It is that time of year again. Parents who have children with special needs are attending their child(ren)’s Annual Review. After 30 years of making every mistake ever made, I thought today would be a good day to list the ones I should have never made, in hopes of helping someone else avoid them.
- The IEP is a legal document.
- If something is agreed to by the school district, but not put in the IEP, the agreement never existed.
- If the school district tells you a 504 plan is “just as good”, they lie. A 504 plan does not have as many built in protections for your child.
- When the school district says you can’t have a service for your child “because that is not how we do things in this district” that is a HUGE red flag. By law, the first thing they need to determine is your child’s needs. What the district has to offer does not determine your child’s needs.
- Following the IEP is not optional. Everybody who comes in contact with your child HAS to follow his/her IEP, even if they don’t agree with it.
- The more prepared you are when you go into the meeting, the better the meeting will go. The school saves money by assuming the parents will not know or insist the child have an appropriate IEP.
- Every parent with a special needs child should bookmark http://www.wrightslaw.com/ This site does a great job of answering the questions of what your child is entitled to as far as a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and lots of suggestions to help you get it.
- Never sign anything but an attendance sheet unless you are absolutely sure you know what you are signing and why they want you to sign it. If you have any doubts, tell the district you need time to consult with your professionals to make sure you understand what your signing.
- If your child has done something the school views as serious, do not agree or sign anything without professional advice. This recently happened to a friend of mine and they held a Manifestation Hearing without explaining how serious it was and the long range consequences it could have for her son. Fortunately, she knew enough not to sign anything. In these days of zero tolerance, you have to be extra vigilant.
There is a lot more to making sure your special needs child gets the FAPE education they are entitled to by law. This list is only a good start.