Special Education Process: Step 3-Eligibility

With school starting back up, I have seen an increase in posts on various support group pages from parents who state that their child’s school district did not find their child with X disability to be eligible for special education services. Many times there are several responses such as if your child has a disability they automatically qualify for special education services.  A school district cannot deny your child special education services.  Continue reading

Toolbox Tips for Parents #8: Back-To-School

back-to-schoolI was in Wal-Mart earlier this week and noticed that school supplies are already making their way into the shopping carts of parents.  I thought now would be a good time to give some back-to-school tips to help parents be prepared for the upcoming school year. Continue reading

Requesting Data and Work Samples for IEP Goal Progress Monitoring

1_Progress%20ReportI want to discuss the importance of requesting data and work samples for each IEP progress reporting period.  Many times you will receive your child’s progress report and it may show that your child is making progress, but the school work that you see does not show that your child is making progress.  You discuss this with your child’s teacher and they assure you that your child is making progress.  Without data to back up the assurances of your child’s teacher, the response is just the teacher’s opinion.  The data is what determines if your child is making progress or not.

As a parent you have the right to request and receive the data.  Take a look at your child’s IEP goals and notate the reporting period for reporting progress on IEP goals.  For most this will be the same time that report cards are issued.  Then calendar no less than 5 business days before each reporting period to send a letter or e-mail to either your child’s case manager or the ARD facilitator requesting the data on progress for all goals (including behavior goals) for the reporting period, including computer generated data and work samples.  Below are several reasons for requesting the data each reporting period:

1. The data and works samples may get destroyed prior to the next ARD meeting;

2.  You can track baseline data and progress towards the performance level your child is expected to be at by the end of the IEP year;

3.  You can determine if any modifications and supports need to be changed prior to the annual ARD meeting; and

4.  This data can help develop new IEP goals and determine the need for Extended School Year Services (ESY).

If you do not understand the codes that are being used on the progress report and/or the data, ask that you be provided with a key.

If you have not been able to get your questions answered by the teacher or the case manager or if you feel your child is not making progress you can make a request in writing for an ARD meeting to be scheduled.  In Texas, the school must then schedule the ARD meeting or provide you with a written explanation as to why the district refuses to schedule an ARD meeting.  This written explanation must be provided to you within 5 school days of receiving your request for the ARD meeting.

More Information:

This post is intended to give you a general idea of the law.  However, each situation is different.  If you need more specific information about how the law applies to your situation you should contact a special education attorney. 

Parental Attachment to IEP Document

After the IEP meeting is over get in the habit of drafting and sending to the school a parental attachment.  This documents your version of the IEP meeting.  The school may or may not address the issues, in fact go into this believing that the school will not act on this.  The importance of this document is that you are documenting issues in the event you have to file a complaint or legal action against the school district.  Do not present arguments just facts in this document.  Your agenda should present arguments.  Review your notes, the IEP document, and, if you recorded the meeting, the recording before beginning.  Below are some of the things you can document in this attachment:

1)  If you find any errors in the IEP document address them in the attachment and ask that the school correct them.

2)  If you were not given enough time or were not allowed to address all your concerns or requests document them here.  If something happened or did not happen at the IEP meeting also document that.

3)  If you asked about the qualifications of your child’s teachers and the school’s response.

4)  If you asked for additional testing include what testing you asked for and the school’s response.

5)  If the school denied any of your requests.  Be sure to send a Prior Written Notice Letter also.

6)  If the school made a decision that you did not agree with.

7)  If you asked the school to provide you with any data or documentation and who is to be providing that information and if there is a deadline for providing the information.

8)  Anything else that you think is relevant that was not discussed at the meeting.

Send this to the school with a cover letter asking that the document be attached to your child’s IEP dated ______________.   Keep both the document and letter formal, without emotions and without accusing anyone.

Tips for Attending the ARD Meeting

Now that you are prepared for your upcoming ARD meeting, below are some things to keep in mind while at the meeting.

1. Come Prepared: Make sure that you have all your supporting documentation, extra copies of your agenda, pens, and note pads.  If you are tape recording the meeting make sure you have fresh batteries in the recorder and that it works.

2.  Ask Questions and Take Lots of Notes:  If you do not understand something ask.  Do not let the school go on to the next part if you have questions.  Politely state that you have some questions regarding what was just went over.  Ask Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions.

Make sure you are taking notes.  Be sure to document anytime your request was denied, the name/position of the person who denied it and what they said.

3.  Slow the School Down:  It can be hard trying to keep up with what the school is saying, taking notes, and formulating questions in your head all at the same time.  If the school is going too fast, politely ask that they slow down as you are having a hard time following along.  If they don’t do it the first time, keep politely asking until they do.

4.  Make Requests In Writing:   Make your requests in writing.  If you make it verbally, follow it up in writing.  State what you want, what action you want the IEP team to make, and the facts that support your request.

5.  Protect the Parent-School Relationship:  Leave emotions and negative views regarding a member of the team at home.  Stick to the facts.  Do not blame or criticize someone.  Blaming or criticizing a member of the team will make that member or the whole team defensive and getting a yes to your request hard if not impossible.

6.  Learn to NegotiateSeek win-win solutions to problems.  If you are getting no where with a request propose implementing it as a trial for a period of time and then set a time to come back as a team to review the results.  Seek to understand where the school is coming from to help you develop solutions that will allow the school to meet your child’s needs.

Preparing for Your Upcoming ARD/IEP Meeting

Below are some tips to help you prepare for the ARD meeting:

1.  Review your records and make sure that you have a copy of all current evaluations and IEP documents.  If you do not have these request a copy from the school.

2.  Review your child’s previous IEP and all the progress reports pertaining to your child’s goals.  Has your child made progress?  If not make a note of what goals your child has not made progress in.

3.  Ask the school to provide you with a draft copy of the IEP document and any other documents, assessments, or reports they will be discussing at the meeting.  Review it and make sure that all goals and objectives are driven by the present levels of academic performance and functional performance.  Also make sure the goals and objectives are SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Use Action Words, Realistic and Relevant, Time-limited.  Make note of any changes or questions you have.

4.  Write out your questions, concerns, things you are asking for (new accommodations, modifications, new services, increased service time, etc.)  Provide a copy to the school prior to the ARD meeting.  This allows them time to address your concerns and to make sure enough time is planned for the meeting.  If you are asking for new services be sure to ask in writing for the evaluation for the service, not the service itself.

5.  Gather all documents (including your child’s school work) that supports your questions, concerns, and requests.  Create any graphs to show your child’s lack of progress.   Make an extra copy for the school.

6.  Bring someone along as source of support.  Ask a friend, family member, a parent from your support group, or hire a professional advocate to attend the meeting with you.

Related Posts:  Common Mistakes Parents Make, Notice of ARD Meeting, The IEP/504 Meeting is Over, Now What?

What is a FBA?

FBA stands for functional behavioral assessment. It is an assessment that uses various strategies to determine the purpose or function of a specific behavior. Once the function of the behavior has been determined, strategies and supports can be developed and put in place to reduce or eliminate the behavior.

If your child is not responding to standard classroom behavior intervention strategies, you can request in writing that your child’s school conduct a FBA. As it is an evaluation your consent will be required before the school can start the assessment.

Generally, the person conducting the assessment will formulate a hypothesis identifying the behavior, the times when the student engages in the behavior and any factors or events that contribute to the behavior. They will then observe the student and record data from the observation(s). Most evaluators use the A-B-C (antecedent/stimulus, behavior/action, and consequence) method for recording data. They will also interview the child’s teachers and/or parent(s), and look at what other data has been collected regarding the student’s behavior.

Once all the data has been collected, they will then analyze it to determine the behavior’s function, the factors affecting the behavior, the environment in which the behavior takes place, the work demands on the student, and emotional and biological influences on the behavior. Once the evaluation is complete, a Behavior Intervention Plan will be developed and approved by the IEP committee, and implemented.

Planning a Move?

Moving can be hectic in and of itself. When it involves moving schools, especially with a child who has an IEP additional stress can be added. By planning ahead some of the stress can be alleviated.

Moving Within the District:

Since you are moving within the same district, your child’s current IEP will be accepted by the new school. As soon as you know the date you plan to enroll your child in the new school, you can ask that a coordination of services meeting be scheduled with the new school and that they invite any relevant persons from your child’s current school to attend. Their input along with yours can help facilitate a smooth transition into the new school.

Moving Within the State Within the Same School Year:

Start out by making sure your child’s IEP is current. If it is not or if you have any changes you would like made, request an IEP meeting. If your child is due for their triennial evaluation ask that your child’s current school conduct it well in advance of your move date (if possible) so that you can have current evaluations to take with you to the new school district. Ask if your child’s teachers will write a letter stating your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and what strategies have worked in their classroom for your child.

As soon as you know a firm moving date, contact the new school and ask that they forward you the necessary releases so that they can get copies of your child’s school file in advance of the move. Ask that they provide you with their district guidelines and policies for special education services. If you are unsure of the way the new district operates you can contact the local Parent Training and Information Center for help or work with a local advocate to help you get through the initial process.

Schedule a meeting to go over your child’s current IEP either before the move or soon after the move. By law the new school must provide services comparable to your child’s current IEP until it decides to adopt the IEP or perform their own evaluation and develop a new IEP. If they decide to evaluate your child it must be done “as expeditiously as possible, to ensure prompt completion of full evaluations.”

Moving to a New State Within the Same School Year:

In addition to the recommendations in the section above, contact the new state’s education agency and ask that they provide you with copies of that state’s laws and guidelines for special education.

The new state must provide services comparable to your child’s current IEP until they evaluate your child, determine eligibility, and develop a new IEP. Again the evaluation must be done “as expeditiously as possible to ensure prompt completion of full evaluations.”

As with your current school district, you are afforded the same procedural safeguards with the new school district, including the right to an IEE, if you disagree with their evaluation, and the right to due process.

Transmittal of Records:

The new school must “take reasonable steps to promptly obtain the child’s records” from the previous school. The previous school must “take reasonable steps to promptly respond to such a request from the new school.”

Prior Written Notice

Under IDEA parents have several procedural safeguards. You should receive a copy of these safeguards at the initial ARD meeting and at every annual ARD meeting. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them.

One of these procedural safeguards is Prior Written Notice (PWN). Schools are required to provide to parents prior written notice of why they are proposing or refusing to evaluate, initiate or change identification, placement, or a provision of free appropriate public education. The notice must contain the following:

• A description of the action proposed or refused;
• An explanation as to why the action was proposed or refused;
• A description of any other options considered and an explanation as to why those options were rejected;
• A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report used as a basis for the proposal or refusal of the action;
• A description of any other factors relevant to the proposal or refusal of the action;
• A reference to the parents’ procedural safeguards; and
• Sources for parents to obtain assistance in understanding the written notice provisions.

This notice must be provided to you in your native language and written in a way the general public would understand the document.

If you do not receive PWN within a short period of time after the school proposed or refused your proposal, you need to make a written request for the school to provide you with it.

There are three main reasons why prior written notice is important:

1. It gives you the parent detailed information to help you understand why the school is proposing an action or refusing to take an action proposed by you.

2. By schools having to detail why they are proposing or refusing an action, it ensures that you are included in the decisions that impact your child’s educational program. It helps to prevent bad decision-making.

3. By you asking for PWN, it puts the school on notice that you do not agree with their proposal or refusal of an action. This may lead to further discussion and possibly the school changing their decision. Either way you now have a written record of the request that can be used if the need for due process arises.

Prior Written Notice Sample Letter

This post is intended to give you a general idea of the law.  However, each situation is different.  If you need more specific information about how the law applies to your situation you should contact a special education attorney.

Common Mistakes Parents Make

Below are some common mistakes parents make when dealing with their child’s school. I am guilty of making a few of these myself.

1. Not Understanding Your Child’s Disability and The Impact It Has on Their Education:

Not only can there be medical implications with your child’s disability, there can be educational implications as well.  Make sure that you have properly researched your child’s disability through credible resources.  Learn what supports and services are recommended for your child to help them receive a beneficial education.  Join a local support group to learn from others whose children are older than yours and have already traveled the path that you are currently on.

2.  Not Understanding or Knowing Your Rights as a Parent:

Make sure you are familiar with your rights as a parent.  Accept and read over the Procedural Safeguards that the school is required to offer to you at your child’s annual IEP Meeting.  Be familiar with your right to Prior Written Notice.  Whenever you make a request at an IEP meeting, the school is to provide you with a written notice outlining why they agreed or disagreed with your request and what information they used to make their decision.

3. Not Making Requests in Writing/Not Documenting Events:

Try to communicate with the school in writing as much as possible.  All requests for evaluations, IEP meetings, and related services should be made in writing.  There are time frames the school must follow for certain requests, such as evaluations, and most are not started until the school has received the request in writing.  You should also follow-up any verbal communications with the school with a confirming letter.  Putting everything in writing helps to prevent miscommunication.

You should also document events as they happen either on a log or in a journal  (i.e. on 5/13/13 (Name of Person) did not follow IEP by not giving (Name of Child) extra time to complete (Name of Assignment)).  You then have specific dates and examples when addressing an issue with the school.

4.  Letting Your Emotions Take Over:

You should be careful about what emotions you show the school.  Out of control emotions can damage the businesslike relationship you want to have with the school.  If the school does something that makes you angry do not let them see it.  You do not have to respond right away.  Remove yourself from the situation by telling the school that you need time to consider the information and that you will get back to them in the next couple of days.  If you need to, talk with a friend who has a child in special education or a support group to help you release the negative feelings and to gain some perspective of the situation.   Be sure to keep emotions out of any communication with the school.  Just state the facts.

5.  Asking for a Related Service and Not the Evaluation to Determine if the Service is Needed:

You believe that your child will benefit from a related service and you ask the school to provide the related service and they state they state they do not think your child needs the service and you leave the meeting feeling frustrated that your child did not get the related service.  Instead you need to ask that your child be evaluated for the service that you want for your child.  Your child will then be evaluated by the person who is qualified to determine if your child needs the related service.

6.  Accepting Evaluations Results:

Your child has been evaluated by the school district and the results are in.  They have either found that your child is not eligible for services or you do not agree with their diagnosis or that they can offer services (i.e. speech therapy) but for a shorter amount of time than you think is necessary.  Do you just accept their results and move on?  No, you can ask for an independent educational evaluation at the school’s expense.  This evaluation will be conducted  by someone of your choosing who is qualified to perform educational evaluations.

7.  Not Understanding Your Importance in the IEP Process:

You play an important role in the IEP process.  You know your child the best.  Do not sit back and let the school control the meeting.  Do not let the school hurry through the meeting.  If you do not understand something ask questions.  Take an active role in the development of the IEP goals.  Make sure that they are measurable and driven by the present level of performance and functioning statements.  Do not accept a document that they hand you without any input from you.  You have the right to help develop your child’s IEP.

8.  Not Bringing Someone to the Meeting:

If you cannot afford an advocate, bring a friend or family member with you to the meeting.  Just do not go alone.  These meetings tend to be very emotional and a lot of information is being discussed.  This person can help you keep track of information, take notes for you, and keep you from getting too emotional.  It can be very intimidating sitting alone in a room full of district personnel and having a supportive person there can be a source of strength.