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Letter to Wrightslaw from Florida Mom

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Florida Mom wrote, "We finished our due process hearing yesterday. Your website was such an integral part of my life and my case for so many months. You seem to be a part of the process for me.

I want to thank you for the support during those dry months in the wilderness. You were an oasis of information for me.

Dear Pam and Pete:

We finished our due process hearing yesterday.

Your website has been such an integral part of my life and my case for so long when I had no counsel. I emailed questions and you answered the ones you could and I so appreciated that. You seem to be a part of the process for me. I know you hear from many people so Ill keep it brief.

My son is now 13 (he was 12 when we started this). He has a severe language processing disorder. We had an IEP meeting in the spring that was sorely inadequate. (I work in special ed.)

I didn't receive any information that supported his making progress although I did request it. At the IEP meeting, the only people present were the special ed teacher, the speech teacher and me. No representative from the school attended the IEP meeting. No regular education teacher attended the IEP meeting either.

We removed our son from the special ed program and placed him in a private program for a half day. We are asking for tuition reimbursement, mileage and so forth.

Eventually, we found a local firm to represent us. This was our first victory! This is a large law firm with more than 90 attorneys on staff. We were very fortunate.

The hearing is over. Funny things happen to people when they have to raise their right hand and take an oath.

Many people who previously told us one version of events altered their testimony at the hearing. But the FUNNIEST part is what I will share.

One our contentions was that the district did not train their staff for inclusion/co-teaching. One school witnesses was a special ed teacher, another witness was a coach- all seven feet of him!

Ill call the school witnesses Teacher A and Coach B.

Teacher A comes in and testifies about the modifications made in the classroom. She rattled this off like a memorized list. She gushed about how much she cared for my son and how well he did and what a great kid he was.

She leaves and in walks Coach B. He is asked what modifications were made. He takes a look at his clipboard and recites exactly the same text as Teacher A. It was embarrassingly obvious.

My attorney asked, "Where did you get the information on that list?"

He sheepishly answers, "From Teacher A."

"And when did you get that information?" our attorney asked.

"This morning," he replied.

"I have no further questions," said our attorney.

It was all I could do not to laugh.

I want to thank you for the support during those dry months in the wilderness. You were an oasis of information for me.

-----------------

Dear Florida Mom:

Pam here. Thanks so much for taking the time to write to us about your hearing. Pete sent you an email and I have another idea. I think your message would give hope to other parents who are walking or need to walk in your shoes. What would you think about us using your letter as a "Letter to Wrightslaw."

Tell us about other resources you recommend books or web sites that will help other parents who are going through this process. (Special Ed Law 101, Stress Management 201?) Well add your recommended links as part of your letter.

Thanks for writing. Your letter gave us a lift!

==========

From Florida Mom:

It's 7:00 am and I am catching messages before I head out the door.

Websites???

http://www.wrightslaw.com

This is THE website. Your site is the best. When I get home tonight, I'll respond more thoroughly. Enjoy the day.

=============

From Florida Mom later that day :

Ive been thinking about your questions. Feel free to use this letter on your site and edit it as you please. When I get a decision on my case, Ill fax the results to you.

How did I handle the stress?

It was stressful and frustrating. At times, we felt like quitting before we had counsel. But my husband and I decided or we came to a "fork in the road" where we decided that we would either quit or buckle down and stay in it for the long haul.

We decided that our son was worth fighting for. If we helped other children as well, it would be an effort worth fighting for. After we made that resolution, it was easier when the difficult times came.

The district hired a law firm who specializes in special education law. In simple terms, they ate us alive. They deluged us with Motions and letters with terms and language we were not familiar with.

We found support in different places. We began with LD Online

http://www.ldonline.org/

LD Online has so many wonderful links one area was "Finding Help" which gives a state by state listing of organizations.

I urge any parent who is going through this kind of challenge to get an advocate. Having an advocate was essential in giving us the support we needed and hooking us up with other parents who were going through similar problems.

From the legal end, I found no site as helpful as wrightslaw.com

I was able to research cases and formulate a summary statement that I read to attorneys when I called looking for legal representation. When searching for an attorney, I suggest that parents do this. Like everyone else, attorneys are busy. I believe that most reputable attorneys want to see some documentation that supports your case. If you prepare a small summary packet for them to review, it will save you and the attorney time and energy.

Also, have a history of your case from birth to present including all doctors, evaluations, meetings and any written correspondences. Keep a running record of this.

I suggest that any parent who is experiencing challenges from their school districts do the following:

Request a complete copy of your child's records from the school. When you get the records, number them as they are delivered to you and place them in a file.

Later, you may see that some miraculous transformations occur in these records (documents added, deleted, and changed). This happened in our case.

I'll let you know when we get our decision.

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