Parent Influence on Team Decisions

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My son is 18.  He suffers from anxiety and bi-polar. He just had his first IEP. He is very bright and scored above average on all his academic testing. Emotionally he cannot function in his current school setting. The school determined that he needed an outside placement. They gave me two options – both seem totally unacceptable.

What rights do I have to chose a school?

You must be able to define your son’s needs completely and specifically.  If not, the IEP team will not have enough information to develop an appropriate program. You must get more information about defining his needs.

  • Did the doctors evaluating your son make any recommendations?
  • What were they?

The evaluation is an important factor in determining placement. If the evaluators did not provide you with any appropriate recommendations, you may need a new evaluation.

Consider getting an outside evaluation with educational recommendations from the private sector. It’s good to get at least one expert in your son’s corner. A good evaluator or psychologist can explain what type of program and placement your son needs and what is likely to happen if the team does not find an appropriate placement for him.

If neither of the two placements the school suggested meet your son’s needs, then they are not appropriate. Your son needs access to the general education curriculum, including honors courses.

More Options

Check the Wrightslaw website and the FETA website for information on evaluations.

Have your read Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy?  Do you know your IDEA rights and responsibilities spelled out in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law?  Consider getting both of these books.

The information can make the difference in helping the team recognize how to meet your son’s needs. With this information you can develop a plan for the next meeting. At the meeting, ask for what your son needs.

Write a letter to the school that describes your child. Include his history, his educational needs, and his goals for the future. Include information about the two placements offered, what you observed, and why you feel they are not appropriate for your son. When you ask questions, document the school’s answers. Document everything. Document, document, document.

Learn about prior written notice. If you ask for something and the school refuses, they must provide you with the reasons in writing.

Contact your Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for resources and assistance. Every state has at least one.

I know it’s a lot, but this is the way you will become an equal team member. You can influence the team decisions, but you must have the knowledge to do it.

  1. Where would a parent be able to find information on whether a state has social emotional learning standards? Is this a state standard or something that is part of the individual school’s mission and statment?

    My understanding is that the student’s IEP goals are to reflect the individual student’s needs and that includes social emotional goals.

  2. Please also know that if your son is 18 you need to get his permission to make educational decisions for him. Have him sign and educational power of attorney so that you have the ability to make decisions. Teams will sometimes exploit an 18 year old student under the guise that once they turn 18 they are legally the decision makers. I would also check into the possibility that your son could take college courses online or online school ossibilities. Beside knowing your child know your resources, what is out there that is appropriate for your son. You can modify his current environment to provide for his success. A shortened school day, online classes, private tutoring supplement, reduced work load, can all be included in your child’s IEP . . . but you must have your son’s buy in The school should also be making a transition plan

  3. I also recommend visiting the suggested placements. I did this for the opposite reason — the district said they could provide FAPE in-district and I knew they couldn’t. When I visited these placements (middle school), I asked plenty of questions regarding reading programs, discipline, actual remediation (not worksheets), etc. What I saw was a real eye-opener and I had plenty of documentation as to why these suggested placements were not appropriate for my dd’s individualized academic, emotional and social needs. After 7 IEP meetings, they finally agreed to an out-of-district placement, but for either reason(s), you need to do your homework! Good luck!

  4. unfortunately schools make it very difficult for any child who needs outside placement or any special needs assistance IMPOSSIBLE> the special needs program unfortunately is set up to be a bunch of red tape paperwork useless meetings and out of pocket attorney expenses when they deny the help needed. the schools tend to drag out the meetings as long as possible and side against the parents and students in hopes the child will be out of the school district as soon as possible to avoid the exptra expense. we need better laws.

    • Michelle, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The state is of no help whatsoever; they basically allow the district to do whatever they please. Parental input, sure, except the IEP team states in the end we’re going to implement what we feel is best…ha! It seems no matter what parents ask for, it begans as a battle ending with war!! Most districts know many parents don’t have the means to hire an attorney or get outside evaluations; it is just too costly!! The laws need to change starting with State regulations!!!

  5. Debbie and Mike the Psych’s advice is spot on. A few other things to consider. If you have not already visited the two placements the district has recommended, that’s a good thing to do. If your mind is made up, I would not recommend a visit to sway you, but for some solid “real life” speaking points as to why those placements do not meet your son’s needs.

    I hate to imagine that any IEP team would try to browbeat a parent into agreeing to an out of district placement, but being able to give hard examples of what you saw/felt/smelled/heard when you visited tends to limit debate. Last, any place you visit, enquire about the frequency of restraint uses for other students. Even if the issue of restraint/seclusion is not relevant to your son, it is extremely important to know if he will come in contact with other students who are being restrained. Think about the potential anxiety this would trigger in your son if he has to see/hear that happening to another student.

  6. Also make sure to check if your state has Social Emotional Learning standards, as a few states do. You can inquire about what they do to meet those standards. If a school is recommending an outside placement they are acknowledging their resources are insufficient to help your child, which does happen from time to time. Placement is a team decision, and typically the school should provide 3 potential placement options to consider for LRE. Good luck and stand-up for your child’s rights.

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