Sadly, I think often schools do NOT provide the services that special needs kids require. I would hope the resistance to providing services stems from financial and staffing constraints and not negligence. But either way it’s illegal.
Often I think principals just don’t know all the ins and outs of federal and state laws that regulate the support to which these children are entitled.
This year I have met several ladies involved in advocacy for special needs kids, and I coincidentally attended last week a seminar about writing IEPs by some education advocates.
Education advocates are people that know the special education system. For a fee, they will review your case, help you figure out what testing you need and then can even come into your IEP meeting with you to fight for what your child needs. They know all the ins and outs and what the schools MUST provide and what’s illegal for them to do.
So how much would this type of help cost you?
Well the two advocates that spoke said it was about $500 to review a file and take on a case (almost like a retaining fee for a lawyer). For that fee you get all the guidance and counseling you need and follow up for it sounded like several years. They could tell you what you need to do and what you should be asking the school for.
If you wanted them to come to the meeting, it was $150 an hour plus transportation costs.
There are federal laws about how IEP’s and 504s are handled but states can also have laws that affect them so they are very complicated.
I wanted to share a few of the tips that the ladies gave in the seminar. These are from my notes. Keep in mind they might be different for your state.
1. You can request that the school evaluate your child in all areas of suspected disability each year. You can, and they advised that you should, also request an independent evaluation, which is paid for by your school district. You are not required to say why you want this. Sadly, they believe that the schools are often biased in what they will identify as needing help based on what they want to provide. That is why you need the independent evaluation.
2. If you’ve asked the school to evaluate and they said they didn’t think there was cause that is illegal, they said. They said that is predetermination and they can’t do that.
3. If you put it in writing and say that “I am asking for an evaluation in all suspected disabilities and I give permission and consent” then they legally only have 60 days to get it done. (I think that was the federal rule.)
4. The goals set need to be measurable and clear. They need to be goals where you can have data. There needs to be a baseline for where the child begins.
5. I believe she said they are required to send quarterly progress reports. When they send home those progress reports saying “42 percent” complete or improved, you need to ask for data to support that number. They are supposed to keep data to show that. If they are not keeping data, that is illegal.
6. In the IEP, the parent input part is where you write what you see and are concerned about. If it is written, then they have to address it.
7.Everything needs to be in writing. If it’s not in writing then it wasn’t said. They said it is good for parents to write up their own goals, the accommodations they are looking for and after a summary of the meeting to be entered into the IEP. This way your voice is recorded in the official document and can lead the way you want the school to go.
8. When you sign the IEP, always sign “Name, disagree in part”
You don’t have to say why you disagree but they say this gives you protection that you can go back later and fight things in the IEP after you see how things are working out.
9. Reasonable notice is 10 days for a meeting. They have to give you a choice in time and day.
10. You can bring anyone in you want to support you in the meeting. But they do not recommend bringing the child. They think it’s up to the parents to hash it out and then present the finished product to the child.
11. You should request all the documents from your child’s file ahead of time and they have to provide that. You shouldn’t walk into meetings unprepared.
12. Also, when you meet to hash out the IEP don’t sign it that day. Tell them you want to get a copy of what was written (may not be that day) and thing about and you’ll meet again to sign it.
13. If there is therapy or treatment (like OT) that they don’t agree to do tell them you want that written into the IEP saying they refuse to provide it. The ladies mentioned that you might be able to get reimbursed from the government for your private OT or services if it’s written in that the school refused to provide it.
14. Watch out for cookie-cutter IEPs. The IEPs literally are written with drop-down menus and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be an individual plan!
One dad at the meeting who had four kids with special needs said he thinks parents should go into the IEP meeting open-minded, but just be educated.
There is so much inside baseball with IEPs and so many ways your child can be screwed that I think if you can afford the education advocates, they are a good idea.
Tell us what tips and tricks you have learned from dealing with IEPs and your school. Is your school looking out for your child’s best interest or trying to provide barely the minimum that they need? Tell us how you have been able to get the school to provide what they are legally required to and what your child needs?