Do you have a child with Autism that is receiving special education services? Would you like to learn how to be a better advocate for your child? This article will address 9 steps that you can take to empower yourself, to advocate for an appropriate education for your child!Step 1: Begin by asking a lot of questions when you speak to your child’s teacher. Sample of questions for your child’s teacher could be: “What curriculum are you using to teach my child to read? What do these standardized test scores mean? What type of positive behavioral supports do you use in the classroom” If your child’s teacher tells you something that you do not understand, ask her to explain it, and perhaps send you the explanation in writing.Step 2: Ask lots of questions when attending an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) meeting for your child. Sample of questions at an IEP meeting could be: “What does that word mean? What services will my child be receiving, and how many minutes will they be receiving the service? What standardized testing will you be conducting on my child, to see if she is making educational progress?” Always ask for explanations, when special education personnel start talking in terms that you do not understand, or talk about services you do not understand.Step 3: At IEP meetings give your input on how you think your child is doing in school, and on what related and special education services, you think your child needs! Parents know their child better than most school people do, so it may be easy for them to figure out what services the child needs, to benefit from their education. If you have trouble speaking up at meetings, put together a one page parent input statement, to bring to the meeting with you.Step 4: To help yourself feel more comfortable speaking up at a meeting; “role play” with other parents, what may happen at the meeting. This is a good way to get yourself prepared, to make good arguments for services that your child needs.Step 5: If you still have difficulty speaking up at meetings, bring another parent who has experience in the special education process.Step 6: If your child’s behavior interferes with their education or the education of others, insist on conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment, and have a Positive Behavioral Plan developed. You may need to fight for a qualified person to do these, but it will help your child as well as other children.Step 7: When you attend an IEP meeting, be sure and read the IEP before you leave. I realize meetings can be stressful, but it is critical that you take the time to read the IEP, and make sure that it is accurate.Step 8: Ask for any changes to the IEP, if the document does not reflect discussions held, or agreements made. If things are not written clearly it can be difficult to enforce what is written in the IEP.Step 9: You must realize that by standing up to school personnel you may anger some people! But what is more important, making someone upset or fighting for appropriate services for your child? In my opinion the child wins every time, because they need special education services in order to have a fulfilled adult life.By following these 9 steps you will be empowered to advocate for your child, and they will appreciate it!
So you finally decided to file for a due process hearing, after many years of special education personnel denying your child needed services! Good for you! Due process hearings are a way to resolve conflicts between parents and special education personnel. Though more formal than an IEP meeting, they can be effective in helping children receive a free appropriate public education.In my book Disability Deception I state that: Parents can win a due process hearing if they have developed concrete evidence in their child’s school record, are properly prepared by having documentation, and keep the case simple. Proper preparation for a due process hearing takes hundreds of hours, especially learning what is in each document that you will use at the due process hearing.But what happens when the hearing begins, and special education personnel lie or tell deceptions on the stand. What is a parent to do then? Below are 5 ways to over come lies and deceptions:1. This is when the hundreds of hours of preparation will all be worth it! If you know what is contained in each document that is being used at the due process, you can try and find written evidence that disputes what the person said. I love using the schools records against them!For example: If a school psychologist states that your child is making progress with their academics, you could bring out your child’s standardized testing, ask questions about the scores, and use that to prove that he or she is not being truthful. Do not accuse the person verbally, just let the hearing officer figure it out for him or herself.2. Sequestration of witnesses is important because it prevents school personnel from hearing each other testify. Ask questions of another school person to prove that the last person that testified was not truthful in their testimony.For example: In the above case you could ask your child’s teacher; what was Mary’s scores in her standardized Math and Reading Tests. If they were low, then the hearing officer will start thinking that the school psychologist was not being truthful.I often find that the school social worker is a positive person that really cares about children. If you have a good relationship with the school social worker you could subpoena him or her, and ask questions. In a couple of due process cases that I advocated at the school social worker testified for the parent and child, and not what the other school people were testifying to.3. Have another person perhaps a spouse or friend that has attended the IEP meetings with you, or heard conversations, testify about what really happened or what was said. Parents should never attend an IEP meeting alone for this very purpose; another person to testify as to what happened.4. Use what the special education personnel said in a resolution meeting to prove that what they are testifying to is a lie! While mediation is confidential, resolution meetings are not! Anything said by school personnel can be brought up at the due process.In the above example the school psychologist stated at the resolution meeting that she did expect Mary to perform better academically than she currently was, due to her normal IQ; this can be brought up at due process. You could say; at the resolution meeting did you state _______________. She may say she does not remember, but ask another attendee, they will probably tell the truth. Also you can state what was said when you testify.5. Last way to overcome lies is to ask very specific yes or no questions and do not ask for opinions. Do not allow the person to go on and on and try to spin the information. Use your documents to ask questions and get the person in a corner, so that they cannot change their testimony.Due process can be a rough process, but I believe parents can prevail for the good of their child’s education! Good luck!
Before the Team MeetingPrior to the team meeting, write down a bullet list of all issues and questions you want to make sure get discussed at the meeting. Make a list of your concerns, vision, and child’s strengths. Provide the school with all private evaluation results 10 school days before the meeting. And request copies of any of the evaluation reports that the school has conducted. You should ask in writing to get them 48 hours prior to the meeting.At the Team MeetingDuring the team meeting there will be lots of information provided by the teachers, specialists, and service providers. Try to bring someone with you who can take notes as you ask questions and respond to the information you are given. You may be provided with a draft IEP to review and make changes to. Don’t be afraid to request to change anything you feel is not appropriate on the IEP. Your input is extremely important. No one knows your child like you do. It is supported by the law that you should be included and be an integral part of the process of creating the IEP for your child.After the Team MeetingYou will receive the final proposed IEP and must respond within 30 days. You have three options when responding. You can accept the proposed IEP in full, reject in full, or reject in part. I would not recommend rejecting in full as this provides nothing to the student. If you reject in part or reject missing or insufficient provisions, then the accepted portions should be implemented immediately. Remember, what is provided to your child is what they need, not what you want or what is best. As parents and advocates, we always strive to get what’s best, but the law supports what is needed. If you don’t feel that your child is getting what they need, request additional special education evaluations and assessments. If you are not satisfied with the school’s assessment, you can request an IEE or Independent Educational Evaluation at no cost to you.