I am switching gears a bit for today's blog, and exclusively discussing your special education questions. Gathered below are the most common questions I that receive from parents. *Please contact your child's school to obtain more detailed answers to your questions. Although I try to keep my answers general, details such as timelines and written notices apply to my state of jurisdiction.*
Photo credit: istockphoto.com
Special Education Questions
What is Special Education?
Special education is specialized instruction that meets unique educational needs for your child. There is no cost to parents, and it can provide specialized instruction to your child at school, home, institutions, and other setting. Check the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for definitions and laws regarding special education services for your child.
How Can My Child Get Testing At School?
The Initial Evaluation is a process that does not happen simply because parents ask for educational testing. If you ask for special educational testing from your child's school, the special education team will respond to you within a certain number of school days pending your state. That response should be to meet with you to discuss your concerns.. At that time, your child's general education teachers along with the special education team, will share their academic and/or behavior concerns or both, (if they have them), as well with you.
If the team agrees that there is enough evidence to warrant educational testing, and if you agree to it as the parent, the team will ask you to sign documents to consent. to testing The special education team will have 60 days to complete the educational evaluation. Within that 60 days, you will be contacted by a member of the special education team to determine a date and time to meet to determine if your child qualifies for a disability, as defined by your state and school district. If your child qualifies for special education services, you do not have to decide immediately to consent to services. It is a big decision and you have 10 days to approve or deny the services. Parents, you do not get to pick and choose which services you will take from the special education team,
Special education is NOT a smorgasbord!
On the day of your eligibility meeting, you can also approve the development of your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Your input is important and services can begin soon after the IEP is created. Your special education team case manager will guide you through this process. The IEP should be created without you. It should not be developed prior to determining whether or not your child is eligibility for services. Since an IEP is a significant amount of paperwork, some special education team members will generate the paperwork prior to the meeting and edit and/or add parental and team member input as it is discussed with parents. Most parents are content with this because it decreases the meeting time, (Eligibility then IEP meetings afterwards can be very long). However, not being ok with this method is find too. You may always schedule your IEP meeting on another day.
I have watched many parents sit idle while the school only, adds to the IEP. Or, many parents choose not to attend their child's IEP meeting(s). Do not do this to your child. This is in relation to your child's education. Please attend this meeting AND most of all, keep all of your paperwork. Remember, you are signing the documents on behalf of your child. You need to know what special education services means for you and especially your child's education. It is all about the IEP!
Why Does Testing Take So Long?
At times, the entire special education team is testing your child. Not to mention, there are other children who were approved for testing prior to your child. Patience is key in special education, and the law allows 60 days for an evaluation to take place. Special education teams need that time because there is a lot more than just testing that prepares the team to reach a decision with you. For example, there is also a long report provided to you by the Psychologist which can be up to 20 pages long. Well, my reports they can be up to 20 pages because I include all past history along with new data from each member of the special education team. That way, my parents will not need to locate previous paperwork. It will all be included with my report because it saves my parents time. Each Psychologist and other members of special education teams function differently. Nevertheless, they need that 60 day window to work with your child.
Why Did My Child Not Qualify For Services?
This question is best answered by your special education team. There are various reasons why a child will not receive special education services. For example, not meeting the state or school district criterion, or the data from testing did not indicate a need for special education. However, parents can always request a meeting with the team and express concerns, or ask for due process. Due process is a formal way to resolve disputes with the school. The downfall is that it takes time especially if the situation cannot be resolved easily. Nevertheless, if you make a written complaint against the school, you and the school will attend a resolution session where you can come to an agreement with the school before going any further. I have observed schools caving and agreeing with parents to prevent due process hearings which is where I disagree. Why do they agree with parents? Typically, schools do not win in due process hearings. However, I encourage schools to allow for due process hearings if they have enough evidence to show that a child does not not qualify for a disability.
Psychologists should not override ethics codes, state statues, and laws to appease parents!
Can I Refuse Special Education Services?
Yes, absolutely. This is your child and you have the right to say no. You can tell the school no even if they are considering an evaluation for your child. The school may NOT move forward with testing without the consent of the parent or guardian.
Revocation: You may also revoke your child's special education services either orally or in writing. If you do, then you will receive written notice before those services stop which will occur very soon after your request. The school does not have the right to continue services without parental consent, and once the paperwork is complete and the services stop, your child no longer has an IEP. That means, if your child begins to display the need for an IEP again, you will need to start the entire process from the beginning or have another initial evaluation. Meaning, you must put the request for testing in writing and meet with the special education team for an Initial Evaluation to determine if your child's academic achievement warrants another initial evaluation. More than likely, your school will opt to perform academic interventions if the revocation is recent (within one year). Of note: Revocation only requires ONE parent's consent if that parent has decision-making power.
Can I Use a Parent Advocate at the Eligibility Meeting?
Yes and I would encourage you to use a parent advocate especially if you are unable to understand the legalities surrounding special education services. Parent advocates are hired to support parents in ensuring that the unique educational needs for your child are met. What I appreciate about parent advocates is that they are well-versed in special education services, especially the paperwork. Most parents trust schools to have all of the paperwork completed properly, even without their participation. I do not recommend that to you at all. School staff are well-equipped to complete an evaluation without parental participation, or they should be but it is up to parents to be active within this process. Parent advocates will know if that paperwork is correct and what special education services are appropriate for the child in questions, which is what parents need. Parent advocates will support parents, along with having a child's best interest in mind while reviewing the paperwork.
Can I Videotape Meetings?
You may audiotape, but not videotape eligibility meetings with advanced notice and permission from the special education team. It is important to obtain that permission due to school district policies, and the administrators in that building will be most familiar with those details. On the other hand, you probably will not be allowed to videotape meetings unless the school district allows videotaping in their schools, not even in virtual meetings. Videotaping another person without their permission is illegal. Special education paperwork are legal documents which cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality which is bound by federal and state laws.
Who Makes the Final Eligibility Determination for My Child?
Determining whether or not your child has a disability includes you, and the special education team. It is a team decision and not made solely the Psychologist or parent. Everyone needs to agree to the eligiblity.
What If My Child Does Not Meet The Eligibility Requirement, but Continues To Struggle in School?
This happens frequently to children who are deemed Non-Disabled. The key is to put a a type of general education system in place to support your child's individual needs. For example, if a child can benefit from academic interventions, then those need to be added to his or her curriculum. Just because a child is not eligible for services, it does not mean that the school will leave parents without assistance with helping their child. Schools are in place to educate our children, and they will help you. Ask the school the type of academic interventions they are planning to use to help your child.
Academic interventions are the answer for this question. Your child's school should intervene and speak with you about conducting academic interventions to determine if your child will benefit from additional help from the general education team. Keep in mind that academic interventions are different than academic accommodations. Your goal is to ensure that the general education team is intervening with your child's education. No academic accommodations are needed at that time. By using academic interventions, your child's teachers are learning what works or does not work with your child in the classroom to improve their specific challenge(s).
To clarify, academic intervention are skill building strategies which are implemented and monitored. Or, additional instructions that supplement the general curriculum. Academic accommodations may not change and do not cutback learning expectations. However, they may reduce or eliminate barriers in the learning environment. Collectively, both modifications can help students overcome targeted deficits or maladaptive response patterns in the classroom.
Will Eligibility Change During My Child's Re-Evaluation?
A re-evaluation occurs for children eligible for special education services every 3 years. Special education teams want to know if what they are doing to assist in your child's learning is working or not, and why. If it is working, the IEP may need to be changed which means that the special education team will probably want new testing data. Or, if a child has not been tested in 3 plus years, then the special education team will be concerned and request testing. If all parties agree to testing, an eligibility meeting will be held and a determination for eligibility will be made at that time.
This means that a child's disability and eligibility can stay the same or change pending the results. The new data will define if your child continues to benefit from an IEP or not. If so, yes the eligibility can change for at the eligibility meeting, then with the IEP. If your child is no longer eligible, then that is a change for you and your child as well, but also a reason to celebrate. Academic progress was made, and it is time to allow your child to learn only from the general education team. Some parents do not find this as welcome news, but I am always happy when children progress enough to be determined,