Parent Corner

Some of our blog's most useful information for parents, all compiled in one page...

Read A Mother's Story, by Jane DuBovy

This post by A2Z's founder, Jane DuBovy, focuses on her journey as the mother of a child with Autism.

Special Education Training for Parents

With our extensive experience, we are able to present to parent groups or other groups in southern California on topics related to special education advocacy, parent rights, and the special education process.  Examples of topics on which we could present to your group include:

*  An Overview of Parent Rights under Special Education Laws
*  An Overview of the IEP Process and Evaluations
*  Independent Educational Evaluations
*  Special Education for Students with Autism
*  Special Education for Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
*  Special Education for Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD

More advanced topics could also be covered for more advanced audiences.  We are also willing to create specific presentations to meet your group's needs.  Contact A2Z and ask for Carrie for more information!


There are also many resources available for training opportunities / more in depth information on special education, such as -

*  Dept. of Education's IDEA page - http://idea.ed.gov/
*  The Wrightslaw website has a wealth of information related to IDEA and special education, and is very parent-friendly.  There are also books available for purchase for more in depth information about topics.
*  Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) - Parents can join COPAA for access to resources and information.  COPAA also provides webinars on topics related to special education throughout the year and an annual in-person conference each year.
*  Your Special Education Rights is a website that provides free information / resources to parents (and others) via a "continuously updated video library covering essential information in order to secure appropriate special education services for their child." - yourspecialeducationrights.com
*  Wrightslaw's DVD / Multi-media version of its Special Education Law and Advocacy training program is available for purchase online.  http://www.wrightslaw.com/store/cd.law.advo.html


In addition, special education advocates as well as law students and attorneys wishing to pursue special education law are often looking for training specific to disability rights and special education laws and advocacy skills, and there are many resources available to meet those training needs -

*  COPAA - Advocates and attorneys can also join COPAA for access to resources, information, and valuable training opportunities.
*  The COPAA SEAT program is the best-of-the-best when it comes to training for Special Education Advocates!  SEAT provides students with intensive coursework and a hands-on practicum component to provide training so that advocates achieve competency in their field.
*  The Advocacy Institute provides a variety of webinars (both live and through access to archived webinars) to provide training to advocates and parents on topics related to special education.  http://www.advocacyinstitute.org/



Additional Resources for Parents

Disability Rights California (the Protection and Advocacy, Inc - or PAI - of California)'s Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Manual (commonly referred to as the "SERR Manual") is a comprehensive resource for parents and advocates on everything related to special education in California. Topics are covered in question and answer format, with a combination of both information and practical tips.  The SERR Manual is available for download at the following link:  http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/504001SERR.htm
Wrightslaw.com is a very extensive resource. The website includes articles and briefs on an significant number of topics, updates on current events and news, a newsletter, and an online "law library." In addition, you can find information about Wrightslaw's various publications and other materials, including books and DVDs.  Check it all out at www.wrightslaw.com.

The US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has created a website intended to be a "one-stop shop" for information and resources about IDEA 2004 and its implementing regulations. The website includes information about IDEA divided into specific topics, as well as access to the statute and the regulations. It is also a great tool for finding the IDEA "Q&A" documents released by the Department of Education in regards to the changes and language in the regulations.  OSEP's IDEA 2004 Website can be found at http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates is a national organization with members who are parents of students with special needs, Advocates and Attorneys who represent students with disabilities, and "other" providers, etc who advocate for students.  Parents can join COPAA for access to the wealth of information and resources available through this wonderful organization at www.copaa.org.

The Your Special Education Rights website is one of the best resources available for parents - for free! - online.  This website provides video-based information on a wide range of topics related to special education and parents' rights.  The videos are continuously updated, and Jen and Julie (the ladies in the videos) are extremely knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time!


Top Ten Tips for Keeping Your Sanity

10) Never sign anything before you have a chance to completely read the document. This goes for assessment plans, IEPs and even settlement agreements. Just because the district, an assistant principal or a teacher tells you something doesn't meant it is written in the document. Read it and then reread and then have someone else read it.

9) When in doubt write it out. Put everything in writing - it can't hurt. There are many rights under the law which are not activated until you document your request in writing or provide the district with written notice. For example, always put in writing a request for assessments, a request for documents, and a notice of your intent to remove your child from a placement. Take notes during IEP meetings (or have someone else do it for you) and during telephone conversations. I like to follow up particularly "interesting" telephone conversations with a letter that documents all the statements made by the other party that are false or outside the scope of what is allowed under the law (you may want to save this for a particularly noteworthy conversation as the person will be less likely to say anything that "interesting" ever again).

8) You don't want the "best" you want what is "appropriate." Whenever a Parent says "best" at an IEP meeting I wince as it is a perfect opportunity for a district representative to pipe in about providing that child with a basic floor of opportunity. If you keep focused on what is appropriate they won't ever be able to say that you are after the "Cadillac" (although personally I would prefer a more efficient car - but I digress).

7) Don't over rely on technicalities. The law is filled with procedural rights that are meant to protect Parents and children but if you get caught up in the technicalities you could lose focus of the big picture - what your child needs to make educational progress. Unfortunately, a hearing officer or an administrative law judge is probably not going to care that the district didn't provide you with "prior" written notice that your child was no longer going to receive speech services - especially if you can't find anyone who recommends that he still needs speech services.

6) You need to learn to share. Provide the district with copies of all reports that you have done and with information about outside services you are providing. Parents sometimes want to keep information, such as independent evaluations or the fact they are providing services a secret until a hearing. This only makes you look like you have more to hide down the line and provides the district with the perfect defense - "had we known we would have paid for it/implemented it/considered it" (or the more likely "we would have provided you with notice we weren't going to pay for it/ implement it/ consider it").

5) Keep and organize all your documents. While you can always request records from the school district it is much easier if you have kept your own set of records if you need a document immediately or if you need to provide your documents to an advocate or an attorney. Also if there is going to be a "smoking gun" (and there usually isn't) it will be that the district has a "different" version of a document at a later date and your original document will help clear up any confusion. Also don't write on the documents - they may need to be used later as evidence and clean documents are better than ones where Parents have scribbled out words or taken notes all over.

4) Kill them with kindness. This could be a hard pill to swallow especially to Parents who have had a hard time with a particular administrator in the past but just because you are having a disagreement over services does not mean that you should be rude or get angry with someone as it usually won't serve any purpose - other than bringing a meeting to a screeching halt or making Parents look vindictive if they file for due process later. I've found that you can get a lot more information out of people if you are polite rather than calling them a liar or throwing papers in their face. Also you will come across as a much more credible witness to a hearing office or administrative law judge if you don't have a history of battering district employees.

3) Be the squeaky wheel. You can't assume the district will do what's right, fair, appropriate or even legal. While you should be courteous that doesn't mean you should lay down and let them roll over you. If you want an independent evaluation- ask for it. If your student isn't making progress - request an IEP. A school is much more likely to address your concerns if you let them know what they are on a regular basis rather than waiting until your child's annual IEP to ask questions.

2) Learn the lingo. An IEP can be all about whether your student needs an SDC to address his SLD because RTI was unsuccessful based on his PLOP and if any other DIS services are needed for FAPE. If you have no idea what any of these acronyms mean you are going to quickly get lost at an IEP meeting. While you can certainly ask a district representative to explain them to you (although in my experience they hardly ever know what DIS actually stands for) you will have an easier time of it if you familiarize yourself with the acronyms and any other vocabulary related to your child's disability beforehand.

1) If you need help - ask for it. This can all be overwhelming and technical to a Parent who hasn't been through the process before and there are advocates and attorneys who can help you navigate through it. If you can't afford an attorney or advocate there are organizations that will work with parents at little to no cost and with a little research you should be able to find some in your area. Also consider joining a parent support group as there will be parents there who have been through the process and likely willing to give you some advice or even come with you to an IEP meeting. 


How to Organize School Records

Organizing your child's files is a great way to ensure that you start the school year out right. With organized files, you are able to find documents quickly, access information regarding your child's needs, and track changes in your child's program. Ultimately, you become a better and more effective advocate for your child. Here's out tips for how to do it:

Records to Gather:
  • All of your child's IEPs, including annual IEPs, triennial / three-year reviews, and any addendums or amendments
  • Any assessments conducted by the school district, including protocols and notes from those assessments
  • Any assessment plans or written correspondence related to the district's assessments
  • Any assessments, evaluations or other reports that you have obtained privately / independently
  • Progress reports, report cards, and results from periodic classroom assessments
  • Statewide or districtwide assessment / testing results
  • Correspondence to and from your child's school, teachers, providers, etc
  • Discipline records or reports regarding your child's behaviors
  • Other relevant documentation regarding your child's unique needs and special education program
  • Copy of your "parent rights" that you recieve from the school district
* You have a right to review your child's records from the school district. Make a request in writing in order to review the records or obtain copies.

Supplies Needed:
  • Three-ring binders - you will need at least one large binder (more if your child is older / has a lot of records) for older records and one medium to large one to organize this year's documents as you receive them
  • Dividers with labels. Color-coded ones work well.
  • Inserts with pockets for loose documents
  • Hole-punch
  • Pen or marker
  • Colored paper
Organizing Your Records from Previous School Years:

1. If your child is older, and has many years worth of documents, start by dividing up the documents by elementary school years, middle school years, high school years.
2. Separate the documents in piles by the following categories:
a. IEPs
b. Assessments / Evaluations, Independent Reports
c. Progress Reports, Report Cards, Statewide Testing Results
d. Discipline records, behavior notes, behavior logs, etc
e. Correspondence, communications and emails
f. Other documents
* If your child has applicable medical needs, or other areas, you can add additional categories as needed
3. Within each category, put the documents into chronological order
4. Make labels for each section of your binder using the file dividers. The labels should correspond to the above categories. i.e. Make labels for "IEPs" "Evals" "Progress" "Behavior" "Correspondence" "Other"
5. Put documents into sections in chronological order, using a single colored sheet of paper between each separate document.
* Dividing records by category has the benefit of enabling you to easily find information in your child's files and track changes in IEPs, etc from year to year. Other methods could include dividing by school year; or simply putting all documents in chronological order with an index.

Tips for Setting Up a System for Current School Year:

1. Start with labels for your second binder that match the categories discussed above. Throughout the school year, you can add documents to these categories as you receive them, which will make it easy to transfer them into your archiving binder when the year is over.
2. Add an additional divider labeled "Notes." In that section, add blank paper or some format to use as a log or journal throughout the year. Make notes of any phone conversations, meetings or other discussions with teachers and staff regarding your child's educational program.
3. Insert a folder that can be used for forms and other communications that you need to sign and return.
4. Use either the front pocket of the binder or an insert to hold a contact list with teachers, providers, IEP case carriers, district administrators, your advocate, and others who are important to the development and implementation of your child's IEP.
5. Add additional dividers according to your needs.
6. If you can print out a school calendar, put a copy of it at the very beginning of this binder.

Remember that the goal here is to make this system easy for you to utilize and access, so organize in a way that works best for you!
Organizing your child's files is a great way to ensure that you start the school year out right. With organized files, you are able to find documents quickly, access information regarding your child's needs, and track changes in your child's program. Ultimately, you become a better and more effective advocate for your child. Here's out tips for how to do it:

Records to Gather:
  • All of your child's IEPs, including annual IEPs, triennial / three-year reviews, and any addendums or amendments
  • Any assessments conducted by the school district, including protocols and notes from those assessments
  • Any assessment plans or written correspondence related to the district's assessments
  • Any assessments, evaluations or other reports that you have obtained privately / independently
  • Progress reports, report cards, and results from periodic classroom assessments
  • Statewide or districtwide assessment / testing results
  • Correspondence to and from your child's school, teachers, providers, etc
  • Discipline records or reports regarding your child's behaviors
  • Other relevant documentation regarding your child's unique needs and special education program
  • Copy of your "parent rights" that you recieve from the school district
* You have a right to review your child's records from the school district. Make a request in writing in order to review the records or obtain copies.

Supplies Needed:
  • Three-ring binders - you will need at least one large binder (more if your child is older / has a lot of records) for older records and one medium to large one to organize this year's documents as you receive them
  • Dividers with labels. Color-coded ones work well.
  • Inserts with pockets for loose documents
  • Hole-punch
  • Pen or marker
  • Colored paper
Organizing Your Records from Previous School Years:

1. If your child is older, and has many years worth of documents, start by dividing up the documents by elementary school years, middle school years, high school years.
2. Separate the documents in piles by the following categories:
a. IEPs
b. Assessments / Evaluations, Independent Reports
c. Progress Reports, Report Cards, Statewide Testing Results
d. Discipline records, behavior notes, behavior logs, etc
e. Correspondence, communications and emails
f. Other documents
* If your child has applicable medical needs, or other areas, you can add additional categories as needed
3. Within each category, put the documents into chronological order
4. Make labels for each section of your binder using the file dividers. The labels should correspond to the above categories. i.e. Make labels for "IEPs" "Evals" "Progress" "Behavior" "Correspondence" "Other"
5. Put documents into sections in chronological order, using a single colored sheet of paper between each separate document.
* Dividing records by category has the benefit of enabling you to easily find information in your child's files and track changes in IEPs, etc from year to year. Other methods could include dividing by school year; or simply putting all documents in chronological order with an index.

Tips for Setting Up a System for Current School Year:

1. Start with labels for your second binder that match the categories discussed above. Throughout the school year, you can add documents to these categories as you receive them, which will make it easy to transfer them into your archiving binder when the year is over.
2. Add an additional divider labeled "Notes." In that section, add blank paper or some format to use as a log or journal throughout the year. Make notes of any phone conversations, meetings or other discussions with teachers and staff regarding your child's educational program.
3. Insert a folder that can be used for forms and other communications that you need to sign and return.
4. Use either the front pocket of the binder or an insert to hold a contact list with teachers, providers, IEP case carriers, district administrators, your advocate, and others who are important to the development and implementation of your child's IEP.
5. Add additional dividers according to your needs.
6. If you can print out a school calendar, put a copy of it at the very beginning of this binder.

Remember that the goal here is to make this system easy for you to utilize and access, so organize in a way that works best for you! - See more at: http://www.a2zeducationaladvocates.blogspot.com/search/label/back%20to%20school#sthash.lVnjDkDd.dpuf

Videos For Parents About the Special Education Process

How often does the school district have to assess my child?


How do I make a records request?


How do I get the IEP process started?


Sample Letters for Parents:

Letter to Request Records


Letter to Request an IEP Meeting

Letter to Provide Notice to Record an IEP Meeting

Letter to Request Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) [when in disagreement with District assessments]

  

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