Special Education Tips in ASL

Hello. My name is Rosa Lee and
this video is about tips for parents when advocating for their children
with special education needs. Special education law explicitly requires
school districts to meet the unique learning needs of students with disabilities
who receive special education services, to prepare them to succeed as adults
in employment and independent living. Parents and advocates often face challenges
when trying to ensure that school districts address these students’ individual academic,
social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Parents often come to the Disability Law Center (DLC)
too late and with too little documentation. The Disability Law Center’s ability to help
is only as good as the proof parents give us. Unavoidably, disputes about services or placements
sometimes do not resolve at the TEAM meeting stage. When that happens, it is important to remember the
very key difference between what you know personally, and what you are required to prove in a formal hearing
at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA). The following tips will strengthen your case at
TEAM meetings and, if necessary, at administrative hearings. Tip #1: Keep track of and organize important documents. From the time your child starts school to when
s/he leaves, you will accumulate hundreds of documents. If eligible, your child is entitled to special education services
from age 3 to when s/he either graduates or turns 22. That means you may have documents that span
a course of more than 20 years! They will include the following
(and possibly many others): – Individual Education Plans (IEPs) – Evaluations and Progress Reports – Standardized test results (eg MCAS) and report cards – Correspondence, including e-mails
(eg, between you and your child’s teachers/administrators/TEAM chairperson) – Notes (eg, from meetings and telephone calls) – Forms and informal materials
(this might include information about new programs, changes in programs or services,
school system policies, or budget issues) – Samples of your child’s work – Health and medical records It is important to keep copies of everything. You might be tempted to throw things out, but even the oldest documents in your child’s history
might be needed at some point to support your claim for more appropriate special education services. Tip #2: Put all requests, concerns,
and objections in writing. A basic reality for successful special education advocacy
is that if you do not write it down, it did not happen! If you have concerns about your child’s special education services or
placement, promptly communicate them to the school in writing. Carefully review all notes and minutes from meetings, and correct any inaccuracies or the failure to include
important points raised at the Team Meeting. Do this by sending a letter. Carefully check the attendance sheet to make certain
it correctly lists everyone who was there. Keep notes, or a record, of all objections. Voice any concerns you have at the TEAM meeting,
and make sure someone records those concerns. If not, write a letter after the meeting to follow up. State your understanding of what was agreed upon
at the meeting and why you disagree. This will help you later if you want to challenge
portions of the IEP with which you disagree. If you reject the education plan, in whole or in part,
send a letter to the school and explain why. Either hand-deliver your letter to the appropriate school personnel
and get delivery confirmation (a time-stamped copy), or send the letter via certified mail,
return receipt requested. Merely making a phone call is not enough, because there
is no reliable record of the conversation. Tip #3: Know what you are signing! Your child’s IEP is a written contract
between you and the school district. As with any contract,
you want to review the terms carefully and understand what you are agreeing to before signing. Although you need to complete your part
of the paperwork within a reasonable time, never feel pressured to sign an IEP
without having carefully considered it. Regularly review your child’s progress
and identify areas where s/he is excelling or struggling. Don’t just accept IEPs in full from year to year without paying attention to changes (or lack thereof) in
goals, objectives, and measures of demonstrated effective progress. Parents cannot rely only on a student’s lack of progress during
the prior school year when trying a case at the BSEA. You must be prepared to produce evidence
and expert testimony about every disputed IEP. Tip #4: Don’t go it alone. Knowledgeable, credentialed experts can make or break a case. Share private evaluations or assessments with the TEAM. Consider bringing private evaluators to the TEAM meeting or have them participate via speaker phone
to present their report and recommendations. If you go to a BSEA hearing,
it is critical that the expert evaluator: (1) be available to testify (2) have direct knowledge about
your child and his/her disability (3) know the school’s program, preferably after having
directly observed it and met with the staff. Submitting a report is not enough. Experts who have personally both evaluated
your child and observed a program are far more credible than those who have only
interpreted another evaluator’s reports and have not observed the program themselves. You may also want to seek
an educational advocate or attorney to guide and support you through
this often confusing and stressful process. Tip #5: The law does not mandate a perfect IEP. Current law is very clear that an IEP need
not provide maximum benefit to a student, it need only provide some benefit. What that means will vary from one student to another. A “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE)
is intended to require special education services that provide a “basic floor of opportunity” to allow
the student meaningful access to public education. These five tips should be the basic building blocks of advocating for appropriate
special education services for your child.

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