The Process of IEP’s: Pointers, Tips, and Facts

Do you think all children should receive the same education, regardless of individual strengths and weaknesses?

Probably not, and thankfully neither does the US Congress. In fact, it’s required to compose an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every student in a special education course to ensure they are learning in the way that is most effective for them. IEPs serve an important purpose, so let’s take a look at how to make them most beneficial.

Team Meetings: Who, What, When, Why, and How to Make Them Successful
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Who should be on a child’s IEP team?

  • A school district representative
  • The child’s regular education teacher, if he or she has one
  • The child’s special education teacher or provider
  • Parent or guardian of the child
  • The child!

The team meeting is held within 30 days of the decision that the child will be provided special education, and is an essential step in creating an effective IEP! Not only is it required before special education services will begin, it’s also where the student’s goals will be outlined, and where the services provided by the school district will be defined.

Parent Participation

No one knows the child better than the parents. Their knowledge and input is indispensable at this stage. Parents who are informed and involved both at school and home can make all the difference.

Process and Components

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The school will set times for team meetings, during which the child’s IEP team will work together to create the IEP and organize its implementation. It’s important to have high expectations for the student and to establish achievable goals. Make sure the frequency of services is sufficient for the student to reach the goals, too!

What should be included in the IEP?

  • The child’s current level of achievement
  • Annual goals for the child
  • The special education services to be provided for the child
  • How much of the day the child will be in special education
  • How required assessments will be administered
  • Where and how often services will be provided, and for how long
  • How the child’s progress toward annual goals will be measured

 

IEP Implementation

This should occur as soon as possible after the team meeting! Follow up meetings can be scheduled for periodic checkups to ensure the IEP is serving its purpose, and to amend it if necessary.

Amending IEPs

Another meeting is not required in order to amend the IEP. The school and the child’s parents can draw up a written amendment, and all members of the committee must be informed of the changes.

Transition Requirements

Sweet 16! When the student reaches this age, it’s time to start making plans for life post-school. Whether that involves college, employment, independent living, or other options, this is a vital period for prevention of the student dropping out of high school, and also for setting up a successful future. Some transition services that can be included are instruction, vocational training, and life skills practice.

Extended School Year (ESY)

ESY programs are additional services provided outside the school day, be it in the hours after school or days during school breaks, such as summer vacation. The student’s need and eligibility for ESY will be determined by the IEP team, preferably during the initial IEP team meeting.

These programs are not necessarily a continuation of the special education programs, and are often focused on subjects such as reading instruction or speech therapy.

State laws vary regarding ESY programs, so make sure to learn the specifics for your area.

That’s a lot to know!

IEPs can be an overwhelming prospect, but remember that it won’t be set in stone, and can be changed as the child’s needs change, or even as the IEP team gains more knowledge. With a bit of work can be one of the most effective tools for the student’ s education. After all, its purpose is to help the child succeed, and that’s a cause everyone can support.

If you would like to get more information on these topics and more come to the Special Education Laws Made Simple Seminar Monday, May 19th in Orange, CA!

The Special Education Lawyer: Not Your Average Advocate

As the number of children with autism or learning disabilities across the United States continues to grow, and legislation designed to oversee the education of these children is increasingly drawn upon, it is no small wonder that those schooled in law are looking to become a special education lawyer because they are needed now more than ever.

Those who have studied and practice in education law and have experience in special education issues can help parents navigate the legal complexities of this area of the law. More often than not, a special education lawyer helps to resolve matters of dispute more effectively and efficiently than can parents alone.

Defining a Special Education Lawyer

 

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Special education lawyers must be familiar with all aspects of education law, such as education reform and student  and teacher civil rights. It is also helpful for special education lawyers to be familiar with autism and all types of learning disabilities.

In addition, they need to have a strong understanding of all federal and state legislation regarding special education. They need to have knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (most notably Section 504, which protects those with disabilities from being discriminated against from any organization).

Special education lawyers mainly help to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) for a special needs child. This is a plan describing how a school will educate a particular special needs child. Special education lawyers can also help mediate disagreements between parents and schools if an IEP is not adhered to, or if other problems arise concerning how the child is educated.

Advocating for the Special Needs Child

In many cases, parents become advocates for their children when it comes to education. However, many parents are simply not knowledgeable in areas of negotiation, legal communication or due process when problems concerning their special needs child or children arise. Some parents simply don’t have the time nor the resources to adequately prepare and present their arguments.

This is where special education lawyers come in.

“A good attorney can advise a parent how to obtain a better program and services, how to effectively advocate for the child,” says David A. Sherman, a special education lawyer for Medical malpractice lawyers phoenix, he also wrote: “Autism: Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education.” Source: (http://www.baizlaw.com/practice-areas/medical-malpractice)

What’s more, Sherman says, “A special education attorney will advise a parent as to how to assert their child’s numerous and substantial rights.”

Going the Extra (Special) Mile

Do special education lawyers do more than any other type of lawyer? On the surface, no. They file documents, attend meetings and hearings, write briefs…in short, do all of the things any lawyer would do no matter the nature of the issue, whether it be a criminal case, divorce proceeding or child custody battle.

 

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But special education lawyers perform a service that other lawyers do not: they bring a voice to those who may not be able to speak for themselves. In many cases, defendants can go to the stand on their own behalf. Some even become active participants in the preparation of their defense.

Special needs children do not have this luxury. They do not understand the laws that are being broken when the school they attend does not honor their IEPs or federal legislative mandates. Most parents are not well versed in these laws. It is the special education lawyer who must act as advocate for these special needs children.

And not just your average advocate, but one who is armed with the legal knowledge and mediation skills needed to get the job done. Considering the importance of what’s at stake (a fair education for all), the impact of a special education lawyer cannot be understated.

 

Your Voice Matters: Selecting A Special Education Advocate

Any parent of a special needs child knows how stressful and even confusing it can be to navigate the sometimes murky waters of your school district’s special education system. Although schools today are much better equipped to handle children with special needs than they were in years past, sometimes it can still be a struggle to make sure you and your child’s needs are met and that everyone on all sides is happy.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you are having a hard time securing the education your child deserves,  the assistance of a special education advocate might be what you need to guide you through the deeper waters.

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What Is A Special Education Advocate?

A special education advocate is someone who is well-versed in special education. Maybe they are or were a special education teacher, or they have a degree in special education. Or it could be that they are a parent of a child with special needs who has gone through the education system, and now they want to help other parents by imparting on them what they have learned.

Many times having a special education advocate in your corner can be most helpful when working on the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your student. The IEP is what determines the plan for your child’s education with the input and direction of everyone involved — parents, teachers, school administrators, and anyone else working for your child’s education — so that your child’s education goals are clearly set and everyone is on the same page.

Selecting A Special Education Advocate

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If you find you are in need of a special education advocate, how can you find one that is right for you and your family?

The first step would be to find a special education advocate in your area, and preferably one that is knowledgeable about the area you live in — either your state, county or city — and also has experience with the particular needs of your child. Some places to find potential special education advocates would be:

  • Your local school system, either your child’s school or school district, county school district, or even state board of education
  • A local parent group, such as the PTA
  • A local disability nonprofit or support group
  • Your child’s physician or counselor
  • Other parents of children who have special needs who have been through the IEP/special education process
  • A professional advocate group, such as the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which has a searchable online directory.

Once you have found a potential special education advocate for your child, then it’s important to know what questions to ask them. Treat this as if you were hiring any other professional to help you and your family — the interview process is important!

5 Questions To Get You Started:
  1. What is their experience with special education, especially the district, county or state you live in?
  2. Do they have any special education training? How well versed are they in special education laws?
  3. What is their experience with your child’s particular special needs?
  4. Do they have an understanding of what your special education issues are, and how do they plan to solve them?
  5. What types of support will they offer the family (such as attending IEP meetings) and how much time will they be able to devote to you?

For more questions to ask and things to look for in a special education advocate, use COPAA’s Voluntary Code of Ethics for special education advocates for more ideas, and here are some other ideas from the Federation for Children with Special Needs.

Formulating the Perfect Special Education Curriculum

The word “perfect” can be a bit of a misnomer. Most people know that rarely anything or anyone in this world is truly “perfect.” However, that doesn’t mean that perfection can’t be achieved, especially when it comes to special education.

For parents and caregivers of children with special needs, finding the perfect learning experience for them can be quite a challenge, and it can depend on a few different factors.

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The Needs of the Child

Children with learning disabilities or speech impediment may only need an education curriculum that only has them receiving special education a few hours a day or week. On the other end of the spectrum, students with severe physical or mental disabilities may need a much more intensive special education curriculum that encompasses their entire educational year.

The Needs of the Parent

The parents of children with special needs have their own ideas on how they wish their child to learn. For example, some caregivers may wish their child to have an inclusive education where they spend as much time in a classroom with peers of all abilities as they can. And other parents may want their student with special needs to have a more individualized education where they can get the one-on-one attention they need.

The School System

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Some schools can easily embrace the needs and wants of both special education students and their caregivers as they have enough special education staffing and programs in plus. However, some school systems may be smaller with not as many resources, and they may have a harder time making this happen.

So with all these factors in play, how can parents and teachers work together to make the “perfect” special education curriculum for their child? Here’s a few tips to help you get started.

Work Together

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so important it’s worth spelling out. One of the most important parts of creating the perfect special education curriculum is for everyone involved — parents, caregivers, teachers, school administrators, and even students — to work together. If a curriculum is developed by only one party, and it ends up not meeting the needs of everyone involved, then it will certainly fall short of being “perfect.” Everyone having a say and working together is key.

Review & Discuss

Nine out of 10, your local school system will already have a special education curriculum in place. However, that does not mean it should not be reviewed and discussed by everyone involved on a regular basis to make sure it’s meeting everyone’s needs. Consider establishing a Parent Advisory Committee with parents of children with special needs representing different districts, such as what they have at Wayne County RESA in Michigan.

Use Available Resources

There are tons of resources out there today that can help both parents and teachers build the “perfect” special education curriculum for their students. For example, teachers will find a wealth of information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, everything from creating a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to classroom strategies. And for parents, again the National Center for Learning Disabilities has a variety of information, including intervention strategies, parent-teacher communications, and tips for school meetings.