Special Education and Regional Center Blog
Helping Parents Navigate the Special Education, the Regional Center, and IHSS program.
This is a good article from The Washington Post that discusses how to make the most of your child's IEP: https://goo.gl/tdstUe
The Five Recommendations in the article are:
1. Know your child's rights. Check out my Resources page for good information on parent's rights, especially Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) by Disability Rights California.
2. Don't let concerns simmer. I am going to add on to this and say that you should request an IEP team meeting anytime you have concerns regarding how your child is doing academically, socially, behaviorally, or how the child is progressing towards her goals.
3. Take a team approach. Most IEP teams do want to help the child. It is important to go into the meeting with a team approach, especially since the team members are the professionals that will be working with your child.
4. Do your homework. One of the most important ways to have a good IEP meeting is by doing your homework. See my Blog post on how to prepare for an IEP.
5. Don't back down. First it is important to think about What to Do When an IEP team says No, see my Blog post. Sometimes legal action is warranted and sometimes not.
Please contact me to discuss your next IEP.
What should a you, as a parent do if the IEP team says no to your request at an IEP Meeting.
Prior Written Notice Letter.
The first thing that should happen if the district denies your request at the IEP is for the district to provide you with a Prior Written Notice (PWN) letter. You have a right to receive PWN, when the school initiates or refuses your request to initiate a change in your child’s identification, assessment, or educational placement in special education. (20 USC 1415[b] and (4), 1415[c], 1414[b]; 34 CFR 300.503; EC 56329 and 56506[a]) It is your right as a parent to receiving this letter, if you do not receive it your rights have been violated.
It is important to really think about whether your request is reasonable and if the service is really needed by your child. Think about what the district’s arguments are for denying the service. If you decide the district arguments are reasonable, then you should do nothing.
Make a New Goal.
A good way to monitor whether or not your child needs is a service is to have a goal in the IEP regarding the problem. If you have a goal, then you can measure whether or not your child meets the goal. If the goal is not met, then perhaps the service you were requesting would help remedy the problem.
Request a New Assessment.
Did the district say no because the district does not have all the information needed to make the decision? Did you ask for Assertive Technology and there has been no assessment? Did you ask for an aide, but have not done a Functional Behavior Assessment? Does an old assessment seem out of date and no longer contains accurate information? If so, make a written request for the new assessment and in your request explain why you need the new assessment.
Informal Dispute Resolution.
Many districts have an informal dispute resolution procedure when there are disputes in the IEP process, including Los Angeles Unified School District. This is different that due process or mediation explained below. It is meant to me a quick informal solution to a dispute. As much as I would like for an informal process to work, my experience is that it generally does not produce a good outcome for the child. In one case, the district lost the paperwork and the issue dragged on for months. In other case, the district gave the parent a take or leave choice at resolution and there was no discussion. Yet in another case, the settlement agreement that district drafted was so vague and the parent signed away important parental rights. This is this is my main concern. Parents are signing away important educational rights without their knowledge. In sum, I have not found the informal dispute resolution process fruitful, but it doesn’t mean that others have been successful or that it could be better in the future.
Instead of filing for due process (and mediation) you could file for “Mediation Only” with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). “Mediation Only” is used when a parent wants mediation, but does not want to have a hearing. Usually the mediation is scheduled about 15 days after filing for mediation and is voluntary. This means that if the district does not want to attend, then the mediation is canceled. Attorneys and authorized representatives are not permitted to attend a mediation in a “Mediation Only” case. I am not strongly in favor of filing for “Mediation Only” because again a you might be signing away rights in the settlement agreement that you are not aware of or do not fully understand. Also, as explained fully below, only about 2% actually do go to hearing and most are resolved with a settlement agreement in favor of the student, there is little downside in filing for due process.
Due Process (with mediation) is an administrative hearing process filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). If the student is successful, either by settlement or hearing decisions, then the district pays the attorney’s fees. The vast majority (above 90% see here: http://www.dgs.ca.gov/oah/SpecialEducation/Resources/SEReportArchive.aspx) are settled with a settlement agreement in which the district pays the student’s attorney’s fees. During the Due Process there is an “informal resolution session” approximately 15 to 20 days after the complaint is filed and a mediation thereafter. The majority of cases settle before mediation or just afterwards. Prior to filing for Due Process a special education attorney will be able to review the documents and facts of your child’s case and tell you whether you will be successful in due process.
Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss any of the above options when an IEP team says NO!
IEP Meeting can be stressful, but being well prepared can help lower that stress. Take these steps to help your next IEP meeting to run smoothly.
1. Request Records.
If you do not have a current complete set of educational records, request a set. In California, the district has five business days to produce the records.
2. Organize and Review Records.
Either use a binder or an electric notebook (I like OneNote) to organize the records. Possible tabs could be assessments/reports, IEPs, correspondence, and resources. Familiarize yourself with the records. Review the current IEP. Make notes regarding the progress towards goals.
3. Record the Meeting.
Inform the district in writing that you will be recording this (and all future) IEPs.
4. Private Assessments.
Provide the district with any outside or private assessments that you want the IEP team to consider or review at the IEP meeting.
5. Invite a Guest, Advocate, and/or Attorney.
Decide who you want to be with you at the meeting. This could be a friend or family member, a professional who works with your child. If you chose to bring someone to the IEP, you should let the district know prior to the IEP meeting.
6. Work on Collaborative Mindset.
While not all IEP meetings can be unicorns and rainbows, it is important to approach the meeting in a collaborative mindset. Generally, the teachers, therapists, and administrators care about your child and want the best for him or her. Sentences like “How do you think we can work together to make this happen” help facilitate conversation.
7. Request Any New Assessments Before the IEP.
As a parent and attorney, I consider this possibly the most important part of preparing for an IEP. You do not want to go into an IEP without reading the assessments that will be discussed in the meeting. There are a few reasons that this is important. As a parent, it is often difficult hearing about your child’s shortcomings or deficits. Reading the assessment will give you time to digest this bad or hurtful information. You can go into the meeting ready to discuss the assessment from a practical, not emotional standpoint. Next, you should read the assessment for typos or anything that does not sound like your child. Make notes to discuss these issues at the IEP when the assessment is being discussed. Finally, make a list of questions you have regarding this assessment. Taking these steps will help you discuss the assessment with confidence.
8. Make a Game Plan.
Think about what you want to accomplish at the IEP. You need to know what you want to achieve. It might be more services, update goals, or adding more general education time. I like to make a game plan of a few issues that need to be addressed and stick to those points in the IEP. Sometimes speaking to an advocate or an attorney can be helpful in formulating the plan.
If you need help preparing for your next IEP, please contact me.