I've been getting bombarded with pleas for help from another parent group regarding getting their child on an IEP or improving a bad IEP. Most of the kids are not difficult children so referring them here would likely just scare a lot of them Here is what I wrote so far. Please let me know if you think there is anything else I should include. I'm getting a lot of the same questions over and over so I wanted a basic read-this-first kind of thing: ************************************* Having spent 5 years as a Special Education teacher and another 9 years as a parent of 4 special needs children (ranging from one on a 504 to one in a residential school), I hope that my experience can help some of you that are struggling with your child's schooling. Some basics to remember: 1. You are not asking for special privileges for your child. You are asking for services they are entitled to under federal and state civil rights laws. 2. There are only 2 "votes" at an IEP meeting. The school has one and the parents have one. Having 100 school staff at the table does not change that. 3. Special education is not a place, it is a range of services. Here is the best book on the market for parents. Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy You can also get much of the info from www.wrightslaw.com 1. You are not asking for special privileges for your child. You are asking for services they are entitled to under federal and state civil rights laws. Many parents think that they can only ask for services and that the school doesn't have to provide them. Often the school will make excuses that "there isn't enough money for that" or "we don't believe in labeling a child" or "that's against school policy." The reality is that it is the school's obligation to balance their budget, not yours -- and they can't balance it by violating federal law. Labels don't solve anything but a full evaluation of the suspected areas of disability can shed some much needed light on where and why a child struggles. School policy never, never trumps federal and state law. 2. There are only 2 "votes" at an IEP meeting. The school has one and the parents have one. Having 100 school staff at the table does not change that. Some schools will try and intimidate parents by stacking the table with a bunch of people with impressive sounding titles -- some of whom have never met your child. Usually the director of special education of their designee will hold the school's "vote". The IEP is suppose to be designed by a team of parents and school personnel. Some districts really get this and others do not. If your district walks into the IEP meeting with the IEP written and placement decided, thank them for their draft proposal and ask them to start at the beginning of the meeting so that you can consider the results of the evaluations, then their recommendation of eligibility, then the proposed goals and finally the offered placement. You can avoid some of this by insisting on receiving all evaluation results and draft goals at least one week prior to the meeting. You also have the right to suspend the meeting so that you can review all documents if you were not given time to review them prior to the meeting. (You actually can suspend the meeting -- or end the meeting and call for it to be reconvened -- whenever you feel the need to do so.) 3. Special education is not a place, it is a range of services. Here is a general list of possible options that are covered in special education. Different states may use different terms but the ideas are the same. 1. Consultive support ---special education teacher gives advice to regular ed teacher that has the child in their classroom 2. Resource support/Team Taught ----Special Education teacher either pushes into the reg ed classroom to help the student and/or pull the student out of the reg ed classroom for additional teaching 3. Specialized Instruction ----classes taught in a self-contained classroom; generally the child will have some classes in the SI room and others in a gen ed room with resource support 4. Self-contained Classroom ----classes taught comletely in a special education room; generally the child will have some interaction with gen ed students at lunch/recess/gym/etc 5. Special Education School ----a seperate building with classes for children generally diagnosis with severe disabilities that cannot be managed in a reg ed building 6. Residential School ----a boarding school for children generally diagnosis with profound disabilities that cannot be managed in a Special Education school in the area 7. Homebound ----generally used for children who are in the hospital, recovering from a medical procedure or suffering extreme school phobia; a very temporary option due to its highly restrictive nature Related Services include: speech-language physical therapy occupational therapy social work ASL translation classroom aides 1:1 aides transportation Related services may be delivered in the classroom or in a therapy room at school. Related services will only address problems that are having a negative impact on the child's education (i.e. social work will address problems with making friends but will not work on parent-child issues).