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.

Back in the Saddle

Hello again, Parents, Grandparents, Everyone!

I’ve been “gone” for a while. Broken shoulder, tried a couple of wasting-time jobs, and for a time, lost track of the info I needed to manage the account. But here I am again. And WHAT NEWS!

On January 15, 2014, I will be starting College Prep/College Readiness webinars for parents of disabled students in grades 6-12. Currently 80% of these students are destined to start college but never get the degree no matter how high their grade or SAT/ACT scores.

I am a parent of 2 disabled children with a total of 11different diagnoses. I have 25 years of education and disability consultation/advocacy experience. I KNOW children with disabilities can obtain college degrees from all kinds of schools. After working in the disability services center of Florida International University and finding out what made it possible for those students to succeed, I know it is far MORE THAN ACCOMMODATIONS or IEPs or 504 plans and it should begin in 6th grade.  Success for college students with disabilities began with informed and determined parents.

While writing a book on the subject, I found out why we parents have never had a place to go to learn what we need. We need to know 34 things other parents don’t and all that “stuff” comes out of 8 professional fields.

I will be coaching, offering professional speakers, resources, sample letters and advocacy skills and parent training. We will cover the rights and roles of parents in providing FAPE for a child.  I don’t care how many people are around a computer at school or at home while you do this. I will coach families and their professional support team (doctors, therapists, teachers, etc.) so children with the potential to become college students can also become college graduates.

If you want online coaching to help you become a stronger, positive and successful advocate and case manager for your child, if you want to know how to teach your child to be his own case manager — (successful, YES!) leave your e-mail address in a comment for this post.  Your privacy will be respected.  No post with an e-mail address in it will be published unless the writer specifically requests it.  Comments, anyone?

Advocacy Tips: 1–Educate Yourself

Hello, Parents!

This week I want to discuss some tips for how to advocate for your child’s educational needs.  We’ll use 5 topics:

1. Educate yourself.
2. Focus only on the facts.
3. Leave emotions at home.
4. Don’t make things go personal.
5. Be realistic.

Each day I’ll elaborate on each topic so you can start applying information to your child’s case in useful ways.

Educate yourself.  Schools provide special education according to:
special education laws, regulations, and procedures,
civil rights laws that help prevent discrimination,
privacy and confidentiality laws, and
accountability laws.

You can’t use a system effectively if you don’t know its rules.  These laws are the “rules of the game” for special education.  I know it looks massive that there are five different sets of law we must know and use, and we are not attorneys.  However, these laws were all written so private individuals like ourselves could read, understand and use them.  You don’t need to learn it all overnight. Just read through it now so you know what is in there.  Learn those parts that you will need for your most current issues in advocacy.  Eventually you’ll know it thoroughly.

Study the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Act that started special education in public schools.

Learn Family Rights in Education and Privacy Act (FERPA) so you will know the rules about confidentiality of all the documentation and services for children in public schools.  This is a short piece of law, and it isn’t hard to follow.

Take a look at No Child Left Behind (NCLB) so you have an idea how this act benefits children with disabilities.  The whole point of this law was to create new levels of accountability to assure that schools/school districts don’t ignore children whose education is difficult.

Know Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped Act of 1973, now renamed Rehabilitation Act.  This is where we get the phrase “equal access” and the concept that there must also be equal effectiveness and equal opportunity.

Know the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) well enough that you know how to back up what you say about IDEA and Section 504 with ADA clout.

All these laws were written in non-attorney language so average citizens can read and understand them.  Your nearest Parent-To-Parent group conducts training sessions or workshops on these laws, and even if you can’t go to one of those, they can help you.

Go to your state’s Department of Education website or telephone their offices of special education and ask for copies of the Board of Education Rules/Regulations about special education and the matching policies and procedures.  Don’t forget to specify that you want the ones related to special education or you will only get the package for regular education.

Get and know your state’s laws regarding special education.  Every state must have laws for how it plans to follow the federal laws and there will be matching laws for each part of IDEA.  (This is easier because often these laws are very similar to the federal laws.  But there will be differences, and you need to know them.)

Your ultimate power in IEP meetings will come when you carry these books with you with all your bookmarks showing, highlighting on the pages for the clauses that concern your child’s case, and you can refer to them on the spot whenever you encounter resistance to what you know your child must have in order to learn.

The website at http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm#anchor65610 contains summaries of these laws and resources for where to call for help.

Tomorrow:  Focus on Facts

Vocabulary Can Cause Stress

Hello, Parents!

It is not easy to learn the vocabulary of other professions or vocational fields when you don’t work in them.  The stress comes because when you’re in school meetings and doctors’ offices, people are using words you don’t know and you don’t understand what professionals are saying about your child.  You know now that ignorance is NOT bliss! As a parent, you must learn these words and terms in order to use them so you will know what education and medical professionals are trying to tell you and so these professionals will know what you want to say to them.

This is where the Internet becomes incredibly useful.  Parents can go online and do research about their child’s disability in the fields of medicine and education and learn a large part of the vocabulary the professionals will be using.  Other parents you meet at school and in support groups will share what they know with you, so ask them what some of these words and terms mean.  The words we don’t understand in a meeting can be explained if we ask, “I’m sorry, you just used a word that went over my head.  What does XXX mean?”  The more often you ask this in a meeting, the more it signals the professionals that you intend to understand what is going on as well as they do.  This is exactly what parents need to do and exactly what most parents don’t do because they are embarrassed.

However, if you do ask, there will be a day when you no longer have to ask and you will be talking with these professionals as a member of a team where all parties are informed and therefore are capable of making real progress in helping your child become a more independent, more functional adult.  On that day, give yourself ten gold stars for doing a great job of being a GREAT parent!