|What's New/News: Vol. 1, Issue 1|
|August is the time of the year when children have returned to school. Some of those children have disabilities. In fact, about one in ten children have some disability that significantly impacts their ability to learn. These children, like all others, have a right to a "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE). The difficulty many parents encounter is trying to understand what a "free and appropriate public education" is and how parents can negotiate the special education maze to obtain the services that their children need in order to learn. I cannot give parents all of the answers but I can simplify the process and, perhaps, make the system seem more manageable.
Please allow me to negotiate at least one part of the maze, and let's start with vocabulary:
I.E.P. - Individual Education Plan. This plan should address the individual needs of the child with a disability. First, look at the testing that the school has performed. Second, look at the IEP. Does the IEP address the testing? It should. The IEP should be a mirror image of the tests. If there is a deficiency in one area, according to the tests, then the IEP should state how the teacher will work to remedy that problem. A parent may discover that the teacher does not address all of the deficiencies at one time. That is fine. The teacher may want to prioritize the child's needs and work with some areas first. That decision on what to teach is a team decision which brings us to the...
A.R.D. or A.R.D.C. - Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee. A parent is a part of that team. The committee meets at least once a year to discuss the child's individual education plan (IEP). The entire team develops the plan for the child. A parent may not agree with the plan or may want some specific equipment or learning device for his or her child that the school is unwilling to provide. It is all right to disagree.
The ARDC will take a break for ten days then meet again after everyone has had a chance to re-evaluate the child's needs considering all of the information brought to the meeting. Hopefully, ten days later, everyone has had the opportunity to share information and agree on an IEP. If not, the consensus will prevail. However, the rights of a parent do not stop there if the parent still disagrees. The parent can ask that her child be re-evaluated. The parent can also ask for an independent evaluation.
Other options include finding an advocate to help the parent work with the school to develop a program that the parent thinks is more appropriate, requesting a hearing or just waiting for a few weeks to see if the school plan is working. The parent can always ask for documentation to show that the child is making progress. The main point to remember is that a parent can request another ARDC at any time to discuss the child's progress.
I.T.P. - Individual Transition Plan. This plan is developed by the ARDC when the child with a disability becomes a teenager and prepares to enter into the next phase of his or her life whether that is work, education or another placement that is appropriate for that particular child. The ITP should be in place by the time the child is 16 but sometimes as early as ten or twelve depending on the child's individual needs.
Other vocabulary will be addressed in future newsletters. I also want to talk about different agencies that can provide assistance to parents. If a word or phrase or acronym is used that you do not know, please e-mail me. I will be glad to explain.
The next point that I would like to make concerns advocacy. The parent is the child's best advocate. The parent needs to stay involved and attend meetings even if the parent feels intimidated or frustrated. Communication is the key to a successful education program.
Finally, I will be attending a legal conference in October. I plan to bring the major points of that conference to this forum by the middle of October. In the meantime, let me know what your concerns are. Sometimes, I may be telling you things you already know or talking only about children when you want to address adult disability issues. If you express your needs, I will attempt to address them. My background is in education so expect me to discuss issues in education as they arise.
|I hope to make this a meaningful forum for all of us. Please help me to tailor this newsletter to your needs. Tell a friend about this Website. Thanks.