As we all know, having a child with special needs may require a lot of effort at home and a ton of effort working with schools to ensure your son or daughter is receiving the services they need.
Marta V. Leyva, M.A. is the owner of Voz de Victoria, a bilingual (Spanish / English) special education advocacy and educational consulting firm that has been supporting parents in for the last 8 years. She currently works to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families by creating a collaborative partnership between parents/guardians and school/educational teams to ensure students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) while having both their academic and social/emotional needs met.
This is a summary of the third edition of CSNLG’s Beginner’s Guide to the IEP. In this podcast, host Michael Boll and CSNLG attorney/advocate Linaja Murray discuss what happens during the IEP meeting and what it feels like to be there. The podcast can be found here.
What is the atmosphere like?
- The atmosphere is collaborative — the one purpose of the meeting is to identify the student’s strengths/deficits and how to address each area of concern.
- You may be nervous or on edge at the beginning, which is totally normal, as a parent you are likely concerned for your child.
Who is there? What are their roles?
- About 12 people will be present, this may include:
- General education teacher.
- Teachers who assist with your child, such as a special day class teacher and SAI teacher.
- Assessors, such as the school psychologist
- At a triennial IEP meeting, all assessors will be present
- For some children, assessors may be an occupational therapist or a speech and language pathologist.
What should I bring to the IEP meeting?
- Notebook to take notes.
- A friend, family member, or someone else who supports you
Assessments should be provided to you in advance
- Request these about ten days before the IEP meeting so you can familiarize yourself with them
What should I take away from the IEP meeting?
- Copies of everything discussed
What is the difference between an annual IEP and a triennial IEP?
- At the triennial IEP meeting there are a lot of assessments to go over such as the psychoeducational assessment.
- This will also include ancillary assessments, such as speech and language, OT, visual, audio processing, or behavior assessments depending on your child’s specific needs.
- At the annual IEP meeting, these assessments are not necessary — annual IEPs tend to be shorter, with much fewer people involved.
What does the process of the IEP meeting look like?
- The IEP meeting is called.
- A teacher or district representative will ask to do introductions where each person will give their name and title.
- The meeting then starts; an agenda may be followed.
- The strengths of the student will be shared.
- The progress and goals of the student will be shared and whether goals have been met or not
- Feedback from people in charge of those goals will be shared.
- Parents can weigh in to discuss whether they believe goals have been met.
- Services and accommodations (such as extra time during testing, preferential seating, behavioral aid) are discussed. This is when FAPE is brought up: special education and related services that your child should be receiving.
- As a parent, you should get as much in writing as possible.
- This process tends to be toward the end of the IEP meeting.
This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the IEP
Dr. Susanne Roley is an occupational therapist who specializes in child development, sensory integration, learning difficulties, visual impairment, and autism. With over 40 years of experience in pediatrics, she works in private practice in Orange County, California, where she helps children and families through evaluation and consultation services. She is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Collaborative for Leadership in Sensory Integration (CLASI), which provides education programs for sensory integration certificates.
The IEP can be stressful at times. These five (plus one) tips will help you relax, prepare and feel good about your parental role before, during and after the IEP.
A Beginner’s Guide to the IEP #1: Overview of the IEP
This is a summary of the first edition of CSNLG’s podcast Special Education Matters. In this podcast, our host Michael Boll and CSNLG lawyer Linaja Murray provide an overview of the Individualized Educational Program. The podcast can be found here.
What is an IEP?
- IEP: Individualized Education Program. It’s an educational program that is specifically tailored for your child.
- Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), only students who are entitled to special education will receive an IEP.
- There are two types of IEPs.
- An initial IEP. The first request for special education
- An ongoing IEP. This is where the student already is receiving some form of special education.
How do I request an IEP for my child?
- A request for an IEP can start with a parent, a school administrator, or a teacher. Really, anyone involved with the child or his/her education will often request an IEP.
- An IEP starts with a referral for assessment. Each school district has a different system set in place on how to make this referral for assessment. Check with your child’s teacher for more information.
- Parents can write a letter to the school district that describes the situation of their child and request an assessment.
What is an assessment?
An assessment, or educational evaluation, is how schools determine how your child is functioning.
There are various areas in which a student can be assessed, ex. psychoeducation evaluations, speech and language evaluations, social-emotional, Educationally Related Mental Health Services
Receiving an assessment for your child
- At that point, the law requires the school district to provide this assessment once it has been requested.
- The district has 15 days to give you an assessment plan after the request.
- The parent then reviews that assessment plan, talks with the school if they think changes need to be made, and then provides consent to the plan.
- The district has 60 days to complete the assessments and hold an IEP team meeting to discuss whether or not the child is eligible for special education related services.
- Typically, if the issue includes the student’s slow progress academically, a psychoeducational evaluation should be included in their assessment. Unless it is a behavioral or emotional/mental health issue.
Using your school psychologist for an evaluation
A good school psychologist who does a psychoeducational evaluation will point out areas of deficit that weren’t included for further assessment.
- They are a good resource in adding to a student’s evaluation.
- Oftentimes for school psychologists, this is their first job, so they typically don’t go as deep as parents would like to benefit their student.
- If don’t have a good school psychologist, there’s a lot of resources available online from evaluators, and that can give you a good place to start.
This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the IEP
Michael Boll, father to a son with autism and CSNLG team member, talks with attorney Richard Isaacs about the choice to file a lawsuit.
I am currently in the process of preparing for a due process hearing and still shaking my head at how we got here.
First, though, I need to tell you about Sara. Sara is a beautiful 11-year-old girl who is deaf. She also suffers from multiple medical issues which require her to have a feeding tube and a broviac central line connected to her heart. She currently attends a special day class where she enjoys learning and being part of the school community.
Her sole mode of communication, in essence her voice, is American Sign Language (ASL).
The two main issues the school district is fighting us on go to the core of Sara’s communication:
- Does the sign language interpreter for student have to be qualified?
- Allowing the parents to communicate with the interpreter. Yes, you read that right.
How are these even issues? Of course the sign language interpreter has to be qualified. Her sole purpose is to translate the spoken word to sign language so this beautiful little girl, who happens to be deaf, can access her education. And of course her parents want to chat with the interpreter from time to time to ask those basic questions like “How was Sara’s day?”
Although the IEP clearly states, a full-time American Sign Language interpreter, the district is providing two unqualified aides, calling them signing assistants.
Can you imagine if this was a Spanish or English Interpreter? In any world outside of education would an interpreter be provided who was not fluent in the languages they were interpreting? Of course not. Also, sign language is the only mode of communication this little girl will ever have. Unlike our English language learners who slowly develop the appropriate language skills, Sara will never hear. She will always use sign language. For her schooling, she will always require an interpreter.
Of further concern is the district’s unwillingness to allow parents to talk with the “signing assistants” so they can learn the new signs Sara is working on. There are many different ways to sign the same word or action and it is important for the school staff and parents at home to use the same signs.
Apparently, her parents’ requests are a little too much for the school district, so we have ended up here… three weeks from going to trial.
Every couple of years I get a random case that ends up at trial for no reason. The last time I was in a trial it involved an eligibility issue. All we wanted was for the school to provide an IEP to address the student’s attention and sensory deficits. This included a reasonable request for sensory breaks. It would have cost the district no additional money but would have allowed us to monitor the student’s progress and make sure he was accessing his education. The district decided to go to hearing instead, where it tried, unsuccessfully, to show the student did not require an IEP.
So here I am again, facing another school district who has chosen to fight a family instead of providing what the law requires: an education to a young girl.
I understand there are many cases where there is a legitimate dispute over what a student needs to access their education. I rarely end up in trial on these cases. Instead, we work things out.
After several failed attempts to reach a settlement, I am now preparing my witness list and getting our evidence together for hearing.
I will spend around 100 hours preparing for and attending the hearing. The district will pay its legal counsel to do the same. And, as you can imagine, lawyers are a lot more expensive than hiring a qualified sign language interpreter.
And all for what? So they can explain to a judge that this little girl does not require an interpreter who knows sign language? What do you think the judge will think? I think I know.
These types of cases frustrate me and leave me shaking my head. This is not the battle we should be fighting. This is not the disagreement we should be having. Regardless, I will do everything I can to protect Sara’s civil and educational rights.
There is no way we are going to stop until Sara has a qualified interpreter and her parents are able to freely communicate with them.
This post is a summary of a podcast done by Dr. Susan Burnett of CSNLG. Listen to the podcast here.
I have lost count of how many times I have been asked by concerned friends if they should hire someone to help me navigate their child’s learning challenges. That typically is the first of many subsequent questions of a parent or guardian trying to seek the most effective way to help their child. The questions seem to be endless, especially when worrying about how to approach something that you are not an expert in.
IEP meetings are emotional for parents. Susan addresses these concerns and discusses what the experience of working with an advocate can look like. For example
- IEP meetings can be friendly and not hostile. Susan provides a perspective on how to approach an IEP meeting.
- The conflicts that arise in IEP meetings are typically between the district and the family.
- The service providers and teachers only know what is offered at their school and not much past that.
- A program specialist will know of more options available throughout the district.
- The best approach in an IEP meeting is to remain friendly and solution focused.
Who or What Is an Advocate and How Much Do They Cost?
According to Susan, an advocate is someone who offers support and expertise.
- Advocates try to resolve issues with the district and avoid needing an attorney.
- Advocates are able to work on a case from the beginning of an issue or join in when the parents feel as if they have hit a wall with the system.
The expense of going through the process of figuring out what services your child is entitled to can be an overwhelming thought for many parents. Susan addresses that parents want to know what sort of an investment they may be getting themselves into.
- For advocates in Susan’s area of Southern Californi, the range is $150-$175 per hour.
- Susan’s take is that it is safe to expect to spend around $1000 for case review, recommendations, and a couple of IEP meetings.
- However, once it is decided that an attorney should be involved the costs will change.
Susan addressed all these concerns and offered insight on what emotions are involved in the process.
I know from personal experience that having support throughout the process made a difference for me. I had never taken the time to learn about special education services and was relieved when I had someone beside me that was so sophisticated in the areas of educational challenges that my son was faced with.
Susan says it perfectly in her podcast “knowledge is power!”