An IEP, is an individualized education plan. It is regularly found in public school systems as well as some private schools.
The IEP is a written document and serves an education plan for students with exceptional (special) needs and is reviewed at least once a year. It sets goals and expectations for your child’s learning and growth. Parents, caregivers and school district representatives (teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, special education teachers and more) participate in the drafting and signing of the document.
Done well (and they often are), an IEP is a fantastic document developed with the input of many professionals all looking to design a program that helps your child progress.
The IEP should explain how your child is doing currently (present level of performance) specific goals for your child to meet, services he/she will receive as well as any accommodations that will help him/her to succeed.
What You Should Know
- A district has 30 days to call an IEP meeting after it has been determined that a student IDEA listed disability. IDEA is the Individual Disability in Education Act
- An IEP must be reviewed every year
- An IEP binds a school district to provide the services and accommodations outlined in the document
- Video overview of IEP’s from Understood.org (One of our recommended websites)
- Designing SMART IEP Goals
- Government IDEA Website Not easy to navigate, but it has the specific laws for the IDEA act.
A special education advocate is an individual who works on your behalf to help you secure services for your child. Some advocates work for free, while others charge a fee for services. They have varying degrees of experience and many have a child themselves with special needs.
An advocate is much less expensive than an attorney and is the next step up from handling the case yourself. Fees for an advocate may be recoverable if a settlement hearing occurs.
Sample of services
- Listen to your situation and help you clarify your child’s needs
- Attend IEP meetings with you
- Draft correspondence with the district
- Suggest and explain services available through your district
- Explain how the FAPE process works at your district
- Attend mediation and hearings as your representative
- Recommend support groups, other parents, and specialists
Questions you should ask
- Have you been through the IEP process yourself as a parent?
- What types of cases have you worked on?
- What is your educational background?
- Have you been through any advocate training programs?
- Do you work for or under an attorney?
- Describe your role when during an IEP meeting.
- What do you enjoy and not enjoy about being an advocate?
- Conversation with …. An advocate at California Special Needs Law Group
- The Difference Between Special Education Advocates and Attorneys
- Ten Reasons Why You Should Have an Advocate For Your Child with Special Needs
While classrooms across the nation are supposed to be safe places of learning for all children, the reality is that this expectation doesn’t always mirror reality.
But when the students on the receiving end of unfair or even inhumane treatment are special needs children, some of whom might be nonverbal and unable to tell their parents or caregivers about any incidents, the situation can be even more harrowing.
Consider these cases, for instance:
- A child with various disabilities comes home with unexplained injuries one day
- A special needs child is pulled by the hair by a teacher
- A special needs boy is locked away inside of a padded room for several hours
In light of instances like the aforementioned, some parents and experts are increasingly calling for cameras to be installed in special needs classrooms to protect the vulnerable.This blog will consider whether or not there should be cameras in special education classrooms.
Pros & Cons
Any talk of introducing cameras into the classroom environment is bound to be controversial with proponents for and against. What follows are some pros and cons of such a policy.
- Pros: Cameras essentially give a voice to special needs children who might otherwise be able to tell their parents or caregivers of any difficulties they encounter at school. Having footage of mistreatment, moreover, will provide proof of any mistreatment. In special needs classes with cameras, students would have a safer work environment that is more conducive to learning.
- Cons: When it comes to cameras in the classroom, one key problem that some might have is the issue of confidentiality. In other words, there may be concerns over who gets to see the video tape. As well, some parties believe that cameras should either be installed in all classrooms — special needs and non-special needs — or in no classrooms at all. Yet another complaint is the costs associated with equipping special needs classrooms with the technology.
There are definitely some privacy issues that are bound to come up when discussing this topic, but it can be argued that the benefits of protecting children override any privacy concerns. Furthermore, teachers who have any issues with this sort of arrangement should remember that they are under contract with a school system that has the right to dictate working conditions within reason. Although there are people and groups who are for and against this issue, the best interests of children should be paramount since they may be unable to speak up for themselves.
What the Experts Say
In one report, a number of experts comment on a new law ordering schools to rollout cameras inside of special education classrooms. Meanwhile, Sue Nelson, who is the superintendent at Tuloso Midway, says in the report that the order is “a non-funded mandate,” which means that the schools will have to shoulder the cost of buying and implementing the technology. She adds that this aspect of the technology plan is a problem since the cost has to be footed by the schools.
Katie Kelly, a psychologist and attorney in Florida, says in a report that parents of special needs children who have been mistreated are coming together via the Internet to push for cameras in special education classrooms. She adds that stories of abuse happen to be “a daily occurrence.”
Indeed, the debate about whether or not there should be cameras in special education classrooms continues, and there are proponents on both sides of the fence. The needs of children, however, is the most important part of the equation, which means that a positive development would be for there to be a more widespread rollout of cameras in special needs classrooms across the U.S.
When your child approaches adulthood and is set to go out into the world on his or her own, parents understandably worry about their wellbeing. Did they do a good job preparing them? Does their child have the necessary skills to support itself financially? These concerns are even more crucial when the adult child has a special need such as autism, which is why it is a good idea to speak with a special needs lawyer and have an active legal plan that takes care of your special needs child’s financial and medical situation. Whether the child is capable of taking on all responsibilities or needs some guardianship, take the time to speak with a professional and know what your child can and cannot do on his or her own.
Assess Your Child’s Capacity to Make Financial Decisions
One of the hardest things for any young adult to get a handle on when they first go out into the world on their own is the ability to make sound financial decisions; this is especially difficult for child with special needs, so it is important to take a look at how well they do making financial decisions before you make any guardianship decisions. It’s a good idea to make a checklist of how well you think they can handle this responsibility:
- How well did they perform in math in their classes? What was the highest level they completed?
- How well can your child read?
- Will your child be employable?
- What kind of financial skills do they already possess? Do they have the ability to balance a checkbook? Can they read a bank statement? Can they make investment decisions?
- Is your child able to make change at a store?
- Are they employable?
- Are they susceptible to financial exploitation?
When you take an honest look at your child’s capacity to make these sorts of decisions without you, you can outline the best course of action for the future and their independence.
Can Your Child Make Personal Care Decisions?
Finances aren’t the only decisions your special needs child will have to make on their own. They will have to make personal decisions that we may take for granted, but for a child on the autism spectrum, they can be difficult. Something as simple as understanding a diagnosis can prove to be a challenge, depending on how functioning your child is. Answer these questions for yourself in order to get a better idea of what your child will be faced with:
- Can your child have a conversation with their doctor and understand the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plans?
- Can your child drive a vehicle?
- Can they live independently?
- Can your child learn to vote and understand the consequences?
- Can your child do everyday functions on their own, such as bathing, cooking, grooming, and dressing?
Once you answer these questions for yourself, talk to a special needs law attorney no later than two months before your child’s 18th birthday in order to decide upon a legal plan.
Understand the Different Legal Options Pertaining to Special Needs Children
How your special needs lawyer chooses to proceed with how to handle your child’s financial and medical well-being will depend greatly on your child’s legal “capacity”. In the legal realm, “capacity” pertains to the ability to understand, reason, and appreciate the consequences of one’s actions. Overall, there are three ways to legally proceed:
If your child is high functioning, the lawyer may be able to process legal documents for your child that will detail a financial and medical plan.
The documents you should be familiar with are as follows:
- a) Durable Power of Attorney: identifies a trusted person who has legal authority to make various financial decisions when a person is incapacitated, including paying bills, authorizing bank transactions, or filing tax returns.
- b) Designation of Health Care Surrogate: identifies a trusted person to make various medical decisions in the event that your child is unable to give informed consent, including authorizing a medical procedure, authorize discharge from hospital or transfer to another facility, or change residence.
- c) HIPAA Authorization: states the Health Care Surrogate can access confidential health care information under the HIPAA medical privacy law.
Guardian Advocate Proceeding
Guardian advocate proceeding allows your special needs child to retain the highest level of independence in their decision-making. The goal of this court-assisted proceeding is to assign a parent or guardian as a Guardian Advocate to assist and support a special needs child with their decisions. The adult child retains their legal rights while the Guardian Advocate has the legal authority to assist in medical or financial decision-making. There are some limitations to this option, however. For example, if the adult child has another mental health diagnosis separate from their autism, like bipolar disorder, the court may prevent you from filing a Guardian Advocate Proceeding.
If your child with special needs has a lower capacity, your only option may be a guardianship proceeding. This option appoints a legal guardian to make financial and medical decisions. This proceeding may be right for your adult child’s situation if their ability to make decisions is hindered by a physical, cognitive, or mental disability. The adult child loses some or all rights (depending on the capacity of the individual), which are granted to the guardian. These rights include:
- The right to vote
- The right to marry
- The right to contract
- Apply for government benefits
- Make medical decisions
- Determine residence
- Seek employment
- The right to sue or defend
- The ability to manage real or personal property
Planning ahead and creating a plan for your special needs adult child can really alleviate worry and unneeded headaches that may come up if you haven’t figured out what to do. Talking through the next phase of your child’s life with a special needs lawyer will help give you peace of mind and give your child the right amount of freedom.
Parents always want their children to be able to achieve success in their academics. Parents of children with special needs might find that traditional ways of studying or learning might not be the best approach for their children. Sometimes trying to incorporate different methods of learning, such as kinesthetic activities or music, to your child’s study sessions can help them to learn material and content. Even just creating a more focused and supportive study space in your home can help with their studying. Here are some ways you can help your child with special needs study effectively:
- Communicate With Your Child’s School – First and foremost, figuring out how to best help your child is to create a partnership with their school. Your child likely spends a good part of their days with their teachers and instructors, so these are the people you want to look to for help in assisting your child study at home. Meet with their teachers to find out how your child is doing and where they might need some special focus or improvement. Listen to their advice and offer suggestions as well as consider their feedback about your suggestions, this can help your child’s learning process carry over seamlessly from school to home.
- Identify How Your Child Learns Best – Meeting with your child’s teachers and instructors can help you figure out how your child learns best. Find out if they are more visual learners or more independent learners. Classroom environments have to accommodate for all their students’ learning preferences, but adapting your home study sessions to your child’s needs can help further their learning process. This personalized studying can give them more time to learn material and content in a way as well as pace that they like.
- Incorporate Music – If your child is an auditory learner consider using songs and music in their study session. Children with special needs often respond well to voice inflection and tone, which songs inherently possess. Using music also helps to keep study session multi-sensory and promotes active learning that many teachers try to achieve in the classroom as well.
- Incorporate Kinesthetic Learning – Creating kinesthetic activities around what your child might be learning at school can help them associate the information with fun and better retain the information. Children with special needs also respond well to activities that get them moving and are multi-sensory. Incorporating kinesthetic activities, such as experiments or even small activities such as memory cards, can enhance their at-home study sessions by being not just fun but adapting to their style of learning.
- Utilize Technology – There are many apps that are beneficial for children with special needs. Specifically there are great apps that help with helping children with special needs study. Apps such as virtual flash card creators can make learning visual and appeal to their sensory learning. Along with apps there are many websites that can help with organizing studying schedules or making at home study sessions more productive such as websites with interactive readers.
- Create A Productive Study Space – One overlooked, but simple way to help your child with special needs study is to create a safe study space for them in your home. Many parents and children take to the kitchen table or the living room to study and do homework. However, creating a separate space or room just for their school work can help them stay focused and associate that time with just school work. Creating this space can help them keep away from distractions but also have a space where they are free to learn in their own personalized way.
Overall, the best way to help your child with special needs study is to become involved in the learning process with them. Be an active member of their school and try to carry over their school learning to home. Incorporating learning methods that are tailored for them at home can help enhance their studying so that they retain material and information better.