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Become Your Child's Case Manager - Don't Just 'Go With the Flow'
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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Mother and sonWill an IEP Help My Child?

"Our child was evaluated for Kindergarten, but no one even looked at the assessment.

By midyear, he was having difficulty in school. The principal and kindergarten teacher told us he may have neurological problems and couldn't perform basic skills.

His neurological evaluation showed he had hypotonia (low muscle tone) causing dysgraphia. The school wrote a 504 plan for 30 minutes of OT per week. Now, in 1st grade, we're told he needs more intervention and they want to develop an IEP for him.

Will an IEP help? Does the school just want to get an aide in the classroom? We believe our son is 2e. Will categorizing him prevent him from a future honors track? Does an IEP benefit or hurt our son?

Seems like a series of mistakes by the school. Should we resist the school proposal or just "go with the flow?"

Sue's Response

Become the Case Manager

You and your husband are the people primarily responsible for your son's health care and education, so do not ever feel that you must turn this decision making process over to someone else. This may be a source of your confusion and anger. If things feel out of control, then take your control back.

However, the only person you control is yourself. You will need to learn more about the process, disability, evaluations, child development, curriculum, and goal writing before you feel more in control. The school is running their own agenda. And so are you. That is inevitable.

Once you again resume the position of "case manager," as you did before he started school, you will feel more informed and in control.

  • Learn to become a team member and work with the other members of the IEP team. Once the team splits off into factions the focus comes off the child.
  • Write a letter requesting a complete copy of your son's education file. Then keep it up to date.
  • Follow all the neurologist's recommendations.

Allow the School to Develop an IEP and Educate Your Child

If the school has determined that your son needs an IEP, they have also determined that he has a disability that affects a major life activity and is severe enough to require specialized instruction. So by all means, allow them to do their job and educate him. This decision would have been made based upon evaluations.

Understand Evaluations

Make sure you understand what the evaluations say and what the evaluator's recommendations mean. Read this article on Tests and Measurements.

Address Goals

The IEP has educational and functional goals. That is what you need to address. You need to be looking at how an aide will participate in your son's mastery of the curriculum.

Focus on Your Child

Do not speculate about what an aide might do to benefit other people. Why do you care what the school is getting, or not getting, out of this? Do not make this an issue about guessing at other people's agendas. They are largely irrelevant if you know how to do your own job of knowing what your son needs and securing it for him. Why waste the time finding out?

Focus on your son. Will he be prepared for second grade or not? That is the question.

You say you believe your son is "2e". If you mean twice exceptional, disabled in one area and gifted in another, how do you know? This information comes from evaluations, not a belief. Find out, but what does it matter? The IEP is supposed to make sure he learns the curriculum and is prepared for second grade.

Preserve the Right to Special Education

Your first step is to understand the process, the evaluations, and to possibly get additional evaluations from private sector specialists. Without seeing the evaluations that have already been done, and the educational program that is in place, then I cannot tell you anything about that.

By all means, accept at least part of the first IEP in order to preserve his right to special education.

  • Do read this book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition. (If you buy it used online make sure you get the Second Edition)
  • Do read the procedural safeguard notice from your state
  • Do re-read the file and all evaluations
  • Consider hiring an advocate for a while to walk you through the process

These are links to directories of advocates.

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities

National Disability Rights Network

Education-a-Must

Avoid Getting Off Track

Going with the flow is never the way to go. Consulting with private sector specialists, possible additional evaluations done by private sector specialists, and learning the process would be the way to go.

Anytime you feel yourself focusing on how you will control another person, rather than on what you will set in place to accomplish your goal, know that you are off track.

Good luck.

Sue



Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.


Copyright © 2002-2014 by Suzanne Whitney.

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