10 Tips on How to Navigate the Special Education System

FAPESpecial Education can present sticky situations when it comes to services, funding, and finding the right school fit. Anyone who works in the schools or has been a part of the IEP circle in some respect knows that it’s no secret getting services for your child can be an uphill battle. Don’t worry– we’re here to help you navigate the system in a collaborative and compassionate manner.

Here’s what you need to know: (Download our Special Education Advocacy PowerPoint)

1. Know Your Acronyms & Case Law So You Can Speak the Special Ed Lingo: FAPE, IDEA, IFSP, IEP, IEE, LRE, SELPA; Board of Ed. v Rowley, 458 US 176 (1982) aka The Cadillac v Chevrolet argument

2. Regional Center to Public School Transition: Birth to 36 months = ECI Services; 36 months to 21 Years: Services through the Public School

3. Understand the IEP Process:

  • Qualifying Disability as defined by 20 U.S.C. sec. 1401 (3)(A)
  • Request for Referral for an Evaluation
  • Public School Approves or Denies the Request: If Approved then there is Psycho-Educational Testing v. If Denied: Appeal and IEE Option
  • School is looking at where your child falls on the Standard Deviation Bell Curve
  • Annual IEP Meeting but you can ask for more
  • Tri-Annual (every 3 years) Evaluation of new Psycho-Educational Testing
  • Know Your PLOP Goals: Measurable & Realistic

4.  Is ADD/ADHD Part of Special Ed? No.: Not considered part of Special Ed but can get 504 Plan, which governs accommodations. So how do you get services for children diagnosed with ADHD? Must pair the diagnosis with a qualifying disability as defined under 20 U.S.C. section 1401 (3)(A).

5. New DSM Info About Autism: New DSM does away with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. Instead there is one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder with various severity levels.

6. What Services Are You Asking For? OT, PT, SLP, Resource; usually Pull-Out services in Group with 3-4 students for 30 minutes 1-2 times per week; Push In Classroom Services v Pull Out Group or Individual Services

7. What’s Inclusion & Mainstreaming: It began in the 80’s and is the public education’s choice form of classroom methodology– mixed learning abilities in a general education classroom with a general education teacher

8. Parent Rights:

  • You do not have to test your child.
  • You do not have to sign the IEP at the Meeting
  • You can ask for more than one IEP per year
  • You can ask to observe your child and the therapy
  • You can ask for a copy of the report and testing
  • You can ask for additional hours and services

9. Alternatives to Traditional Public Education: (1) Paid by the State: Homeschooling, Charters; (2) Paid by the District: Non-Public Schools; (3) Private Pay: Private School, possible tuition reimbursement under Burlington School Committee v. Dept. of Ed, 471 US 379 (1985)

10. To Sum it up:

  • If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
  • You don’t have to sign the IEP at the IEP Meeting.
  • You have more rights than you know.
  • Your job is to know the law and fight for your child’s rights in a collaborative manner.
  • You can be your child’s own advocate!

All in all, you must be your child’s own advocate but sometimes you need a little help along the way. That’s where we come in.

We focus on identifying your child’s areas of needed support, qualifying for assessments and evaluations through the school district or the state regional center, attending and reviewing Student Success Team (SST) & Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings at the school, Coordinating Care between all public and private service providers, teaching you how to navigate the education and state systems, and teaching your child self-advocacy.

Because when all is said and done, the end goal is for your child to be self-sufficient–they just need a little help along the way, and that’s okay.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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One thought on “10 Tips on How to Navigate the Special Education System

  1. Pingback: ECI: One of the Best Kept Secrets for New Parents | THE TERRY TUTORS BLOG

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