Comments on letter to SPED director please


New Member
I had a meeting today with an educational advocate who specialized with children who have Autism. She gave me some wonderful insight and recomendations for the school. I used these to formulate this letter to the school. I am hoping for a little insight by tomorrow afternoon before I give it to them, to make any suggested changes....

Dear ________,

Today I had a meeting with an educational advocate for children with Autism at Community Resources for People with Autism in East Hampton. The meeting was very informative as I learned more about Elijah's educational needs as being a child newly diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. She had some requests that she thought I should have the school consider. She had many concerns for Elijah after going over his IEP and the testing that the school has done. She is very concerned that the Orange Public School System is not providing Elijah with a Free Appropriate Public Education as is required by law (IDEA 2004 20 U.S.C. - 1400 Section 1400 (d)) because there is not enough set up for him based on his individual needs. She said that the data collection by the school is not consistent especially with the behavioral plan.

She also had great concern with a statement in Appendix B of his Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan Planning Form Section 13 b states that 'Staff will include a sensory component to help Elijah center himself and reduce his level of agitation. He will have a chance to talk to his counselor when he requests it. Elijah will also be taught specific relaxation stategies.' She does not believe, based on the testing done, his age, executive functions weakness, and his Pervasive Development Disorder that he would know when to determine to talk to somebody. She believes this is a big problem with his safety plan that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There should be clearer direction as to when he is to see his counselor because he will not know when to request it. I think it would be more appropriate to state something like 'When he becomes agitated, when he shows signs of aggression, when he seems frustrated, when he seems to be ___________ he will have the opportunity to talk with his counselor'.

She was also concerned that the goals in the IEP are not 'Measurable'. For example his sensory goal: 'Measurable Goal…: Elijah will improve his sensory processing abilities and his sensory motor skills. How will we know that the student has reached this goal? Teacher and Specialist observations, formal assessments, progress reports. What will the student need to complete this goal? Elijah will actively participate in a sensory motor classroom group led by the physical therapist with 80%% accuracy. Elijah will participate in activities and tasks thre perceived as unfamiliar or challenging 80% of the time. Elijah will complete a three step obstacle course with only initial verbal directions with 80% accuracy. Elijah will demonstrate improved balance, bilateral motor coordination and hand-eye coordination as determined by the physical therapist with 80% accuracy.' She said these goals have no clear meaning of what he is doing such as the specific tasks and how the school personnel are going about teaching him how to do these things such as telling him, showing him, demonstrating it to him, etc. She believes you are expecting too much of him without giving him the correct tools to accomplish those things. He needs to clearly know the rules and expectations.

She also believes that he should have a full day of specialized instruction and she does not see how he will benefit and get an equal education with a shortened school day. I understand why the shortened school day was implemented, but hope that we can slowly increase his amount of time at school as his behavior allows. I believe we should have goals and timelines about how to do this (For example: 'When Elijah has shown X number of days without any severe behavioral incidents then his day will be increased by x amount of minutes. Then after another x amount of days without any incidences it will be increased by x amount of minutes etc.). I believe it would be hard for any child to get much out of their education when they are at school for such a small amount of time and hope that as he shows more stability we can gradually increase his learning time.

She recommended and I am requesting that I get parent training and in home training on the sensory diet that is being implemented at school which I have not seen nor have any knowledge about. I would also like written instruction on what exactly is included in his sensory diet. She suggested that some techniques be included in it such as brushing, or weight therapy, depending on which one he would tolerate better. Elijah has shown deep pressure needs (in example pushing hard on the pencil, using greater force then necessary when doing activities that would require minimal force etc.). At home he seems to do well with a weighted blanket that I recently purchased for him It seems to calm his body. She believes that having weighted objects at school would be beneficial for him as well. Items she might consider helpful would be a weighted vest, weighted stuffed animal, weighted lap pad, or a new kind of pressure belt. She said it is questionable exactly what PT is doing as far as his sensory integration because their recording is not good.

She also believes that a picture schedule at school that is broken down into simple tasks with step by step instruction as well as step by step assistance would be beneficial to him. We recently began using a Velcro picture schedule system at home which he seems to greatly benefit from. It keeps him more structured, reduces his anxiety level, and has improved his behavior. She believes he would do good with a similar system where he could put the completed tasks away in a bucket or container. I agree that this would be greatly beneficial to him.

In his current IEP under Other Educational Needs 'What types of accommodation if any, is necessary for the student to make effective progress' , it does mention in the seventh sentence 'Post/provide and review established daily routine/schedule'. I am unsure exactly what type of schedule is being used, so a picture schedule might already be in use without my knowledge, but want to request this just in case it is not.

She believes Elijah's education would be more beneficial to him if he could have his academics based around things he is highly interested in such as bugs, nature, caterpillars, etc. I know that Ms. ________ is doing an excellent job of doing this already. I see this from the work he has bringing home, so this is no concern to me at this time but is something that needs to continue to be implemented in the future.

I have also spoken with lawyers who had the following concerns:

'1. Make sure the Safety Plan is working *
· Confirm that a clinician experienced in drafting plans drafted your
son's Safety Plan.**
· Confirm that an experience person is reviewing the data on your son as
it applies to the Safety Plan.**
· Make sure the Appendix is included with the Safety Plan because it
does a better job explaining the problem behavior- what leads up to the
behavior and how the behavior should be handled. **
· Monitor how the Safety Plan is working;

· 2. Make sure the IEP is adequate.*
· 'If it is determined that the problem behavior is a result of the
bipolar or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified diagnosis, request a modification of the IEP to say that
Elijah's problem behaviors should not result in suspensions and
that other mechanisms should be implemented (not suspensions).'

- 3. There is nothing in his IEP or behavioral plan that states his diagnoses.

This leads me to ask the following questions: What were the cridentials of the person who drafted his safety plan? Who is reviewing the data regarding Elijah and the safety plan? Can alternate behavioral policies safely be in place for Elijah's behaviors that have led him to suspension in the past? Could we please add a statement to his IEP (maybe under the Student Strengths and Key Evaluation Results Summary would be the best fit) that states his diagnoses as documented (Bipolar, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, ADHD are the most current documented diagnoses from Anna Jaques, but also Cognitive Disorder with Executive Functions Weakness from his psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Hernandez, and Sensory Processing Disorder as documented by the school PT department). I believe it is extremely important to have these included as well and would be in Elijah's best interest.

I signed the permission for his speech evaluation on January 23rd. It is my understanding that once the school district has a signed permission to evaluate the evaluation must be completed within thirty days, and we must have a meeting discussing the results within fourty five days. According to my understanding those dates should have been February 22nd and March 9th. Because February 16-20th was vacation week and Elijah was hospitalized from February 16th through March 3rd I only believe it would be fair to move those dates up each by the sixteen days his absence totaled. That would bring the date that the evaluation is supposed to be completed to be March 10th, and the acceptable date of the meeting to discuss the results to be March 25th. I expect that a meeting will be scheduled in the near future to discuss the results of his Speech evaluation, my other concerns, and his progress.

I know that we all want what is best for Elijah and that you will try your best to provide him with the best education possible. It is my understanding that the following law will now be followed in regards to his new diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified:

'In the year two thousand five An Act to Address The Special Education Needs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder….. Section 1 Chapter 71B, Section 3 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting at the end of paragraph six the following sentence'
'Whenever an evaluation indicates that a child has a disability on the autism spectrum, which includes autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, childhood disintegrative disorder, or Rhett's Syndrome, as defined in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, as defined by regulations of the department, shall consider and shall specifically address the following: the verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child; the need to develop social interaction skills and proficiencies; the needs resulting from the child's unusual responses to sensory experiences; the needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines; the needs resulting from engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements; the need for any positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder; and other needs resulting from the child's disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development.'

I know that you and other members of the school district will continue to try your best to accommodate Elijah and provide him with the education he is entitled to. I look forward to continue working with you all to make sure my son's educational and social-emotional needs are met at school.


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New Member
Clearly, you've got a number of worthwhile points. However, I suggest you restructure your letter, making it considerably shorter in order to clearly identify the issues needing attention, and requesting a meeting to discuss them. Don't include full detail of the issues, or of your view/request on each. A revision of your son's IEP will require a formal team meeting, but you might be able to "work out" much of the issues ahead of the team meeting.

Given the nature of some of your concerns, you and your son might be better served if you raise them as questions in a discussion rather than asserting that the school may not be complying with the law -- whether or not they currently are. Present the details of your issues for a meeting with the appropriate school person (spec. ed. director?, principal?).

You might say that as you learn more about your son's disabilities and needs, several issues relating to his education have come to the foreground. Your principal concerns might be listed in roughly the same order they might be in his IEP, or in order of their significance to your son's needs. Present them as your concerns, not what someone else said. And for everybody's sake, please don't cite the law -- doing so will only make them turn defensive. (Also remember that the law doesn't call for the "best", but only for what is "appropriate". The IEP committee, of which you as a parent are a part, is charged with making the plan, so there too ask for what is appropriate vs. inappropriate, not for "best".)

Recognize that you may not get "everything" you want for your son, so while you may ask for a lot, you should have priorities in mind -- "musts", then desirable, then sort-of "bonus" requests. You may want a trained advocate with you at the next IEP meeting, or even to guide you along the way.


I definitely agree that while clear, this letter is way too long. You need to prioritize and keep the rest of the information to yourself for the moment.