Yes, School Districts Do Hold IEP/504 Meetings and Do Evaluations During Summer

Well, summer is flying by, and if your child doesn’t have an appropriate placement at school, don’t lose hope. If the IEP/504 Plan isn’t right, many school districts seek to “protect their staff” from the instrusions of working with parents and administrative issues during summer because they are working with reduced staff. No school district is exempt from this tactic, to my knowledge. They all seem to say, “It can wait until Fall.”

Well, the first day of school with an inappropriate IEP is not an It-Can-Wait item, is it? So let’s get with it and see what we can do.

First, moderate to large school districts don’t shut down their administrative offices, and it is in these administrative offices that anything can be done for an IEP change and evaluations that might be done during school months at local schools.

How do we get that done? Letters. Phone calls. Find out who is in charge of special education at your child’s school during summer months and make it clear by phone, personal visits, and writing that your child’s issues can’t wait. Explain on the phone that your child’s access to education doesn’t exist with an inappropriate IEP or without adequate evaluations to know what is really needed. On paper, write the district that your child’s IEP is inappropriate and this is denial of equal access to his education under both IDEA and Section 504. Go ahead and use the law to back up what you say. It’s what makes them move during summer. Write that without an immediate evaluation, no appropriate IEP could be drawn up because the data doesn’t exist to make placement decisions correctly.

If your child is one who learns slowly and will have great difficulty catching up after missing months of appropriate instruction, say so bluntly. “My child will suffer a loss of opportunity to learn and will require months of remedial efforts to catch up. This does not represent equal access to learning, equal opportunity to learn, nor equal effectiveness in education.”

One of my clients went so far as to say, “Andy is not receiving FAPE with his current IEP. Continuing with this inappropriate IEP isn’t exactly child abuse, but it is mentally and emotionally abusive to keep a child in a regimen of demands he can’t cope with until he becomes emotionally ill. This is what I see happening to my child and I will use every social, administrative and legal means I can find to stop it, including complaints to the State DOE and the Office for Civil Rights.” Her child was being damaged emotionally by a do-nothing administration that had put off evaluations and appropriate IEP provisions for two years. The month she wrote this letter, there was action.

A complaint to Office for Civil Rights involves vast amounts of data collection and proof of appropriate action or justification of why no action was taken. Hundreds of man hours, hundreds of papers, forms, etc. take man hours away from their daily duties in the school district. When that threat exists, many school districts take another, harder look at what needs to be done for the child, and it is often cheaper to serve appropriately in education than to defend against a complaint to Office for Civil Rights.

I’m NOT recommending you automatically throw out such threats. If they are warranted, don’t delay. But put your self in the district’s shoes. Your child’s needs must be presented to them in such a way that it is impossible to deny what is needed. Use the law and regulations. Get your district’s procedures and quote their own rules and procedures at them. These must comply with federal and state laws, so what you need will be there. Find it and use it.

The fact that it is summer does not justify delaying implementation of special education policy and procedures.

Tell them simply: “Jason’s education is negatively impacted every day he goes to school with an inappropriate IEP. Jason is entitled an appropriate IEP every day that he goes to school, including the first day of school in September, 2014.” Then tell them when you will be in their office to sign the consent for evaluation (give them 3 or 4 business days to prepare it for you) or give them 2 options when you can be available for IEP meetings in 7 to 10 business days. Give your contact information and then mail the letter so someone must sign for its receipt–certified or registered. Or hand carry it with a notation on YOUR copy that this letter was “Hand delivered to _____ on (date)” to be signed by the person who accepts it from you.

School districts do function in the summer. If you don’t know whether your district is open in summertime and no one answers the phone, call your state’s Department of Education special education office. They will tell you if it is open for business. If it is, you just have to put your child’s case on their list of priorities.

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Freebie

i can cheerfully report that my broken shoulder has not prevented my computer use nor  my  blogging, though both are MUCH slower. Today
i want to direct parents of children with ADD/ADHD to Dr. Charles Parker’s website. He is giving away an article about how to get away from the inconsistent results of meds for ADD/ADHD. He’s a psychiatrist whose concerns extend from correct diagnosis to why we don’t give better evaluations of both patients and medications so the two can be more accurately matched and correct doses given on a correct schedule. Go to http://about.me/drcharlesparker and download Predictable Solutions For ADHD Meds. I hope it brings some good results to those of you who struggle with behavioral and attention issues.

(First posted in July, 2012; 6 typos edited & corrected on 9/20/2013)

Isn’t This Supposed To Be HEAVEN?

Today we’re going to use humor to vent our frustrations.  I wrote this a few years ago and it has been posted on some special education and advocacy websites.  Now I’m putting it here to share with you.  Enjoy!

Isn’t This Supposed To Be HEAVEN?

by Michele Williams

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

A special education administrator died and went to heaven to see about
getting in. St. Peter said, “Well, your mom and dad are here saying you
should qualify, but I don’t know. You see, we have to conduct our own
evaluations. It will take 6 – 9 months, or maybe two years. We’ll let you
know. Would you sign this consent for evaluation right here, please.” So the
man took a seat on a cloud and waited none too patiently.

A year later, St. Peter comes back to the man and says, “Sorry, but that
Consent form wasn’t the right one. Would you sign here please.” A year
later, the man is called in for a conference to talk about the evaluation. A
psychologist angel said, “Well, we noticed that you were extremely impatient
while waiting, drummed your fingers a lot, seemed not to pay much attention
to instructions, and you let us have you sign the wrong form at the get-go.
We suspect you probably have attention deficit disorder. We don’t do
behavior modification here, but we do have a detention room where our
offenders do time before being sent to Hell if they can’t figure “it” out.
We noticed you had trouble learning how to sit on our clouds, so we suspect
you probably need some physical and occupational therapy. You’ve been rude
and deceitful with parents of disabled children on earth, but with extensive
counseling, you can probably overcome that. You’ve been playing crony games
with public funding and key positions, and with personality readjustment
therapy, you can probably overcome that. You’ll have to work hard, try
harder than you’ve ever tried before. If you can make sufficient adjustments
with our accommodations, you might be awarded a diploma entitling you to
entry into heaven. It could take as long as 12 years, but we are
optimistic.”

The personality readjustment angel worked diligently with the man and began
to see progress. Still, when the man was frustrated, he acted out and was
not exactly heavenly-appropriate in some of his antics and verbal
expressions. The personality readjustment angel said to his parents, “I’m
sorry, but if he doesn’t make more progress soon, he won’t make it. ”

“He needs more counseling, some training sessions, perhaps some
role-playing, social skills training,” his parents said.

“Sorry,” the angel said. “There are far too many other angel candidates and
I’m overbooked as it is.”

The angel gave no clues as to what procedures heaven might have for
increasing the administrator’s personality readjustment services, and the
parents were sure that since this was heaven, they would have been told
everything they needed to know and all necessary help would be given. So
they rested on faith.

St. Peter assigned the administrator a physical therapist who worked with the

man to teach him to sit properly on clouds and a flight instruction angel
to teach him how to fly. The administrator got the hang of sitting on clouds
pretty well, but he had a ton of trouble learning to fly. “Look,” he kept
protesting, “This flying bit isn’t easy. I’ve got to learn to trust not
having ground beneath my feet. I’ve got to keep looking at the horizon
instead of furniture around me. I’ve got to keep from banging into other
angels. My flight instruction angel only shows up 80% of the time. I need
more help.”

“Sorry,” St. Peter said. “You’re not trying. If you speak up in your own
behalf, you’re showing a basic lack of faith and trust, and it has tinges of
disrespect for our authority. We can’t have that around here. We’ll have to
give you detention you if you keep complaining.”

The administrator shut up. But the next day, he took off from his cloud with
his flight instruction angel’s full approval and promptly plunged toward
Hell at full speed, flapping all the way.

“I have to say something,” he screamed. “I told you I needed more help, and
it would help if I had both wings!”

“Sorry,” his flight instruction angel shouted downward. “We don’t have the
funding for that.”

Help for Students With ADD/ADHD

I know this Clarification of Policy letter is old–1991–but it is still 100% correct and applicable to today’s cases. It has tons of information for parents struggling to know what schools should be doing for their children. Enough blather, already. Here it is.

Clarification of Policy to Address the
Needs of Children with Attention Deficit Disorders
 within General and/or Special Education

In the 1990 Amendments to the IDEA, Congress added “autism” and “traumatic brain injury” to the categories under the IDEA. CHADD had lobbied very hard for “attention deficit disorder/ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” to be added as a category under the IDEA. The U.S. Department of Education convinced Congress that ADD/ADHD did not have to be added because it was fully covered under current law. The Congress required the U.S. Department of Education to explain how.

Under Federal statutory and regulatory law, when the Congress directs the executive branch agency that will implement a new statute to issue a written explanation, it becomes a part of the law just as much as the statute or the implementing regulations. Federal courts have recognized the following Memorandum as a part of the federal law and it is regularly cited in special education decisions…… Reed Martin

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY

DATE : SEP I 6 I99l

TO : Chief State School Officers

FROM : 
Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education
and Rehabilitative Services

Assistant Secretary
Office for Civil Rights 

Assistant Secretary
Office of Elementary
and Secondary Education

SUBJECT: Clarification of Policy to Address the Needs of Children with Attention Deficit Disorders within General and/or Special Education

I.

Introduction



There is a growing awareness in the education community that attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can result in significant learning problems for children with those conditions. (Footnote 1) While estimates of the prevalence of ADD vary widely, we believe that three to five percent of school-aged children may have significant educational problems related to this disorder. Because ADD has broad implications for education as a whole, the Department believes it should clarify State and local responsibility under Federal law for addressing the needs of children with ADD in the schools. Ensuring that these students are able to reach their fullest potential is an inherent part of the National education goals and AMERICA 2000. The National goals, and the strategy for achieving them, are based on the assumptions that: (1) all children can learn and benefit from their education; and (2) the educational community must work to improve the learning opportunities for all children.

This memorandum clarifies the circumstances under which children with ADD are eligible for special education services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part B), as well as the Part B requirements for evaluation of such children’s unique educational needs. This memorandum will also clarify the responsibility of State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to provide special education and related services to eligible children with ADD under Part B. Finally, this memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of LEAs to provide regular or special education and related aids and services to those children with ADD who are not eligible under Part B, but who fall within the definition of “handicapped person” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because of the overall educational responsibility to provide services for these children, it is important that general and special education coordinate their efforts.



II. Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services under Part B

Last year during the reauthorization of the Education of the Handicapped Act [now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], Congress gave serious consideration to including ADD in the definition of “children with disabilities” in the statute. The Department took the position that ADD does not need to be added as a separate disability category in the statutory definition since children with ADD who require special education and related services can meet the eligibility criteria for services under
Part B. This continues to be the Department’s position.

No change with respect to ADD was made by Congress in the statutory definition of “children with disabilities;” however, language was included with those conditions. (Footnote 1) While estimates of the prevalence of ADD vary widely, we believe that three to five percent of school-aged children may have significant educational problems related to this disorder. Because ADD has broad implications for education as a whole, the Department believes it should clarify State and local responsibility under Federal law for addressing the needs of children with ADD in the schools. Ensuring that these students are able to reach their fullest potential is an inherent part of the National education goals and AMERICA 2000. The National goals, and the strategy for achieving them, are based on the assumptions that: (1) all children can learn and benefit from their education; and (2) the educational community must work to improve the learning opportunities for all children.

This memorandum clarifies the circumstances under which children with ADD are eligible for special education services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part B), as well as the Part B requirements for evaluation of such children’s unique educational needs. This memorandum will also clarify the responsibility of State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) to provide special education and related services to eligible children with ADD under Part B. Finally, this memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of LEAs to provide regular or special education and related aids and services to those children with ADD who are not eligible under Part B, but who fall within the definition of “handicapped person” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because of the overall educational responsibility to provide services for these children, it is important that general and special education coordinate their efforts.

II. Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services under Part B

Last year during the reauthorization of the Education of the Handicapped Act [now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], Congress gave serious consideration to including ADD in the definition of “children with disabilities” in the statute. The Department took the position that ADD does not need to be added as a separate disability category in the statutory definition since children with ADD who require special education and related services can meet the eligibility criteria for services under
Part B. This continues to be the Department’s position.

No change with respect to ADD was made by Congress in the statutory definition of “children with disabilities;” however, language was included in Section 102(a) of the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 that required the Secretary to issue a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) soliciting public comment on special education for children with ADD under Part B. In response to the NOI (published November 29, 1990 in the Federal Register), the Department received over 2000 written comments, which have been transmitted to the Congress. Our review of these written comments indicates that there is confusion in the field regarding the extent to which children with ADD may be served in special education programs conducted under Part B.

A. Description of Part B

Part B requires SEAs and LEAs to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to all eligible children with disabilities and to ensure that the rights and protections of Part B are extended to those children and their parents. 20 U.S.C. 1412(2); 34 CFR 300.121 and 300.2. Under Part B, FAPE, among other elements, includes the provision of special education and related services, at no cost to parents, in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP). 34 CFR 300.4.

In order to be eligible under Part B, a child must be evaluated in accordance with 34 CFR 300.530-300.534 as having one or more specified physical or mental impairments, and must be found to require special education and related services by reason of one or more of these impairments. (Footnote 2) 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(1); 34 CFR 300.5. SEAs and LEAs must ensure that children with ADD who are determined eligible for services under Part B receive special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs, including special education and related services needs arising from the ADD. A full continuum of placement alternatives, including the regular classroom, must be available for providing special education and related services required in the IEP.



B. Eligibility for Part B services under the “Other Health Impaired” Category



The list of chronic or acute health problems included within the definition of “other health impaired” in the Part B regulations is not exhaustive. The term “other health impaired” includes chronic or acute impairments that result in limited alertness, which adversely affects educational performance. Thus, children with ADD should be classified as eligible for services under the “other health impaired” category in instances where the ADD is a chronic or acute health problem that results in limited alertness, which adversely affects educational performance. In other words, children with ADD, where the ADD is a chronic or acute health problem resulting in limited alertness, may be considered disabled under Part B solely on the basis of this disorder within the “other health impaired” category in situations where special education and related services are needed because of the ADD.

c. Eligibility for Part B services under Other Disability Categories

Children with ADD are also eligible for services under Part B if the children satisfy the criteria applicable to other disability categories. For example, children with ADD are also eligible for services under the “specific learning disability” category of Part B if they meet the criteria stated in 300.5(b) (9) and 300.541 or under the “seriously emotionally disturbed category'” of Part B if they meet the criteria stated in 300.5(b) (8).

III. Evaluations under Part B



A. Requirements

SEAs and LEAs have an affirmative obligation to evaluate a child who is suspected of having a disability to determine the child’s need for special education and related services. Under Part B, SEAs and LEAs are required to have procedures for locating, identifying and evaluating all children who have a disability or are suspected of having a disability and are in need of special education and related services. 34 CFR 300.128 and 300.220. This responsibility, known as “child find,” is applicable to all children from birth through 21, regardless of the severity of their disability.

Consistent with this responsibility and the obligation to make FAPE available to all eligible children with disabilities, SEAs and LEAs must ensure that evaluations of children who are suspected of needing special education and related services are conducted without undue delay. 20 U.S.C. 1412(2). Because of its responsibility resulting from the FAPE and child find requirements of Part B, an LEA may not refuse to evaluate the possible need for special education and related services of a child with a prior medical diagnosis of ADD solely by reason of that medical diagnosis. However, a medical diagnosis of ADD alone is not sufficient to render a child eligible for services under Part B.

Under Part B, before any action is taken with respect to the initial placement of a child with a disability in a program providing special education and related services, “a full and individual evaluation of the child’s educational needs must be conducted in accordance with requirements of 300.532.” 34 CFR 300.531. Section 300.532(a) requires that a child’s evaluation must be conducted by a multidisciplinary team, including at least one teacher or other specialist with knowledge in the area of suspected disability.



B. Disagreements over Evaluations
Any proposal or refusal of an agency to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of FAPE to the child is subject to the
 written prior notice requirements of 34 CFR 300.504-300.505.3
If a parent disagrees with the LEA’s refusal to evaluate a child 
or the LEA’s evaluation and determination that a child does not
have a disability for which the child is eligible for services 
under Part B, the parent may request a due process hearing 
pursuant to 34 CFR §§300.506-300.513 of the Part B regulations.

IV. Obligations Under Section 504 of SEAs and LEAs to Children with ADD Found Not To Require Special Education and Related Services under Part B



Even if a child with ADD is found not to be eligible for services under Part B, the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and its implementing regulation at 34 CFR Part 104 may be applicable. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap by recipients of Federal funds. Since Section 504 is a civil rights law, rather than a funding law, its requirements are framed in different terms than those of Part B. While the Section 504 regulation was written with an eye to consistency with Part B, it is more general, and there are some differences arising from the differing natures of the two laws. For instance, the protections of Section 504 extend to some children who do not fall within the disability categories specified in Part B.

A. Definition



Section 504 requires every recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program to address the needs of children who are considered “handicapped persons” under Section 504 as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are met. “Handicapped person” is defined in the Section 504 regulation as any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (e.g.., learning).
34 CFR 104.3(j). Thus, depending on the severity of their condition, children with ADD may fit within that definition.

B. Programs and Services Under Section 504



Under Section 504, an LEA must provide a free appropriate public education to each qualified handicapped child. A free appropriate public education, under Section 504, consists of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual student’s needs and based on adherence to the regulatory requirements on educational setting, evaluation, placement, and procedural safeguards. 34 CFR 104.33, 104.34, 104.35, and 104.36. A student may be handicapped within the meaning of Section 504, and therefore entitled to regular or special education and related aids and services under the Section 504 regulation, even though the student may not be eligible for special education and related services under Part B.

Under Section 504, if parents believe that their child is handicapped by ADD, the LEA must evaluate the child to determine whether he or she is handicapped as defined by Section 504. If an LEA determines that a child is not handicapped under Section 504, the parent has the right to contest that determination. If the child is determined to be handicapped under Section 504, the LEA must make an individualized determination of the child’s educational needs for regular or special education or related aids and services. 34 CFR 104.35.

For children determined to be handicapped under Section 504, implementation of an individualized education program developed in accordance with Part B, although not required, is one means of meeting the free appropriate public education requirements of Section 504. (Footnote 4) The child’s education must be provided in the regular education classroom unless it is demonstrated that education in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 34 CFR 104.34.

Should it be determined that the child with ADD is handicapped for purposes of Section 504 and needs only adjustments in the regular classroom, rather than special education, those adjustments are required by Section 504. A range of strategies is available to meet the educational needs of children with ADD.

Regular classroom teachers are important in identifying the appropriate educational adaptions and interventions for many children with ADD.

SEAs and LEAs should take the necessary steps to promote coordination between special and regular education programs. Steps also should be taken to train regular education teachers and other personnel to develop their awareness about ADD and its manifestations and the adaptations that can be implemented in regular education programs to address the instructional needs of these children. Examples of adaptations in regular education programs could include the following:

providing a structured learning environment; repeating and simplifying instructions about in-class and homework assignments; supplementing verbal instructions with visual instructions; using behavioral management techniques; adjusting class schedules; modifying test delivery; using tape recorders, computer-aided instruction, and other audio-visual equipment; selecting modified textbooks or workbooks; and tailoring homework assignments.

Other provisions range from consultation to special resources and may include reducing class size; use of one-on-one tutorials; classroom aides and note takers; involvement of a “services coordinator” to oversee implementation of special programs and services, and possible modification of nonacademic times such as lunchroom, recess, and physical education.

Through the use of appropriate adaptations and interventions in regular classes, many of which may be required by Section 504, the Department belie

ves that LEAs will be able to effectively address the instructional needs of many children with ADD.

C. Procedural Safeguards Under Section 504

Procedural safeguards under the Section 504 regulation are stated more generally than in Part B. The Section 504 regulation requires the LEA to make available a system of procedural safeguards that permits parents to challenge actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their handicapped child whom they believe needs special education or related services. 34 CFR 104.36. The Section 504 regulation requires that the system of procedural safeguards include notice, an opportunity for the parents or guardian to examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation by the parents or guardian and representation by counsel, and a review procedure. Compliance with procedural safeguards of Part B is one means of fulfilling the Section 504 requirement. (Footnote 5) However, in an impartial due process hearing raising issues under the Section 504 regulation, the impartial hearing officer must make a determination based upon that regulation.

v. Conclusion



Congress and the Department have recognized the need to provide information and assistance to teachers, administrators, parents and other interested persons regarding the identification, evaluation, and instructional needs of children with ADD. The Department has formed a work group to explore strategies across principal offices to address this issue. The work group also p1ans to identify some ways that the Department can work with the education associations to cooperatively consider the programs and services needed by children with ADD across special and regular education.

In fiscal year 1991, the Congress appropriated funds for the Department to synthesize and disseminate current knowledge related to ADD. Four centers will be established in Fall, 1991 to analyze and synthesize the current research literature on ADD relating to identification, assessment, and interventions. Research syntheses will be prepared in formats suitable for educators, parents and researchers. Existing clearinghouses and networks, as well as Federal, State and local organizations will be utilized to disseminate these research syntheses to parents, educators and administrators, and other interested persons.

In addition, the Federal Resource Center will work with SEAs and the six regional resource centers authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to identify effective identification and assessment procedures, as well as intervention strategies being implemented across the country for children with ADD.

A document describing current practice will be developed and disseminated to parents, educators and administrators, and other interested persons through the regional resource centers network, as well as by parent training centers, other parent and consumer organizations, and professional organizations. Also, the Office for Civil Rights’ ten regional offices stand ready to provide technical assistance to parents and educators.
It is our hope that the above information will be of assistance to your State as you plan for the needs of children with ADD who require special education and related services under Part B, as well as for the needs of the broader group of children with ADD
who do not qualify for special education and related services under Part B, but for whom special education or adaptations in regular education programs are needed.
Footnotes:

1. While we recognize that the disorders ADD and ADHD vary, the term ADD is being used to encompass children with both disorders.

2. The Part B regulations define 11 specified disabilities.
34 CFR 300.5(b)(1)-(11). The Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 amended the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act] to specify that autism and traumatic brain injury are separate disability categories. See section 602(a)(1) of the Act, to be codified at 20 U.S.C. 1401(a)(1).

3. Section 300.505 of the Part B regulations sets out the elements that must be contained in the prior written notice to parents:

(1) A full explanation of all of the procedural safeguards available to the parents under Subpart E;
(2) A description of the action proposed or refused by the agency, an explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action, and a description of any options the agency considered and the reasons why those options were rejected;
(3) A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the agency uses as a basis for the proposal or refusal; and
(4) A description of any other factors which are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.
34 CFR 300.505(a) (1)-(4) .

4. Many LEAs use the same process for determining the needs of students under Section 504 that they use for implementing Part B.

5. Again, many LEAs and some SEAs are conserving time and resources by using the same due process procedures for resolving disputes under both.

Advocacy Tips: 3-Leave the Emotions At Home

This will be a short item.  The logic of it is simple.  Doing it is harder.  MUCH harder.  When you go to school meetings, whether it is a teacher/parent conference or an IEP meeting, remember that the only thing that helps make progress toward FAPE for your child is facts.  Gathering facts and presenting them in an organized way is the most important thing you can do.

Your credibility is on the line, and it’s nerve-wracking.  Your child is important to you and every moment lost to inappropriate education hurts; denial of services feels like outright betrayal of everything American schools are supposed to stand for.  For your credibility you have to pack all those emotions in a secure place and don’t let them out when meeting with school folks.

People are distracted by the emotions of other people.  Your emotions can sabotage everything you want to achieve for your child if you

1.  blame people,

2.  claim someone (or several) is incompetent,

3.  criticize in a non-constructive way, or

4.  threaten complaints or lawsuits.

Rather than blame someone or point out incompetence, offer to help them find the training they need to know how to serve your child well.  If your child’s disability is a common one, such as ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, suggest that you’d like to help improve the school’s ability to serve all students with that disability by getting the state Department of Education to help uncover more resources and training.

There are other venues for pointing out incompetence that will be more effective than destroying your credibility in your child’s meetings.

Offer your criticism outside these meetings where the focus can be on improvement of services for your child.  (And again, focus on the facts to be more effective.)

Do not threaten complaints or lawsuits.  If you are going to make a complaint or file a lawsuit, consider it carefully, get an advocate or attorney’s advice, and don’t “poison” your school relationships with threats you may never fulfill.  Be aware that in some cases, if school staff think you are filing formal complaints or lawsuits, their stance becomes defensive, some become bitter and more critical of you and your child, and some may take their frustrations out on your child.  Not all–perhaps one or two…maybe.  But one of those is more than enough, so keep your thoughts of complaints or lawsuits private until you know what you are going to do.  Then your attorney or advocate will advise you how to proceed with that information.  (And just so you know, even in this, the advice is…do it unemotionally so people will focus on the words and ideas, not on the tears, hysteria, tone of voice, level of upset, etc.)

Cooperation and support for school staff are often more effective than blame or criticism because they foster forward progress.  If you can’t make forward progress, you still need the relationship to be as good as it can be so your child doesn’t have to go to school with people who view him and you as a problem larger than just the disability issue.

We may see a lot of emotional outbursts on reality TV…but remember that those shows make their money by attracting viewers however they can get them.  The sensationalism of viewing other people’s emotions often hides a lot of the facts of what is going on–you’ve seen it over and over on reality TV.  But that is the fact.  Emotions often hide reality and make it more difficult to get to the achievement we need.

We need our emotions.  But we don’t need them in our school meetings.  Leave the emotions at home so you can be your most effective self in your advocacy for your child’s FAPE.