You Can Fight Back Against Special Education Denials That Hurt Your Child!

Are you the parent of a child with autism, learning disabilities, or another disability receiving special education services? Are you sick and tired of special education personnel in your district denying your child needed related and special education services? This article will empower you to fight back for your child by addressing important advocacy skills.

Advocacy Strategy 1: Educate yourself about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 2004) and your states regulations on special education. You can do this by reading books, attending conferences and developing friendships with more experienced parents of children with disabilities. By being educated on federal and state law your chances of success with your advocacy increase.

Advocacy Strategy 2: Documentation is critical in winning a special education dispute. Begin sending letters to document what is occurring in your child’s education. Important verbal conversations must be followed up by a short letter, to the person you spoke to. For Example: Your child’s teacher states in a phone conversation that your child is not progressing, and needs more intense related and special education services. Immediately write a letter to the teacher, including the date and time of the conversation, and what was said. The letter needs to be Hand delivered to the teacher, or sent certified with a return receipt. This will document what the teacher said, even if she denies that she ever said it.

Also, save any letters or other documentation sent from special education personnel. You should save important school papers, any notes about negative behavior, any documentation that you need to strengthen your advocacy position. I once advocated for a young boy who had negative behavior at school. The school was sending home daily behavior sheets, and I advised the mother to date them, and not throw them away. We used them at a due process to show that when the school district stated the child’s behavior was out of control, the behavior sheet said he was fine. Documentation can win a case, or lack of documentation can lose a case.

Advocacy Strategy 3: Tape record all IEP meetings, and if possible and necessary have a transcriber transcribe them for future use. Transcriptions of IEP meetings can be used at due process as documentation.

In all my years of advocacy, I have never been a huge fan of tape recording, but I have recently changed my mind. School districts have become so bold in denying things they tell parents, that it is critical that parents have documentation of what is being said in meetings, and what the school district is agreeing to. I find a huge discrepancy between what many special education personnel agree to in a meeting, and what is being documented in a child’s IEP. A transcript of a tape recorded meeting could be used as evidence in a due process hearing, to show what the school district agreed to.

Advocacy Strategy 4: Whenever special education personnel want to change a child’s label placement or refuse to change your child’s label or placement, they must give prior written notice (PWN) to you. Also, if they deny services that your child needs, they must also give PWN. For example: If you take your child to an independent evaluator and bring the report of recommendations to the school district, and they refuse to follow the recommendations, they must give you PWN, on why they are not following the recommendations.

Advocacy Strategy 5: Be willing to file state complaints or due process for non compliance with IDEA 2004, or if the school district does not give your child FAPE. Going over the school districts head is the best way to ensure that your child is getting the appropriate services that they need.

With these advocacy strategies under your belt, you will have a better chance of prevailing in a dispute with your school district. Your child is depending on you so work hard for their benefit.

6 Ways to Improve Special Education For All Children With Special Needs!

Are you the parent of a child with autism or another disability that is frustrated by the special education system? More than 6 million students with disabilities receive special education services in federally funded special education programs. This is about 9% of the country’s school age population. This is a lot of children who depend on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to help them get the services that they need to live a fulfilled life. As any parent of a child with a disability knows much improvement needs to be made to the special education system. This article will discuss 6 ways to improve the special education system.

Needed to improve the special education system:

1. More available parent training and more resources to pay for the training! Parent trainings are available but in most cases do cost, which prevents some parents from attending. Parents must understand their rights under IDEA in order to be effective advocates for their child.

2. More effective enforcement of IDEA, to include the withholding of funds from states and school districts, who are continually non compliant! The enforcement of IDEA basically does not exist. It is the federal governments responsibility to enforce IDEA to the states, and it is the states responsibility to enforce IDEA of local school districts. Neither one does very much in this area. Enforcement without withholding of funds will not work. In my experience it will not take many states losing their IDEA funding, before major positive changes will occur.

3. Improved diagnosis of disabilities and an easier eligibility process! Many children with disabilities throughout the US are told that they do not have a disability, therefore are not eligible for special education services. This reality hurts children with disabilities and may forever ruin their lives! Parents often do not even know that they can disagree with the schools opinion! The eligibility process needs to be made more child friendly!

4. Special education personnel must set realistic high expectations for all children with disabilities! Congress has said from the beginning that school districts expectations of children with disabilities are too low. School personnel and parents must believe that children can be successful in their education and lives, if given an appropriate education, and keep expectations high.

5. Focus on outcomes of special education so that all children will be ready for post school learning and independent living! For the year 2005-2006 55% of children with disabilities graduated from high school, in comparison to a little over 70% of children without disabilities graduated from high school. This will limit the children’s ability to go to college or get a job, which will affect the rest of their lives!

6. Improve the federal funding of IDEA! The current estimates are that the federal government only pays about 17% of per pupil costs for special education. The federal government needs to put their money where there mouth is, and fund IDEA fully!

All parents can be involved in advocating for systemic special education improvements. Notify your state and federal representatives and see how they are willing to get involved, in this process. Children with disabilities deserve to receive an appropriate education and live their lives to the fullest!