What I learned at my advocacy course Part 1


New Member
Please note, that this course was designed for the state of Texas. This will go over the general idea of an ARD or IEP. Texas does still call it an ARD, where as most other states call it an IEP. Some of the information found in here will specifically mentions different things found in Texas. You will need to do a search for the relevant information for your state.

Please also note that I have gotten the permission from the creator of this course to post this here.

ARD Structure (Admission, Review and Dismissal) Meeting. Also known as an IEP (Individual Education Program).

The structure of an ARD consists of:

Step 1: Introduction and Purpose of Meeting, Parent’s Rights
Step 2: Review of Assessment Data
Step 3: Determination of Eligibility
Step 4: Present Level Performance
Step 5: Review of Individual Education Program
Step 6: Determination of Placement
Step 7: Assurances and reading of minutes
Step 8: Closing Remarks, Signatures

Step 1: Introduction and Purpose of Meeting, Parent’s Rights.

This covers who is in the meeting and why they are there. If there is anyone ‘filling in’ for someone else, make sure it is documented in the minutes.

This will also cover the purpose of the meeting and the parent’s will be given a copy of their procedural safeguards. Make sure you have your own copy (Can be found online). Do not be afraid to go through it and highlight and/or mark the pages that are important. Safeguards help to protect both parties involved (the school, and the child). The schools are required by law to hand these out at every meeting and they will tell you what your legal rights are.

Before the ARD takes place, the school is required by law to send notification 5 days in advance. Many times this does not happen and the school will try to get you to ‘sign off’ on this. You can either sign it and proceed, or demand that the meeting be postponed until you have had your 5 days to review the paperwork. You can proceed if you feel confident enough in your research.

Step 2: Review of Assessment Data

This will cover what the testing and information shows, and if there are any evaluations to review (Occupational Therapist (OT), ST, etc).

You need to know where to go and what the child needs. For example, if your child needs ST, you would review the evaluation for his speech. No one needs to know why you are taking your child (for a disability or disorder). The important part here is knowing how to get what you need. If it is shown that there is an educational need, then the school needs to provide services. Key words being ‘EDUCATIONAL NEED’. Meaning that the child needs to be able to do these things in order to succeed in school. IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) guarantees equal access for all individuals to get a proper education. Know your rights.
This includes knowing what is ‘age appropriate’ for your child. Compare it to the ‘milestones’. This will show a development and educational need. Bring it as a reference.

The schools are required to take into consideration outside medical advice. Always bring this in. While it is phrased as ‘consideration’ keep in mind that it is not required for schools to go by what the outside medicals say. So they can take a look at it and throw it away, stating that they did indeed ‘consider’ it.

This is a point where is it also important to write everything down. Many times parents will go ‘above’ the teacher and straight to the principal with letters and what not. It is important to note that when parents skip the teacher part, most times the teacher will not be notified of what is going on. Make sure that if you do write or email anything that a carbon copy is sent to EVERYONE. Including the teacher. The teacher often has valuable input that is missed because parents leave them out.

Step 3: Determination of Eligibility

This covers whether a child is eligible for special services. A student must meet federal definitions of a disability and have a need for special education or related services. This is where knowing your rights (with IDEA) come in handy. Any state law provided can be trumped with a federal law.

Step 4: Present Level of Performance (PLOP)

This step addresses areas such as (but not limited to):
Ø Physical
Ø Behavior
Ø Discipline
Ø Pre-Vocational/Vocational
Ø Academic/Developmental
Ø Assistive Technology needs
Ø Communication and/or Language Needs
Ø Progress in general curriculum and IEP development

It includes what the child knows, understands, and does NOW.

This will look at the last assessment that was taken. Make sure that it was done within the last 60 days. Anything older then that is considered ‘out-dated’.

This will also cover what the long term plan for the child is. For example, what do you want the child to do a year from now? Have a plan, and follow through with it. For example if your child has a problem with math, over the next six weeks you want to have him take six tests. Out of those six tests, four of them need to have a grade of 80 or higher. Often, a plan is put into place and never followed up on. If at the end of those six weeks, the teacher cannot provide you with the information of your child’s math tests, it shows a problem. Can point out in the IEP where is it stated about the 6 tests and take it from there. Make sure the educational needs are met and followed! (Also, when you come up with a plan, make sure it is measurable! Meaning that you can add a numeric value to it. Four 80’s out of six tests…. Measurable!)

This will also cover the goals and objectives for the child. In Texas, the school system will try to get you to settle with the TAX A. Many parents don’t realize that there is a better plan out there. Don’t settle for the TAX A. Go for the TAX M which includes the alternative assessment. (Check out Ed Hammer and the FISSA which is a good evaluation tool).


Put in place the 5 minute rule: Spend 2.5 minutes before and after school talking with the teacher. This will help show your interest, and make communication between you and the teacher better. Often this conversation will lead outside of your child and the weather, and you will be able to gain information about the teacher and the class. If you build a good repour with the teacher this year, often they will tell you which are the ‘good’ teachers for the upcoming year.

Make sure you stay involved in the school throughout the year. The best way to do this is to volunteer (or join the PTA).

The school must give you a notification of progress as often as they do regular students. Meaning that if they give out progress reports every 6 weeks, your child should get one as well. When you get this report, your IEP should also be updated. Even if the school is doing a report every 3 weeks, the IEP needs to be updated with every report. Make sure it is done. Legally, the school only has to do progress reports every 6 weeks, but sometimes you do get those that do it more often. It is important that you know that not only should you receive one, but that the IEP is updated as frequently as the reports you receive. This creates a detailed record and creates accountability.

Step 5: Review of Individual Education Program (IEP)

This is where it is important to be very clear. This step reviews the previous goals and progress, discuss the proposed IEPs, discuss the proposed modifications and accommodations, and discuss the progress reporting.

When the school hands you their proposed IEP, keep in mind that it is a ROUGH DRAFT. It CAN be changed! Make sure everything included is CLEAR, RELEVANT, DETAILED, and MEASURABLE. Meaning that it clearly shows the plans (doesn’t beat around the bush), it is relevant to your child’s learning, and it details how to achieve the goals and can be measured.

Often schools will try to get you to sign off on this right now. IT IS A DRAFT! If you do not agree, don’t sign it until all of your questions are answered.

TIP: Pull out your old IEP’s that you have gotten in the past and create your own! Use it as a template to create yours and show everything that you want to happen in it. Just make sure it follows the same rules. It is Clear. Relevant. Detailed. Measurable.

Know the difference between modifications and accommodations.

Modifications mean a limited change that affect learning and will often result in a need for special education. This includes stuff like having enlarged lettering for a specific number of words on an exam.

Accommodations the school can do at no cost to them. This would include giving a child more time, special seating, enlarged lettering on the whole test, etc.

Make sure that when you discuss one subject, you do each individually. They are not all ‘lumped together’ as one.

Keep the IEP updated and make copies of it. IDEA says that IEPs must be made available to everyone who interacts with the child. This means it has to be accessible. Not that everyone who interacts with your child will get a copy. Make sure that everyone gets one by handing them out yourself.

This step also covers the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) which will address the prevention of undesirable behaviors that are due to their disability and replace with the desired behaviors. The development should focus on POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORTS. It will become part of the IEP. This can include ANY behavioral problem and is not limited to just biting, hitting, et cetera. It can be applied to any undesirable behavior.

Often, if there is a BIP in place, the school will automatically try to push the child into a special education class. This is not for all students. While your child may need a BIP, he or she may not need the special education class. FIGHT TO KEEP YOUR CHILD IN A NORMAL ENVIRONMENT!

Related services that are directly related to helping correct a behavior can be things such as Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, etc.

This step will cover the services to be provided. This includes what instructional and related services best support the IEP goals, what modifications/accommodations are needed, what form of the TAKs (Texas Assessment and Knowledge Test) will be taken (there are six different types in Texas), are supplemental services needed to support the IEP, and does the student need extended year services.

Make sure that all modifications and accommodations are put into place ASAP. If the child isn’t using the services throughout the year, the school will not allow the child to use it on the TAKS test.
The extended year services are only put into place if the child has a probability of regression over the summer. It looks at the impact on the child. It is then based on the volunteers available. So if your child falls behind in reading, and there is no volunteer instructor for that program, guess what. You’re not going to get it.

In Texas, there are separate supplements for different needs that need to be filled out. These include the Autism Supplements, and the Supplements’ for Hearing Impaired or Visual Impairment. They usually come as extra forms that need to be filled out to address a specific need for the student.

The Autism Supplement addresses different areas specified for students with an Autism diagnosis.

The Supplement for Hearing Impaired or Visually Impairment addresses any additional services and areas that need to be addresses for students with that particular disability.

Step 6: Determination of Placement

This step determined what placement is the LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT that best supports the IEP goals?

Use your common sense. Ask the needed questions (how did they come up with the placement? Why do they want to move your child out of his current class?)

The Least Restrictive Environment Considerations:

Ø Does the placement have any potential harmful effects?

Ø Are there opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities?

Ø What classes will the student attend with regular education students?

Ø When is the student expected to graduate?

Ø Will the student need support in transitioning from school to work?

Often schools may not have all of the resources needed to complete the IEP and the services required. For example, a child may need Occupational Therapist (OT), but the school may not have it available. Challenge the school to say ‘We can’t do it’ so that way you can keep your child in his class and seek outside professionals to complete what the school cannot.

Sometimes the MOST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT is what is actually needed. It comes down to an individual basis of each child. Make sure your child gets what he or she needs.


Look up FAPE and know it. FAPE stands for the Free Appropriate Public Education.

There are often more then one option for graduation and diplomas. This can include the minimum, recommended, and exemplary. Do not settle for the minimum. Often this will cause the child to not be eligible for grants or scholarships. Always go for the recommended or above. The only schools exempt from this are private schools. If you home school, you are a private school.

Step 7 Assurances and Reading of the Minutes

This is where the committee assurances for placement and services are given. Basically it is a summary of guarantees.

The summary needs to read completely and fully. This means that there should be no ‘para-phrasing’.

Do not sign off on this unless everything is correct.

Do not be afraid to disagree. The minutes must be correct. It is what the school will refer to throughout the school year.

If they refuse to make a correction, tell them you would like an addendum added at the end of the minutes stating your correction.

Step 8 Closing remarks and signatures.

That part says that all parties agree.

IDEA states that you have to have the information and understand it before you sign it.

DO NOT sign this at the end of the meeting. There is no way that within this meeting time frame you were able to process everything fully. DO NOT disagree either. Make it very clear that you need time to process everything and that you do not disagree with what has been discussed. Give them a time frame of 48-72 hours to review and sign to get it back to them.

The draft IEP’s and evaluations are suppose to be given to you 5 days before the meeting. Make sure you go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

DO NOT be pressured into signing. If the school says that you cannot take your current copy home, you can request a copy be made of it so that you can have time to review. It is just a draft!

They have to release the paperwork! It is the law!

Also note that you can request your child’s records at ANY time. (See other thread on reviewing your child’s record)

If you disagree and go to the ’10 day’ recess…

Make sure you schedule the appointment before the 10 days are up. This will give you some ‘wiggle room’.

If you still disagree, after the 10 days are up the school will execute the IEP as written. Whether you agree or disagree.

Once the 10 days is up, you can file for ‘due process’. In Texas, this means about a 3% chance of winning.

Instead, go in before the end of the 10 days and sign the paper saying you agree. You don’t need to give an explanation or stand around chit-chatting. Go in, sign it, and leave. Why? Because then you are in control and can request a new meeting.

Any changes in medical care can get you a new ARD/IEP meeting.

A parental concern can also get you another ARD/IEP meeting.

Try to get the school to host ARD/IEP meetings at least twice a school year. This means the beginning of the school year, and about ½ way through.


If this is only part 1, you've already learned a lot. Good for you. Thanks for sharing this.


New Member
This was the 'big' class that took all day. I called it part one because there are 2 more courses I have to take online, as well as 2 more workshops before I become 'certified' to advocate for other parents. The second part of this course on this day (didn't post but can if people are interested) was about being a leader. I figured I would add the other parts as I took them.