This is the second part to my IEP post titled "Equal Rights." These are just some of the things that I have learned through my experience with our school district.
1. Understanding Your Role as an Advocate
· It is not only our duty and obligation, but also our honor and priviledge to be the voice for our children. There may be some stressful times, pressure filled meetings but it is imperative that we fight for the education that our special children deserve.
· We need to direct our children’s education. The IEP team can provide their expertise but you are the ultimate decision maker regarding his/her education.
· We have our children’s best interest in mind. The rest of the IEP team has 40 other students on their mind.
· By researching the most current methodologies, theories and curriculums, you will gain a knowledge base about how children with your child’s special need learn.
· Understand the basic premise behind special education, which is the fact that the school district has to service our children with their unique special need. They are not allowed to lump him in a classroom because they don’t have the right services available. It is our job to hold the school district accountable.
· Observe any classroom placement prior to agreeing to it.
· Have high expectations for our children and their IEP goals.
· Ask for a copy of our children’s school district file on an annual basis.
· Asks lots of questions and follow up to make sure that all questions are answered.
2. Be Prepared
· Use the assessments and evaluations conducted by the school district to build your argument.
· Write out your expected outcomes or goal for the meeting.
· Put together your thoughts in written form so that you can stay organized during the meeting.
· One of the best tools is to write out the timeline of every important event conducted by the school district starting with the evaluation, up until the current meeting. The timeline will provide a big picture in addition to getting your facts and dates together.
· If you feel that the meeting will be contentious practice verbally ahead of time, even trying to predict what the school districts rebuttal will be to your request.
· Determine your emotional state of mind prior to going into the meeting. (At one of our meetings that we knew was going to be especially contentious we decided that we would not refute anything said to goad us into an emotional debate, we stayed with the facts and ignored emotional comments made by the school personnel).
· Have a friend come in and take notes during the meeting due to the large amount of information being passed back and forth between the school and parents.
· Follow up with the meeting with an email recapping what you thought you heard in the meeting and the stated outcomes.
3. Understand the Legal Process of the IEP
There is an entire legal process that the school district needs to follow to meet our children’s special educational needs. We need to know and understand the IEP process and what the school district is required to do to conduct the IEP, including the legal time frames and the denial process if we request a service and it is denied by the school. Additionally, we need to familiarize ourselves with the IEP terminology such as Prior Written Notice, direct and indirect services, etc.
4. Know Our Children’s Rights Under the Disability Law
Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there are 4 basic rights granted to children with special educational needs. Know these and understand how they are applied to the to the individual educational plan;
· Free Access to a Public Education (FAPE) – Under this right the school district has to provide free access to an appropriate public education. The school district is not required to provide the best public education, it only has to be appropriate.
· Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – Students have a right to be with non-disabled children. For some of us the LRE is having our children with other children like them such as hearing impaired children. This right also includes that disabled children also should have access to any general education curriculum that is afforded a non-disabled child.
· Supplementary Aids and Services – Aids and services to help a disabled child obtain success in ac classroom.
· Assessments – evaluation of your child with quantifiable measures.
A great website to learn your rights is called www. wrightslaw.com
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help
If you think that your child should be receiving services granted under the IDEA, contact an advocacy group. Their responsibility is to;
· Teach us our rights under the law.
· Train us how to be advocates for our children
· Increase our expectations for our children.
· Support us at IEP meetings when necessary.