Advocacy Tip #3


  • Reviewing and comparing your child’s IEP progress report every grading period. Know what you child’s baseline is.  (Should be in the PLAAFP or IEP goal itself)
  • Requesting the data from the school that was collected each grading period.
  • If your child has not made progress or has regressed after 1 IEP progress reporting period schedule a meeting with your child’s gen. ed. teacher and/or special education teacher
  • If your child has not made progress or has regressed after 2 IEP progress reporting periods request an ARD meeting.

Problem Report Worksheet

Do you keep track of all the times your child’s school calls you to report an incident or behavior?  If not, you may want to consider doing so.  A great tool to use is the Problem Report WorksheetContinue reading

U.S. Department of OSERS Issues Guidance on FAPE and Access to Grade Level Conent

USDOE2Today the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a letter offering guidance on a child’s IEP program must be aligned with the State’s academic content standard for the grade in which the child is enrolled.  This documents gives examples of how the school can implement this guidance. Continue reading

U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance on Dyslexia

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services released a letter today giving guidance to states and schools on the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, and IEP documents. Continue reading

Q&A: Scheduling ARD (IEP) Meetings

Today, I am going to address three questions that I am often asked regarding scheduling ARD (IEP) meetings.

Can I request an ARD (IEP) meeting before my child’s Annual meeting?  Yes, at any time you can request an ARD (IEP) meeting.  Make your request in writing to either your child’s principal or the ARD coordinator.  In Texas, the school then has 5 school days to contact you to schedule the meeting or provide you with a written response as to why they are not going to schedule an ARD (IEP) meeting. Continue reading

Toolbox Tips for Parents #2: iAdvocate App

tipsThe iAdvocate app is a free app developed at the Syracuse University School of Education.  The app grew out of a need to provide resources for parents of students with disabilities.  According to the developers:  “the goal of iAdvocate is to share and develop specific strategies with parents for working collaboratively with a school team to improve their children’s education. iAdvocate uses problem-based learning strategies, simulations, and provides contextual access resources to build parental advocacy skills and knowledge.”

This is a wonderful app to download and have ready for when you attend ARD (IEP) meetings.  The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play.

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. 

Dear Colleague Letter Re: Speech and Language Services for Kids with Autism

In a letter to states, the US DOE reminds schools to include speech and language evaluations when evaluating children with autism and to make sure they are receiving speech and language services if needed.  States are told “when conducting evaluations under Part C of the IDEA, the evaluation must identify the child’s level of functioning in each of the following developmental areas:  cognitive development; physical development, including vision and hearing; communication development; social or emotional development; and adaptive development.”

Homework Log: A Tool to Help Prepare for School Meetings

Homwork Pic

One way you as a parent can monitor and communicate with your child’s school about the progress your child is making is to keep a Homework Log.  This log should contain the name of the assignment, how long it took them to complete the assignment, accommodations used, the level of parental support and a spot for notes and observations.  You can even add columns for the date the assignment was due, turned in, and the grade.

When filled out on a consistent basis this log can provide valuable information to your child’s team when it comes time to making changes to their accommodations.  This log will show the team if your child is taking longer than expected to complete assignments, how much help they are receiving from you, and if the accommodations are working successfully or not.  Changes to your child’s current accommodations or new accommodations can be made based off this log.

If you are trying a new accommodation at night and your child has been successful using it, this log can help show the school that the accommodation is working and should be implemented in the classroom as well.

More Tools to Help Prepare for School Meetings:

Special Education Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

Do the terms and acronyms that school personnel use when talking about your child’s special education services seem like the letters in a bowl of alphabet soup?  All jumbled up and not meaning anything?  Today’s post will define some of the most commonly used terms when it comes to your child’s special education services.

Some of these terms will be specific to the state of Texas.

Accommodations:  Change how the child will access the general education curriculum.  They level the playing field by helping the child overcome his or her disabilities.  They do not modify the curriculum.

Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee:  In Texas, the committee that develops the IEP for a child.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP):  A BIP describes the interventions and strategies that school personnel will use, as well as modifications and supports they will provide, to help change a student’s behavior.  A BIP is based on the information contained in the FBA.  For those receiving special education services, the BIP then becomes part of the child’s IEP.

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI):  Early intervention program from birth through age 3 for children with development delays or disabilities and their families.  In Texas, DARS is the designated lead agency for the implementation and maintenance of the ECI program.  ECI programs are required by Part C of IDEA.

Extended School Year Services (ESY):  Extended School Year (ESY) services are services provided outside of the normal school year (over the summer or during holiday break).  Extended school year services must be provided if the IEP team has decided that the services are necessary for the child to receive a free and appropriate public education.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  This law gives parents certain rights with respect to their child’s education records.  This includes the right to inspect and review your child’s education records and the right to ask that your child’s education records be corrected.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):  Special education and related services that are provided at no cost to the parents and based on the individual needs of the students as specified in the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE):  An evaluation process to determine if the child is a child with a disability or if the child continues to be a child with a disability and by reason thereof need special education and related services.  It should cover all areas of the child’s suspected disabilities and should not be limited to just one test.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA):  A process of collecting information that is used to determine why certain behaviors in a student occur.  The FBA is then used to develop the Behavior Intervention Plan.

Inclusion:  Integrating special education students into the mainstream general education classroom.

Individual Education Evaluation (IEE):  An independent evaluation at public expense asked for by the parents when they are in disagreement with the school’s evaluation. The IEE is conducted by an individual who is not employed by the local education agency.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):  Act to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate education through special education and related services that is designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

Individual Education Program:  A document required by IDEA that is designed to meet a child’s individual needs and must be developed based on the child’s individual needs.  Every child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP.  The IEP is a legally binding document.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):  To maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled.  Removal of children with disabilities to a more restrictive environment should occur “only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” (20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(5)(A))

Local Education Agency (LEA):  Your local school district or charter school.

Modifications:  Are a change in what is being taught or expected from the student.  Modification generally means that the grade level curriculum is being watered down or altered.

Office of Civil Rights (OCR):  The part of the U.S. Department of Education that is responsible for the enforcement of Section 504.

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP):  Part of the U.S. Department of Education that is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS):  According to it is “a framework or approach for assisting school personnel in adopting and organizing evidence-based behavioral interventions into an integrated continuum that enhances academic and social behavior outcomes for all students.”

Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD):  In Texas, school district Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) provide special education and related services for eligible children with disabilities ages 3-5. PPCD refers to the services provided by the school district, not to the place where they are provided.  In Texas, TEA is the designated lead agency for implementation and maintenance of Part B of IDEA.

Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP):  Description of a child’s current abilities, skills, weaknesses and strengths both academically, socially, and physically.  It should describe how a child’s disability affects his or her ability to access the general education curriculum.  It should contain information from a variety of sources such as the most recent FIE, teacher observations, data that has been collected either through formal or informal assessments, progress monitoring, results of local and state tests, and parent information.  The PLAAFP should serve as the foundation for the development of the IEP.

Prior Written Notice (PWN):  A procedural safeguard under IDEA.  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.

Response to Intervention (RTI):  The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities website states, “RTI is a process that schools can use to help children who are struggling academically or behaviorally.” Every student in schools using RTI is involved on one level or another. The idea behind RTI is to identify students who are at risk or struggling and provide them with evidence based instruction and interventions. Schools cannot use the RTI process as a reason to deny a parent’s request for their child to be evaluated for special education and related services.

State Education Agency (SEA):  In Texas, the state education agency is  the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Progress Monitoring and Your Child

CheckListThe federal regulations state that your child’s IEP include a description of “how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured.” (34 CFR §300.320)   The act does not require goals to have outcomes or measures on a specific assessment tool.

Most IEPs only contain a statement that says progress monitoring will be done by data collection and observations.  They are not specific in how the data will be collected, how often the data will be collected, and when changes in instruction will be considered.  If procedures are put in place they will help direct how data will be collected in order to help the IEP team make decisions about the progress of your child.  Most schools also only monitor progress around the time report cards are issued or even once a quarter.  This is not enough information to determine if your child is making progress on his/her goals.  IEP goals should be monitored frequently and consistently.

 Progress monitoring tools, such as those discussed in my previous post, when used consistently and correctly should give you and your child’s teachers an effective tool to monitor how well your child is responding to classroom instruction and what progress they are making towards their IEP goals.  Progress monitoring allows a teacher to make adjustments to their instruction strategies to help your child make progress.

If you have questions about how your child’s progress is being measured or how he/she is making progress, schedule a meeting with his general education teacher, special education teacher or case manager.  At the meeting ask how your child’s progress is being monitored and measured.  Ask to be provided with the data and discuss how often you would like to be provided with the data.  If you do not receive the answers to your questions consider asking for an IEP meeting to discuss your questions and concerns.  You have the right to ask for the data as this will allow you to make an informed decision about your child’s IEP.

Some questions to ask the IEP team regarding progress monitoring:

  1. How will my child’s progress towards these goals be measured?
  2. What methodology will be used to help my child make progress in his/her particular areas of academic deficit and is it research based?
  3. How often will progress be monitored?
  4. How will you document my child’s progress?
  5. When will changes in instruction be considered?