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Ensure Meaningful Participation in Your Child’s IEP Meeting
Published October 3, 2016
Come and learn how to develop an IEP, which appropriately meets the educational needs (management, academic, physical, and social-emotional development) specific to your child. Learn essential do’s and don’ts to preserve rights. Also, participants of this workshop will have the opportunity to sign up for a FREE review of your child’s current IEP or Section 504 Plan on October 18, 2016 from 11:30AM – 1:30PM. Click here to download the event flyer.
By Sandi Rosenbaum, Special Education Advocate
When a child with special needs enters special education, parents can be overwhelmed. When it comes time for the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, parents may not know what their rights are, what questions to ask, or what to expect. Federal courts have held that school districts cannot impede parental input in IEP meetings. Here are some important things to remember:
You are an expert on your own child’s needs. For the IEP meeting, the school district must assemble a team of educators and other professionals, including a District representative, a regular and special education teacher and in most cases, a school psychologist. These individuals often have the background, education and experience that may qualify them as experts in their fields. They may have very useful information to contribute about what has and has not worked for children with needs similar to your child’s. However, no one knows your child better than you do. If you hear a recommendation in an IEP meeting that you believe will not work for your child, speak up and provide counter documentation. You also have the right to invite anyone to the CSE, including a relative, advocate or an attorney. If you bring an attorney, you must let the school district know.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A meeting with learned professionals can be intimidating. It is not uncommon for parents to feel a bit lost when unfamiliar acronyms and other terminology start flying around. You have the right to participate meaningfully in the discussion, and to do that you may need to ask others in the meeting to slow down and explain things more fully.
Request an evaluation, not a service. Often parents request certain special education services such as occupational, speech or physical therapy, only to be told that the child does not need the service. The best approach is to request an evaluation that would support the need for the service. For instance, a parent could request a speech evaluation rather than requesting speech therapy. This way, a qualified professional will make the determination of whether your child needs the service. If you disagree with the evaluation, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”), at district expense. This will be subject to the District policy on IEE’s and there may be costs limitations. Finally, you may hire a private evaluator to test your child, to get a more complete picture of his or her functioning.
Make requests in writing. Make a requests for evaluations, services, IEP meetings, or other elements of your child’s special education services in writing. Documenting requests in this way accomplishes several goals: 1) it ensures that there is evidence that the request was made, 2) it allows you to say exactly what you want in your own words (as opposed to someone taking notes of a verbal request at an IEP meeting), and 3) it may initiates certain timelines that the IEP committee has to respond to.
Become as informed as possible beforehand. The IEP meeting must make decisions on placement and services at the IEP meeting, and parents can participate more meaningfully in those decisions if they are well-informed beforehand. Parent should ask to receive any evaluation reports before the meeting and, ideally, should ask the individual who drafted the report to review it with them before the IEP meeting. This can help parents take time to think through the options and ask for the next steps they want at the meeting itself.
Consider a special education advocacy attorney. Your child has an enforceable legal right to a free appropriate public education, including special education services to meet his or her needs. Parents of children with special needs usually find they must be advocates for their own children, and they often find that having a professional advocate makes a world of difference. A special education advocacy attorney can represent the child’s interests in an IEP meeting and in the special education system generally, to ensure the child gets the services he or she needs. A skilled attorney can use a respectful and collaborative approach, combined with comprehensive knowledge of the child’s legal rights, to achieve the best outcome possible.
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