4 Tips If Your Special Education Advocate is Banned From IEP Meetings

Are you a parent or advocate who helps children with autism or another disability, receive special education services? Have you been told that you can not attend IEP meetings with parents in a certain district? Would you like to learn a few tips on how to handle this situation? This article will give you 4 tips to use if this situation happens to you or an advocate that you work with.

The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that parents have the right to have people help them, who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student. IDEA also states that parents have the right to be equal participants, in their child’s IEP process! If parents ask an advocate to come to a meeting with them, the advocate is to be considered an IEP team member.

OSEP agrees with this and issued a memorandum on January 15, 2004 clarifying an advocate’s role at an IEP meeting. It states that: Since the parent has invited the advocate to the IEP meeting, this person is considered to be an IEP team member and may assume an active role in the student’s IEP. Some advocates are being banned from student’s IEP meetings because they are considered divisive! Below are 4 Tips to use if this happens to you:

Tip 1: If your advocate is banned from an IEP meeting, send a letter to your school district asking for the state and federal law that allows them to do this. Attach to the letter any evidence that you have that the advocate was actually banned (Letter, E mail etc). Ask for a response within 10 days.

Tip 2: In the same letter, state that according to IDEA you have the right to have people at the IEP meeting that have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child. For Example: Your advocate has worked with your child for over a year and understands their needs, or has special training in the disability that your child has.

Tip 3: Also state that: IDEA requires school districts to develop an IEP for each child with a disability, with parents playing a significant role in this process. Also, that for you to do this you require the help of a qualified advocate!

Tip 4: Send a complaint to your state board of education stating that the school district is violating IDEA by banning your advocate from attending IEP meetings. The actual violations are:

A. School district is preventing you from having a person who has knowledge or special expertise on your child, at the IEP meeting.

B. School district is preventing you from being an equal participant, and playing a significant role in the IEP process.

C. School district cannot give you any specific state or federal law that states they have the right to ban certain advocates.

Parents have the right to bring the advocate of their choice to their child’s IEP meetings. School districts cannot ban an advocate from coming! If this happens to you, stand up to the special education personnel for the benefit of your child’s education.

Labels for Special Education Students – A Necessary Evil

The word “label” can cause many parents to cringe inwardly. They often see it as a big sign hung on the back of their child, making them conspicuously different from the rest of the population. Some parents may fear a label will stay with their child for the rest of their lives, preventing both social acceptance and employment opportunities. Others may see a label as some kind of failure in regards to their parenting skills. In fact, no parent wants his/her child to be labeled.

However, labeling may be unavoidable. Getting your child diagnosed is the single most important step in the foundation of his education. If you perform your own evaluation and red flags pop up, it’s time to take action.

Your first call should be to your child’s primary care physician. At well-child check-ups, your doctor will ask questions regarding developmental benchmarks. Benchmarks are guidelines of normal development your child should reach by a certain age. These include expressive language, receptive language, vocabulary, and fine and gross motor skills. Because language development can vary from child to child, physicians may be lax in taking appropriate action for a child who is not reaching benchmarks. As a parent, your intuition should serve you well. Call your local county Child Development Services (CDS) office and request an evaluation. Your CDS case manager will refer you to specialists more suited to diagnosing disabilities.

If your child is already attending school and you are worried about his progress, keep the lines of communication open with his teachers. Many teachers will refer students to the special education department for an evaluation. Regardless of the results of a public school evaluation, you may want to get an unbiased, independent evaluation. Tutoring centers like Sylvan use specialized testing. In this way, you have a back up should the school district decline services.

If your child does have a disability, an appropriate diagnosis is important in order for the state to recognize him as a special education student. State funds ensure support staff will be available to help your child meet the goals listed in his IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. This plan includes any therapeutic services your child may need such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and adaptive physical education. These services are vital to your child’s success throughout his primary and secondary education.

Sometimes the biggest hurdle is dealing with having your child “singled out” as a special education student. You fear your child will be seen as different, weird, stupid or weak. While there is no easy fix for this issue, being an advocate for your child and his education can alleviate some of those fears. At the primary level, ask the special education teacher about reverse mainstreaming. This process invites mainstream students into the self-contained/special education classrooms. Students who spend time in the specialized classrooms tend to be more accepting of differences because they are allowed to get to know special education students on a personal level. If reverse mainstreaming is promoted regularly, lasting bonds can form between students that will carry over into the mainstream classrooms and all over the school.

Finally, teach your child to advocate for himself. Understanding the cause and reason behind a label can sometimes ease anxiety about being different. Understanding how a specialized program works, even on a basic level, can go a long way in teaching your child to advocate for himself throughout the course of his education.

5 Qualities of a Good Special Education Advocate

Are you the parent of a child with autism that is having a dispute with school personnel, and would like some help? Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability, or another type of disability, that could use an advocate to help you in getting an appropriate education for your child? This article will give you 5 qualities that make a good special education advocate

An advocate is a person that has received special training, that helps parents navigate the special education system. In some cases the advocate is a parent of a child themselves, but this is not always the case. Before you hire an advocate check on their experience, and also make sure that the advocate is familiar with your child’s disability, so that they are able to advocate effectively

Qualities:

1 A good advocate must be familiar with the federal and state education laws that apply to special education, and be willing to use them, when needed. This is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), State rules for special education (how they will comply with IDEA), and No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The advocate does not have to memorize the laws, but should have a basic knowledge of what is in them. The advocate must also be willing to bring up the laws, at IEP meetings, if this will benefit the child.

2. A good advocate should not make false promises to parents. If an advocate tells you. that they will get the services that you want for your child, be leery! Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in special education, and advocates should not promise things that they may not be able to get. An experienced advocate who knows the law and your school district, should have a sense about what can be accomplished.

3. A good advocate should be passionate about your child, and the educational services that they need. Advocacy sometimes takes a lot of time. If the person helping you is not passionate about your child, they may not be willing to help you for the length of time that it takes to get your child an appropriate education.

4. A good advocate must be willing to stand up to special education personnel, when they disagree with them, or when the school personnel tell a lie. If the advocate you pick, has every quality, but is not willing to stand up to school personnel, he or she will not be an effective advocate for your child.

5. A good advocate is detail oriented, and makes sure that any services promised by special education personnel, are put in writing. A good advocate will read the IEP before they leave the meeting, and bring up any changes that should be made. Sometimes the little details are what makes for success!

By keeping in mind these 5 qualities, you will be better equipped to finding an advocate that will be able to help you, get an appropriate education for your child.

5 Ways to Overcome the Delphi Technique in Special Education!

Are you the parent of a child with a disability who receives special education services? Do you wonder if special education personnel are manipulating the IEP team to make predetermined decisions, usually different than what your child needs? Would you like to learn about the Delphi technique and how to overcome it? This article will give you the ammunition and information you need to overcome the manipulation that is part of the Delphi technique, and finally get your child the special education services they need!

The Delphi technique was initially developed so that experts in a particular field would be able to come to a consensus. Over the years the use has been distorted so that now it is being used to pit members of one group against members of another group. This is done by the meeting facilitator who asks all members of the group what their position on the issue at hand is. They find other group members that agree with their position, and manipulate them to turn against the members of the group that do not agree with them. This is an unethical way to get the group to agree to whatever the predetermined outcome was!

This technique is being used in special education to pit IEP team members against parents and any other people that take the parents side.

Below are 5 ways to overcome the Delphi technique for your child’s benefit:

1. Recognize when the technique is being used, and expose it! Take copies of information on the Delphi technique to any school meeting especially an IEP meeting if you suspect that this technique is being used! Exposure is one way to overcome this unethical technique!

2. Always be charming-never at any point become angry! No matter how many personal attacks come or what the facilitator says stay calm! Why? Because if the facilitator or coordinator can get you angry then they look like the victim. By staying calm despite personal attacks will make you look like the victim, and not the coordinator. Other group members may them take your side because it looks like you are being verbally attacked!

3. Stay focused on the issue and your position on the issue. Use my favorite advocacy technique-repeat, repeat, repeat! If the facilitator tries and puts you on the defensive and change the subject keep repeating what your opinion or question is over and over until the facilitator actually answers the question.

4. If the coordinator begins a long dragged out dissertation on the issue listen calmly. They are trying to distract you and get you angry. When the person is finished bring up your opinion or the question again! Stay focused on the particular issue at hand and do not be distracted.

5. It is important to note that if this technique is being used in a larger meeting, say a school board meeting, it will look a little different. If the people that disagree with the meeting coordinator remain calm and keep bringing the subject back to the issue at hand; the person may ask for a break. Stay away from people that agree with you, and do a little spying on the coordinator and their group of people. This tactic will prevent them from sending in spies to your group, so that they can find out what your next step is!

I think the hardest part of overcoming this technique is to not become upset when you are personally attacked in a meeting-IEP or other type of meeting. I have been called names and told that I am stupid for caring and defending children with disabilities rights, to an appropriate education. My feeling is that if they are attacking me they have nothing to counter what I am saying, and I do not let it bother me.

The Delphi technique must be found, exposed and overcome for the good of all children with disabilities!

6 Things You Need to Know About State Special Education Laws That Will Empower Your Advocacy!

Are you the parents of a child with Autism or other type of disability who receives special education services? Are you currently having a dispute with your school district related to your child’s education? Would you like to learn about State special education laws and regulations to use in your advocacy? This article is for you and will be discussing these laws,and information that you need to know to empower your advocacy!

1. Every state is required by IDEA 2004 (federal special education law) to have laws and regulations that will show how they will be complying with the law.

2. State regulations cannot “establish provisions that reduce parent’s rights or are otherwise in conflict with the requirements of IDEA and Federal Regulations.” Federal law “trumps” or is stronger than State law. State law can give a parent more rights but cannot take away rights.

3. Many States laws are not consistent with federal laws.

4. Some states have been told that they must change their state regulations to be consistent with federal law. For example: New Jersey stated in their regulations that school districts had the right to test a child in an area that they did not previously test—if a parent asked for an independent educational evaluation at public expense (IEE at public expense). Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) found this inconsistent with IDEA 2004 (300.502). They have required NJ to revise their regulations and until they do so make sure school districts are not evaluating children in an area not previously evaluated before paying for an IEE.

5. Other States regulations are also inconsistent with federal law but have not been told by the U.S. DOE that they must change their regulations. One example is New York who has a regulation that ESY eligibility is only for children with multiple disabilities and/or who show regression and slow recoupment. This is not consistent with federal special education law and may hurt children by denying them needed services. Another example is in my State of Illinois the parent guide states that parents must “request” an IEE before the testing is done. IDEA 2004 states that parents have the right to “obtain” an IEE if they disagree with the schools evaluation. A letter to the Illinois State Board of Education pointing out this inconsistency was answered with this statement “The office plans to review the identified guidance document and initiate any necessary revisions during the summer of 2012. Your information will be considered during the course of that process.” It is now 2014, and I will not be holding my breath for the State of Illinois to revise their parent guide.

6. OSEP policy letters often address inconsistent State laws and regulations! They are great advocacy tools and can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/index.html#topiclisting. I use them all the time to show special educators how the Office of Special Education Programs (at the U.S. DOE) interpret IDEA 2004 and inconsistent State regulations.

By understanding these 6 things about State Special Education Law, your advocacy will be empowered! Good Luck!