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'Tis Back to School Season
August 16, 2012 - Colleen Carpenter
When I stop and think about how much I've had to negotiate, compromise and fight for Lucas's public education, it scares me to think about all the parents out there who don't even know how to fight for their child's rights. Many times, I've spoken to parents who truly did do not understand their rights. Public education is a business. If there is money to be saved, the chances of a school volunteering to add supports for a child with special needs are slim to none. In West Virginia, the special education policy is called "2419." I've provided a link to go with this blog for anyone who has a child, relative, friend or knows anyone who can benefit from reading the law.
I'm not here to tell you what to do or how to do it, but if parents don't advocate for their child, then nobody will. I want to share some back to school tips for parents of children with special needs:
1) Put everything in writing. If it's not in writing, it didn't happen.
2) If you have a phone call with school staff, follow up with a letter or e-mail summarizing the conversation.
3) KNOW your rights (read policy 2419)
4) If you think your child may need special education services (this can be anything from a speech delay to autism), put IN WRITING to the principal and district special education director with a date and your signature, the name of you child, school, grade level, teacher, what you would like your child evaluated for and why you want the evaluation. BY LAW you should have an eligibility meeting where you will get the results of the evaluation, within 80 calendar days.
5) The following people MUST be present at your IEP (Individual Education Plan) Meeting unless YOU permit an excusal"
— YOU (the parent)
— A general education teacher (even if your child is in a special needs classroom all day, you still have to have a general ed. teacher present)
— The child's special ed teacher (or if only receiving speech, the speech therapist)
— An administrator (or if only receiving speech, the speech therapist)
— Representatives of any agency providing relevant services to your child. You can request that people are invited!
6) Don't sign anything unless you truly understand what you are signing.
7) It's OK to disagree with the teacher, the school and/or the district. You should do so politely and explain your reasoning while insisting that your concerns are documented.
8) Make sure you understand the term "least restrictive environment!"
"A student receiving special education services is to be educated with age-appropriate non-exceptional peers to the maximum extent appropriate based on the IEP. The LRE decision focuses on with whom the student is educated rather than where the student is educated. This provision includes students placed in public or private institutions or other care facilities."
9) Know what services you'd like your child to receive, but be open minded.
10) You know what's best for your child. Sure, professionals have expertise in certain areas, but you are your child's first teacher.
I've included some links for you to read and share, but even better than that is connecting with other parents and having a support system in place to talk, laugh, cry and just have someone who "gets it."
Here's to a great 2012-2013 school year!
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