Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 for 21: #7 Top Ten IEP Tips: Guest Post

I decided to try and sweet talk my mother into doing a guest post during this series.  She is a school psychologist.  I wanted you know to know that it is NOT just me pumping you up for success when you go into an IEP, when I say you hold ALL THE CARDS.  You have legal ownership of your child's education!  And it is nationwide.  This is her schpeel when she presents Parental Rights.  Not every system is as empowering as she chose to be.  These particulars are Georgia Law, but the bare bones are in every single state.

Here is my mother, Sharon Tachenko.  She is a former Special Education Teacher, and current school psychologist and diagnostician.

"I have served as a school psychologist at many meetings with parents, classroom teachers and other intervention staff. Such meetings are called to review psychoeducational assessment to determine eligibility for specialized services. Meetings with parents and teachers can also be for the purpose of a review of prior eligibilities and consideration for ongoing specialized services (IEP for special education). ALWAYS, at either type meeting, an essential goal for me is to assure parental comfort, respect, and to draw YOU, the parent, into a true collaboration as an essential member of your child's educational team. The law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) REQUIRES that Parental Rights be administered. I never see this as a perfunctory act, but rather an opportunity to inform and educate YOU, the parent, with the goal in mind to draw you into a full and equally important role with teachers in the education of your child. Who better than a parent can best serve as reporter and ADVOCATE for your child!
I seek to empower parents in that knowledge. I say it explicitly. I always tell parents, "YOU are your child's best advocate until the students can advocate for themselves." An essential goal of any intervention team should be to make intentional plans to model and teach students as we pass that baton of self-advocacy. Parents should frequently be reminded of their essential Parental Rights. At each meeting, I always sought to provide a synopsis of those rights. After addressing the above principle of advocacy, I would seek to inform you that one of your essential rights is the right to call a meeting at any time. Each of the following Parental Rights are accorded by law through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
You have access to all your child's records at any time. I suggest to parents that you keep papers (filed oldest to most recent), so that you can quickly locate and monitor what should be happening on behalf of your child. If you cannot put your hands on essential papers/records, you can request them and have full access to them (special ed department). People come frequently for a variety of such requests, and you should NEVER feel hesitant or intimidated to ask for anything in your child's special education records.
YOU have the right to call a meeting of teachers and intervention staff at any time. This can be to discuss concerns, lack of progress, ask for help in better augmenting/facilitating the home role in the school's stated goals.
You have a right to expect confidentiality. Nothing will EVER be shared beyond current education providers without your written permission.
You have the right to a full and complete evaluation to determine your child's disability and/or related service. Efficacy of prior testing MUST be reviewed every three years, with consideration for further testing on the table. You can request updated testing to be done by the school. You also have a right to contest an evaluation with an independent (outside of school) assessment. NO decision can/will be made regarding your child's services without your full and informed permission.
You have the right to have your child's services provided in the "least restrictive environment." That means that unless the school can show (with data) that your child cannot learn and make adequate progress in a setting with typical developing age-peers, no pull-out should be considered.
If you ever feel you are not being heard by your local service provider(s), you can request a due process hearing. This can result in a simple mediation and resolution at the local level. You also have the right to file a formal written complaint with the Georgia Department of Education to conduct an investigation about any concerns, problems or disagreements. These essential rights are provided in synoptic detail here:

Both the synoptic version and the more detailed version should be provided all parents of children with special needs at the outset of the school year. They should also be offered at any and all meetings where your child's needs are discussed.

A final word to you ~ NEVER be intimated by the "professionals." No one knows your child, or CARES for your child like YOU, the parent. I always tell parents, "YOU hold all the rights! Take advantage of them! Fight for your child! NEVER remain silent when you think you have some insight or desire for your child. We are a team and YOU are an essential and critical member of that team. As much as a teacher may grow to love and respect your child, that teacher will touch your child's life for only one year or two. YOUR commitment will be forever." I take that very seriously. NEVER let any well-meaning "professional" keep you from expressing your wisdom and desires for your child. YOU are your child's best ~ and forever advocate!"

And so, you see that you have legal proof of your power and control.  It's not just me pumping you up and encouraging you.  Also, now you see why you can afford to be generous and participate in true and equal discussions.

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