Comparing Goals and Objectives Year to Year

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Does your child’s IEP look the same to you over the years? That is not a good sign and should be investigated. You want to be sure your child is receiving new and challenging Goals and Objectives that build on each other from year to year.

IEP’s are not really designed to easily track your child’s progress on Goals and Objectives.  It is even harder when the school writes the IEP in a different order from year to year. For instance, one year, your child’s math goals are numbers 4 and 5, but the following year they are numbers 2 and 3. This does happen. Dare I say that schools may do this purposely to confuse parents so they can’t easily determine that minimal progress is expected from their child?

I will use a spreadsheet program, like Microsoft Excel and stack the similar goals and objectives in rows on top of each other. This makes it easier to follow the progress or lack of. We need all the tools we can get to be sure our kids are being challenged!

 

 

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Keeping Schools Transparent

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Transparency and communication. It is a necessity in Special Education. I keep in frequent contact with my client’s school districts. If a parent is denied a request, I will ask for the legal authority by which they made the decision.

As I have said in a previous post, I never take the school’s word for anything that is not explicitly addressed in the IDEA. I will write them emails and challenge their veracity. This is the only way I know to keep districts from taking advantage of parent’s naivete of the law.

Usually, by the time I am called in by parents, the school has already been brazenly lying and bending the truth beyond recognition to parents. So when I ask for verification of their claims, they get very upset and start doing some serious back peddling.
Often, they will say that my questions and requests for information are too many to respond to. They imply that I am trying to intimidate them by persistently asking questions (usually of their unreasonable statements to parents) until I get a REAL answer. I remind the school that parents of children with special needs have every right to communicate with their child’s district. And that by asking me to stop asking questions, the district diminishes parents ability to be full and equal members of the child’s PPT. That usually stops them from complaining more.

One time, a silly administrator thought she was being clever by turning this tactic around on me. She asked where I have the authority to “intimidate” her by asking so many questions. I told her that my obligation is to assure that my client is being treated as a full and equal member of her child’s PPT. The district has the obligation and responsibility to the parent. Not vice versa.

I don’t care how annoying or obnoxious they think I am. I refuse to let districts mislead parents about their child’s rights.

Disability “Label”

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Mostly, I don’t pay much attention to labels of people. Labels like “she’s a ‘bitch’ – yes, I am to unprofessional and heartless special ed administrators”; “He is “autistic” – is that all he is? Maybe he just has autism and many other interesting qualities?; This child is “Intellectually Disabled” what does that mean? Can the child learn? Is there a limit to his/her learning abilities, or will it just possibly take her/him longer to learn grade-level concepts?

I don’t like that last label, because it implies a limit to one’s ability to learn. I have (too often) seen school districts have low expectations of student’s with an “Intellectual Disability” and, sadly, the student is under-stimulated and shuts down.  I have also seen students labeled with “ID” achieve much more than the school had expected. That is usually because of very involved, strong parents who fight for the child’s future by insisting on a robust educational program for them.

When I work with parents of children with that label, I inevitably aggravate the school because I insist that the child’s full potential be explored so that instead of reading writing and doing math on a second grade level on their twenty-first birthday, he or she is on a high school level.

That is not too much to ask, is it?

School Unilaterally Ending a PPT is Unprofessional, but not Necessarily Illegal

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I was at a PPT for a client a few weeks ago. My client and I were strongly advocating for her daughter and it was obvious that the administrator in charge was overwhelmed. Suddenly, the administrator ended the meeting. The parent said she was not finished, but the administrator said that she had to end the meeting because of a “contractual agreement” with her staff. And the meeting was adjourned against the parent’s wishes.

On investigation, I found there was no “contractual obligation.” The administrator just felt like ending the meeting, and so she did. I filed a complaint with the state.

It turns out that, while the investigator on the state level agreed the school administrator was unprofessional, it did not constitute a violation of the IDEA.

What I will do in the future, is, before every PPT for a client, I will specify that the school-based team be prepared to stay as long as it takes to complete the PPT, and there be no time limit. If they insist on a time limit, I will insist that my client’s issues get to be addressed first.

IDEA Special Education Law – A Funding Law

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The IDEA (special education law) is a funding law. States receive federal funds for special education each fiscal year as long as the state can prove to the Secretary of the US Department of Education that the State has in effect policies and procedures to provide FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to all children with disabilities who meet the criteria set forth in the IDEA. The state’s policies and procedures may not be more restrictive than the federal law, IDEA.

A Free appropriate public education must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21.

As each state is obliged to make FAPE available to each eligible child residing in the State, an IEP or IFSP (Individucal Family Service Plan) must be in effect for the child by the date of his/her third birthday. IEPs are created with the child’s school district, while an IFSP is provided by birth to three (in CT).

A child’s eligibility for special ed and related services is determined on an individual basis by a team specifically put together by the Local Education Agency (LEA) qualified to determine eligibility for such services.

Each State must ensure that FAPE is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or stayed-back in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.

It is  not true that the child must be failing out of school or classes in order to qualify for special education services.

When a school district violates a special education law, it is putting its qualification to receive federal funding at risk.  Each state is given ample opportunity to make good on a finding of neglect or non-compliance; however.

Unfortunately, it generally works in the district’s favor to push noncompliance as far as it can go, in order to avoid having to pay large amounts to give some disabled children services. If they get caught, they can back-peddle, usually with not much more than a slap on the wrist. Too often, they don’t get caught due to parent’s ignorance of the law.

This is the unfortunate truth. But one we must deal with. And we can deal with it effectively if we educate ourselves.

 

 

 

The Buck Stops With the Board of Ed

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Ultimately, bad choices by Directors of Special Education in any district impact the elected officials trying to do good by their town – the Board of Education.

When a special education due process hearing is filed, it is filed as “Student v. Our Town Board of Education.” This usually isn’t too embarrassing for the BOE because the hearings are often shrouded in secrecy. Attorneys for students and for the Boards of Education don’t want the general public to know what is going on behind the doors. This would expose how really ineffectual, time-wasting and expensive the whole process is.

When ignorant administrators deny Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) they must file due process immediately to prove that their own evaluations were adequate. When administrators are stupid and arrogant enough to do this, I immediately send letters to the district’s Board of Education telling them that because of a decision by their underlings – usually a special education administrator – asking them if they are aware that they have just filed a due process against a disabled child in the district.

Of course, they have no idea. The administrators stay insular so to save themselves exposure of their bad choices. But the wonderful response from BOE members is almost always that of shock and embarrassment.

Guess who they get mad at?  The administrator who made the bad decision. To top it off,  I add that the hearing will be public, and held on public property to add the extra measure of embarrassment. Not that I really want to embarrass these elected officials, but to let the administrators realize that their actions directly affect their ultimate bosses – the town’s elected officials.

Help Prepare Your Child For Life After High School

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Ultimately, a child with special needs is going to have to transition into the real world on or before his/her 21st birthday. The IDEA puts the onus on the local education agency (your school district) to prepare the child for life after high school until the s/he turns 21.

It is vital that, as a student with special needs approaches the time s/he leaves high school, preparations for adult life are well underway.
Some school districts will let any meaningful preparation fall by the wayside – just moving the child along to graduation, or to some glorified day care program. This is true especially if the parents of the child have not been educating themselves on the IDEA law, and not been fiercely advocating for their child throughout  his or her primary and secondary schooling.
Research indicates that a robust and rigorous academicac program provided during the high school years, better prepares students, including those with lower achievement levels as compared to “typical” peers, to move on and achieve in postsecondary education (i.e. college, community college, or vocational schools). The reverse is true: students who are provided less challenging courses of study are significantly less prepared.
Parents must educate themselves and be active, strong participants in their children’s educational programming in order to give your kids the best chance for a successful and productive adult life.