autism

Guest Post: Know Your IEP Rights

The Importnance of knowing your IEP rightsParents, I cannot stress to you enough how supremely important it is that you know your rights when it comes to your child’s education. I thought I had a handle on it, but I had no idea. Here is our story. I hope it helps one person out there.

After my oldest son was diagnosed with autism, I knew what an IEP was on a basic level. I had a representative with me from our local ARC office with me at that first meeting. I did my research for accommodations of the things that I could see were causing problems for my son in school based on the communication I got from the school and what I knew about my son.

We had a diagnosis from a doctor specializing in autism that our son was not just a “problem child,” like the school wanted to label him and throw up their hands. We knew he needed help. The school had run their tests. Their tests were minimal. You see, because he was an A student, they didn’t see the need to evaluate for speech, OT, or PT. He was getting along “just fine.” I didn’t know I could push for these evaluations. The person there as my advocate never said, “boo,” about such things. In fact, she never said much at all. So much for having an advocate to help me.

I thought we had a decent IEP in place after that first meeting. We would meet every Spring to revise and rewrite my son’s IEP. Every year I would ask about the same issues that had not been resolved the year before. The same issues where we were seeing behaviors year after year. I was told the strategies we had in place would work. I researched some more. I suggested new strategies, and was shot down. I was made to compromise the best solution I could get the school to agree to each year. The school didn’t see the need to retest before the three year re-evaluation period even though their way wasn’t working.

Well, you see, we ended up leaving that school for another option in a blaze of bridge burning due process glory. A better option. An option who was more than happy to run ALL of the evaluations that were never looked at before. It turned out that my son, the one who was doing “fine” academically, but that I saw struggling day after day, the one whose meltdowns our family endured every afternoon after school, has a major core language deficit. So much so that his core language score is lower than that of his brother who is 5 1/2 years younger (also ASD). It’s no wonder he struggles with writing assignments to the point of hating them.

This new educational option also assessed my son’s problem solving skills. My son tanked. TANKED the assessment! I mean we’re talking 7th percentile in two of the four areas, and a total score of 29th percentile. Combine this with the Vineland that our BCBA just did, and it all makes a lot of sense why we see the behaviors that we’re seeing. My son might appear to be an older child on the outside, but that’s not where he is functioning in all areas of his life.

The hardest part as a parent is that I see this boy who has so much in front of him, and yet so much work to do if he wants to achieve the things he says wants to achieve in life. I just want him to be the best him he can be, but the schools make this so much harder when they’re not willing to even evaluate a student for services that they might need. We don’t even know what tools and strategies to give a student if we don’t know what they need by evaluating all areas. For example, my son doesn’t need OT after all. He’s learned how to cope on his own at this stage in his life. But the rest? Yes, he needs new tools and strategies where there were none before because we didn’t know because no one would listen to be and even take the time to look. Some students may not even need these services for very long if they’re started early enough instead of playing catch up.

That leaves it up to us parents. it is IMPERATIVE that we know how the IEP process works and what the schools MUST provide under FAPE and IDEA – laws. I know this often only means the bare minimum as far as services, but in our case, they wouldn’t even evaluate to see if services were necessary. This needs to STOP. Our children deserve better than the current climate in the education system, and it’s up to us as their parents to make sure that happens.

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Know Your IEP Rights

  1. I highly recommend getting an advocate, but make sure he or she is working for YOU. We have a great advocate (we pay for privately) and she has been amazing. She cannot file due process but otherwise has great advice, doesn’t mind standing up to the school district in IEP meetings, and knows the law. And she doesn’t cost as much as a lawyer.

    For me, the most important thing to remember is that the SD is not your friend, and no matter how wonderful the people seem, they do not have your child’s best interests at heart. Wrightslaw.com is a great resource, and we learned a lot from the NOLO press Complete IEP Guide.

  2. We ended up homeschooling and getting private services because of “professionals” like these.. We went through almost a year of crap from the Troy City Schools to get an IEP, and then they didn’t honor it. Forseeing years of stress (for DH and me) and failure for our child, we left them behind. There is no meaningful enforcement for violating a child’ due process.

  3. I would love to know what test(s) your child was given for “problem solving skills”. Sounds like something that might be helpful for us.

    CA special ed has been obstructing my child’s access to services and appropriate goal setting since he was funneled into the system at 3 (ASD). School representatives have other agendas that do not coincide with what is most appropriate for your child. We did not go the home education route because of social skills. Our child benefits greatly from being around NT kids. We hired a lawyer which was very expensive at first. Now I know more and am able to file noncompliance reports etc. on my own. I only wish I had hired a lawyer sooner instead of trying to figure it out on my own and wasting a year of my son’s life with their incompetent behavior. I would also recommend contacting DREDF in CA for help that is free. They have a packet about IEP’s that is very helpful.

  4. don’t just know your rights.

    know who will be inconvenienced by your rights. they are not likely to be reliable allies.

    know who signs the paychecks of everyone at the table.

    you maybe can’t get everything you want or everything you need, but start with full knowledge and do not stop asking for better.

  5. I had a very similar story to yours. We filed for due process while my son was still in preschool! I write a blog and I, too, am apprehensive about telling our truth on it! The #1 best thing I did on our road to effectively advocating for our son was take a Wrightslaw training class. I was sick of paying for advocates and we couldn’t afford a lawyer! Since finding Wrightslaw, I know more about the law and I KNOW they can’t say NO anymore!
    Best of luck! Thanks for guest posting!

  6. I so sympathize with you over what the school did. I am studying to become a school psychologist, and we are so pressured – too many kids to evaluate, too little time in which to finish all our comprehensive evaluations, so little money to pay to have enough professionals and testing materials. The only way we’re going to be able to eventually get enough psychologists, speech/language pathologists, OTs, PTs, etc. in the schools to provide all the services and complete all the evaluations at the quality necessary to help all kids is by parents like you pushing to change the system. Once schools realize that they’re going to lose time and money in these battles, they’ll start to hire more professionals, push for better professional development, and improve service delivery and IEP formation.

    However, I am a little concerned about your interpretation of the numbers here, and I think it might be a good idea for you to clarify with the evaluator what the numbers mean. 27th percentile is average – half the people in the world fall between the 25th and 75th percentile. Even 7th percentile isn’t necessarily “tanking,” although it is likely low enough to impact functioning. However, if the other scores were high enough to bring him up to the 27th percentile overall with 2 scores in the 7th, that means your son also has some great strengths. I hope your school is using those strengths to guide interventions that build up his weaknesses in language.

    I also wonder what you mean by his “core language score” being lower than his younger brother’s, because most test scores are standardized by age so you can’t directly compare the scores of different-aged kids because the scores assume that older children will get more items correct (unless you’re talking about age/grade equivalencies, which do directly compare how many items were correct).

    Good luck with your continuing battles!

  7. My daughter was thrilled with this year’s IEP but I wasn’t so sure so I brought it to an advocate. She (the advocate) couldn’t believe what she was reading. Needless to say, my daughter will sign that IEP over my cold, dead body.

  8. Research shows that behavior change results from the interaction of individuals and their environment. The entire community—families, peers, schools, faith communities, businesses, government, and community organizations—must participate in fostering the capabilities of the community’s young people. Further, successful programs must consider the realities and developmental needs of the community’s young people. Values, attitudes, and beliefs can vary significantly across cultural, socioeconomic, and ethnic groups, and activities should be age- appropriate as well as tailored to the cultural and racial/ethnic backgrounds of participants. Finally, planners must consider the characteristics of the community as a whole when designing programs. We cannot continue to allow children’s entire youth to be spent in environments that sap their sense of worth—with poor schools, poor housing, poor services, and poor jobs—inoculate them with self-esteem in a brief intervention and expect it to change their life course when help and support are withdrawn.

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