a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits them in one or more major life activities such as learning, self-care, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, reading, concentrating, breathing, working and performing manual tasks.

See the Section 504 Resource Guide for Families and Staff (English) or (Spanish) for more information about eligibility and services for qualifying students.

Each campus has a dedicated Section 504 coordinator who can assist families with information about Section 504 and how to get started with a referral for Section 504 eligibility. Contact your child’s campus principal for contact information.

Additional Resources

OCR Parent and Educator Resource Guide

TEA Parent Information Section 504

United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights


Laura Wilk; Secondary Section 504 Coordinator;

Kelly Spahn; Secondary Section 504 Specialist;

Kimberly Pollard, Elementary Section 504 Coordinator;

Lisa Trevino; Elementary Section 504 Specialist;

Cherry Craig Lee; Director;

Related Services Updates:

We're Coming in Hot!

Hello all and welcome to another fantastic school year! Things have definitely changed in the last 3 months, so we felt it’s important to introduce ourselves!

Dr. Kelli M. Charles is the new Director of Related Services. She is a proud Grambling University graduate that has been serving students in special education for the last 20 years! She comes to us from Houston ISD and Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools where she has served in many leadership roles. She is very excited to bring clarity and innovation to the related services team. Contact Dr. Charles with questions and concerns related to campus support, related services staffing, and information related to parent and community advocacy. Dr. Charles can be reached at

Bailey Gates is the new Supervisor for Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Visual Impairment Services. A graduate of Baylor University, she got her start in deaf education before moving into a managerial role supporting DHH/VI in Houston ISD. She is excited to be in Austin ISD to further support DHH/VI service providers, students, and families! Contact Ms. Gates for information related to supporting students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and students with Visual Impairment. Ms. Gates can be reached at

Sade Jones is the new Supervisor for Related Services which includes OT, PT, AT, APE, and Music Therapy. Sade is. a graduate of Texas Women's University and served as an OT in Austin ISD for 6 years prior to her promotion to this new role! She is looking forward to bringing her knowledge of Austin ISD into a supervisory role and supporting campuses, therapists, and students! Providing therapy and ensuring related services providers are equipped with best practices in their specific fields are areas she champions. Parents and campus staff should contact Ms. Jones for training, coaching, and resources. Ms. Jones can be reached at

Daniel Rigney, M.A. CCC-SLP is the new supervisor over Speech-Language Pathology. He’s a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin (hook’em!). He loves swimming, biking, and running and lives with his wife and young son in Austin. He’s looking forward to working with students and families to grow communication skills across Austin. Contact Mr. Rigney to discuss speech services and speech only evaluations. He can be reached at

TEA Updates that impact Related Services:

TEA recently posted an update indicating that “Deaf or Hard of Hearing” has officially replaced “Auditory Impairment” in reference to our students who are identified under IDEA.

Moving forward, please ensure you are using the appropriate terms in your conversations with team members, in ARD/IEP and FIE documents, and as we are identifying students.

Bailey Gates is collaborating with Frontline to ensure these changes are made in the system in order to align with TEA’s changes.

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Evaluations Updates:

The evaluation department consists of over 60 professionals skilled in all aspects of evaluating students. We have a unique mix of former teachers, counselors and coaches and all are committed to AISD and serving students and timely evaluations.

As a department, we are actively working on evaluating students on Saturdays, whose parents/guardians gave consent during the months of April through July of 2021. Campus evaluators are working hard to address the re-evaluations that are currently due.

Below are resources that are helpful for parents of children who present with disabilities.

If your child in is the initial referral process, below is a great reference regarding timelines

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Campus Support Updates:

Save the Date!! ARD Process and Inclusion Services Training

Mark your calendar! Special Education leaders will be presenting on the ARD Process and Inclusion Services at the AISD Family Academy Fall Family Event. This virtual event will be held November 16th-18th. Registration information will be shared soon!

Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI)

Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) will be replacing Satori Alternatives for Managing Aggression (SAMA) as the district-approved practice to defuse potentially violent situations before resorting to physical intervention. CPI training sessions will be made available throughout the school year (for professional/paraprofessional staff) and on Saturdays (for professional staff). Crisis Prevention Intervention Trainers are trained and HCP courses and sections will be shared soon.

Listed below are 3 CPI Booklets for Parents. Please feel free to share these documents with staff and parents.

Linked below are some helpful Parent & Family Resources from CPI:

Compliance and Operations Updates:

Individual Education Plan (IEP) Progress Reports

Individual Education Plan (IEP) Progress Reports provide information about your student's progress towards their individualized educational goals and objectives (if applicable). Families will be provided IEP progress reports every 9 weeks, which is concurrent to Austin ISD's grading report periods.

For questions or concerns about IEP Progress Reports, please reach out to your student's Special Education Case Manager.

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House Bill 4545 Updates

House Bill 4545 establishes new requirements for schools implementing accelerated instruction for students who do not pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). Generally, acceleration means focusing on teaching students lessons appropriate for their grade level, and re-teaching only the skills and lessons from earlier grades that are necessary to understand the new content. That can happen in class, or before or after school. Students receiving Special Education Services will require an ARDC meeting to address this in the accelerated instruction plan/intensive plan of instruction supplement.

For additional information, please view the video at the link below:

House Bill 4545 Overview for Parents

Compensatory Services

Compensatory services are educational services that are awarded to student with disabilities to make up for lost skills.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) acknowledges two areas in which compensatory services must be considered:

  • Delayed evaluations: If a student was in the process of being evaluated for special education and the evaluation was delayed because of school closures, and if that student is later found eligible for special education, the ARD committee should consider compensatory services.
  • Student progress/lack of progress during school closures for COVID-19: If a student hasn’t made the kind of progress that they usually would because of school closures and at home learning, then compensatory services should be considered.

Who decides if compensatory services are needed?

Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committees will address compensatory services, if they are needed and what those services will be.

If you believe that your student needs compensatory services, please contact your student's Special Education Case Manager to set up an ARDC meeting.

For additional information, please click on the picture below.

Extra! Extra! Hear All About It!!:

Inclusion Workgroup

The Austin ISD Special Education Department, Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), and the Coalition for Special Education Equity in Austin ISD (CSEE) have partnered together to develop an Inclusion Work Group Committee. Activities and events will be planned to build capacity in the area of inclusion for our administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, District staff, parents, families, and community members. Model training sites will be developed, and program coaches will provide teachers with direct guidance. Networking and communities of practice opportunities will be developed, and effective parent communication and support practices will be designed. The group will help define what inclusive practices look like for students with disabilities.

First Proposed Meeting Date: Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Click here to be a part of the team!

or call the special education team for help registering at (512) 414-SPED

This survey will close Friday, October 29, 2021, at 5:00 pm.

Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES)

Take A Look at This!!

Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) are $1,500.00 one-time, on-line grants for eligible parent/caregivers of special education students with disabilities that have been impacted by COVID -19 school closures. Please look at the flyer below and search the website for more information about the SSES grant. Spread the word to your friends and families!!

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