Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Everybody Wins: How to Be an Effective Member of Your Child's IEP Team: For Parents of Children with Disabilities, Your Child's School Years Have a Common Denominator from Year to Year, Your Child's Individualized Education Program, or IEP. as Parents Prepare for the Spring IEP Season, This Article Offers Assistance on Making the IEP Process as Effective as Possible

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Everybody Wins: How to Be an Effective Member of Your Child's IEP Team: For Parents of Children with Disabilities, Your Child's School Years Have a Common Denominator from Year to Year, Your Child's Individualized Education Program, or IEP. as Parents Prepare for the Spring IEP Season, This Article Offers Assistance on Making the IEP Process as Effective as Possible

Article excerpt

As a pediatric specialist and could-owner of a large therapy services company, parents of children with disabilities often ask me, "How do I approach my child's IEP (individualized education program) team so that my child gets what is needed?" Too often, parents come with negative expectations about the intentions of the teachers and administrators who are proposing an education plan for their son or daughter. In preparation, they arm themselves with advocates, lawyers, and a myriad of outside evaluations in preparation for the "battle" ahead.

In my 15 years working with the special education system, it has been exceedingly rare that I have come across professionals who do not genuinely want the very best for the children they serve. In today's world of shrinking budgets, increasing demand for services, and a shortage of qualified pediatric specialists, the current climate of opposition between parents and IEP teams is creating a lose-lose situation for everyone except attorneys, who may profit from special education litigation. On a global scale, this results in less and less special education dollars available to help students as school districts pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into defending against due process lawsuits. The majority of families and students, who are not involved in the litigation, are left with far less resources available to meet their own special education needs. Alternatively, when families and IEP teams work collaboratively, the possibilities for programming and potential are limitless and valuable special education dollars go to the kids, where they belong.

The key to being a highly effective advocate for your child is to use the special education process to build positive, respect-based relationships with the individuals working with your child. The old adage that you attract more bees with honey is as true as ever.

Know the Law

Much of the conflict that occurs between parents and IEP teams is based on a misunderstanding of what school-based services are all about. Very often, the school's actual legal obligations, based on state and federal mandates, are quite different from what parents can expect from the "medical" care system. A second area of confusion stems from the transition process between early childhood services (for children aged 0-3) and pre-school/school-age programming, where the goal of services shifts from home and family support to an education-based model. In early childhood, children qualify for services based on where their skills fall on standardized developmental tests and are considered eligible if they test below a specified percent delay or if they present with a diagnosed disability that typically causes delays, such as Down's syndrome or autism. This changes when children reach school age. At that point, standardized testing is still performed, but the determining factor is based upon whether or not a child is sufficiently impaired that he needs support services in order to access his education. By understanding the purpose of special education law as it relates to your child receiving services, you can advocate more effectively for appropriate supports.

The School-Age Child: IDEA '97 and Section 504

The landmark federal education legislation, IDEA '97 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), says that students with disabilities who need specially designed instruction to succeed in school are entitled to a free, appropriate, public education. Another federal law, referred to as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, guarantees that students with disabilities will not be discriminated against in school. These two laws represent a national commitment to education that supports the individual needs of each child and that is provided in the least restrictive, or most typical, environment possible.

In preparing for your child's IEP team meeting, it is important to consider how the services you are requesting are specifically tied to your child's ability to succeed in the classroom. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.