Special Education Blog – Advocating for a Special Needs Child

It has been my experience that when a parent first becomes aware that his child has a disability of any type there is a grieving process that must take place.  This is an emotional time and no two people experience loss in the same manner.  It is important to allow yourself that time, if possible, prior to leaping into the advocate role.  You may have a long road ahead in advancing the needs of your child and you need to be emotionally sturdy before you head down this path.   Take your time Build a network Know you are not alone Acquire knowledge Be a good record keeper Put things in writing Read an email twice before pushing “send”   Build your foundation for what services your child needs to access his education through educators, testing, professionals, and current literature and be prepared to support your IEP requests through these foundational pieces. Draft an outline as to what you believe your child needs, and where support for that need can be found.  Pretend you are the superintendent and can do anything you want – create a specific and comprehensive program for your child.  This does not mean your child will have this entire program, but you must start as high as possible, knowing that usually one may not secure everything.   Having this information at your fingertips will be helpful in future meetings. Whether you are headed to your first or your final IEP meeting and whether you feel as though the school district has been completely supportive or diabolical, try to maintain a professional and personable affect. Being confrontational and accusatory does not typically produce the result you desire, or may come at a difficult cost. You likely have to continue to work with these professionals […]

Mainstreaming and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) mandates that a child with a disability be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who are not disabled.  A child may only be removed from the regular education setting if the nature and severity of the disability is such that the child cannot be educated in regular classes, even with the use of supplementary aids and services.  20 U.S.C.1412 (a)(5).   This so-called “mainstreaming” right refers to the child’s right to be in the “least restrictive environment.” The IDEA requires that each school district have a “continuum of placement options” from a regular placement all the way to residential placement. 20 U.S.C.1412 (a)(5) While the IDEA “prefers” placement in a regular setting, ultimately all IEP decisions, including placement/LRE, must be based on a child’s unique needs. A child’s right to LRE includes an educational placement to be as close to the child’s home as possible, preferably in the school the child would attend if non-disabled. In determining the educational placement of a child with a disability, including a preschool child with a disability the District must ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including the parents, other professionals knowledgeable about the child, the testing and the placement options.  And while these rights are important – attending a regular class, going to the school the child would attend if not disabled – each decision must be individual and based on the child’s needs.
By |October 15th, 2015|Hints / Tips|0 Comments

Special Education – Role of Attorney

If your child is in special education you have an absolute right to consult with or be represented by an attorney.  Of course using an attorney involves cost so you want to carefully consider how an attorney can help, whether it is a question of eligibility for your child or, if he is already eligible for special education, an upcoming IEP, her need for a change in her program (whether public or private school, new or different related services), disciplinary issues, strategies for an upcoming IEP meeting or any number of other special education matters. You have a right to have an attorney at the IEP meeting, although I generally recommend that if you need an attorney, it can be best to develop an IEP strategy with your attorney but not necessarily have her attend the IEP meeting.  Costs are one consideration but attorneys at IEP meetings can often distract from the meeting’s true purpose and, further, can put everyone on guard so that a true, full and objective discussion won’t take place. Attorneys can help you with due process or any dispute with your district.  In selecting an attorney ask your school district if they have a list, contact a local support group (e.g., many areas for example have a Learning Disability, Autism or other parent group), or ask other parents.  An attorney should be willing to talk to you over the phone for 10-15 minutes to see whether you have a matter that requires and justifies the cost. If you hire an attorney to resolve a dispute with your school district, in some cases you will be reimbursed for those costs. When selecting an attorney, ask others for their experience with those attorneys, ask to speak […]