Are you the parent of a child with autism or a learning disability? Have you been fighting for years to get your child an appropriate special education? Then this article is for you. This article will be addressing 10 steps that every parent needs to take to finally get their child appropriate special and related services!
Children with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that prepares them for post school learning, employment, independent living and financial self sufficiency, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Below are the 10 steps:
1. Be assertively persistent and persevere for as long as it takes, for the benefit of your child.
2. Document everything on a consistent basis, which means writing lots of letters. Remember that if it is not written down it never happened. Documentation develops a paper trail, if you ever have a dispute with your school district. Especially write letters to follow up when the school district makes promises, or says something that appears untrue!
3. Have high educational expectations for your child. Schools often have low expectations, and as a parent you must fight this for the good of your child.
4. Make sure that your child is being taught with research based curriculums which No Child Left Behind requires (NCLB). Some schools continue to use outdated curriculum that are not backed by research showing that the curriculum works to teach children with disabilities.
5. Always make sure that your child is included in all district and state assessments (unless they have a cognitive disability), so that special education personnel are held accountable for your child’s learning.
6. Make sure that your child is being held to the same educational standards as children without disabilities, for accountability purposes. Each state has their own standards though national standards are being developed.
7. Your child should have their educational progress monitored at least every 3 months (academic and functional). Many educational programs have progress monitoring built in, so check with your child’s teacher.
8. Consider getting an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) with a child friendly evaluator that is willing to assess your child and write a comprehensive report, to include your child’s disabilities, and recommendations for needed related and special education services. Ask other parents if they know of any really good evaluators that you can take your child to. It will be worth it!
9. Look into giving your school district 10 day formal written notice that you will be privately providing your child the related and special education services that they need (backed up by an IEE) and you will be asking for reimbursement. There are very specific things that must be done to ensure reimbursement, so check in IDEA to make sure that all procedures are followed. Also check http://www.wrightslaw.com for cases on reimbursement to help you with your advocacy.
10. If you have been fighting for years with little to show for your fight I hope that you will consider filing for a due process hearing! A due process hearing is a way for parents to settle disputes with special education personnel. It is much more formal than an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meeting, but with proper documentation, and testimony from a good Independent Evaluator, you could possibly win.
After a parent files they must attend a resolution meeting to see if the dispute can be settled. The school district cannot bring an attorney to the resolution meeting unless the parent brings one; so definitely consider bringing an advocate. Also bring with you a short list of things that you would be willing to settle for. Due process does not require an attorney in my opinion, unless the case is extremely complicated. What have you to lose, but much can be gained!
By using these tips you will well be on your way to finally helping your child succeed in special education-and be ready for adult life!