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10 Tips about Special Education Placements
by Pat Howey

boy writing in schoolMy son has been in special education since pre-school.  Some years, his material was too hard. Other years, he was with students who could not read or write. There was no support for him in the general education classroom. I feel like I must choose between his mental health and academics.

The school does not seem to have a good placement for my child.  Can you suggest any way to change this?

Do Not Put Placement Before the IEP

You must have an appropriate IEP before you can get an appropriate placement. Many parents make the mistake of putting the cart (the placement) before the horse (the IEP).

IDEA requires all IEPs to include present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.  (20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(A)(i))

Start by making a grocery list of your child’s present levels of educational and functional performance. Without “present levels” there is no foundation on which to build an IEP.

You can list anything that affects your child’s ability to function inside and outside of the school setting! Not every child will need functional goals. You will not know that unless you include present levels of functional performance.

The IEP is the Blueprint for Your Child’s Program

The IEP is the blueprint the school must use for your child’s program. This includes placement.  It all begins with present levels of educational and functional performance. The "present levels" in the IEP guarantees that your child gets the right special instruction, related services, modifications, adaptations, accommodations, assistive technology, or any other needed item.

An appropriate IEP answers the following question. "In what setting (placement) can we appropriately put this IEP into action?" If the school does not have an appropriate placement, it must create one.

This process sounds simple. But, you may have to work hard to get there. You are the best person to do this. You know your child best. You may have to do these three things.

  • Convince the team that the current IEP is not appropriate.
  • Guide the team to use the IEP to find the placement.
  • Negotiate with the school to create a placement if the school does not have the placement your child needs.

A Good Placement Begins With an Appropriate IEP

To make sure the “blueprint” is appropriate you should follow this process.

   1.  Make lists of your child's strengths and challenges. These lists are your child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.

   2.  Study your lists. They will guide you in teaching the team about what your child needs.

   3.  You will use your lists to help the team develop an IEP that builds on your child's strengths and corrects his areas of challenge.

   4.  Use information from the first lists (strengths and challenges) to make a third list. Your list should include the following.

  • The special education and related services your child needs. Remember that special education means "special instruction."
  • The adaptations, modifications, and accommodations your child needs in addition to special instruction. These are not substitutes for “special instruction.”

   5.  Use your three lists to help the team create an IEP that prepares your child for

  • Further education
  • Employment
  • Independent living

   6.  IDEA obligates the school to prepare your child for the three things in number five. (20 U.S.C. 1400(d))

   7.  When you have your three lists, you are ready to ask the team to meet again to change the IEP.

   8.  A few days before the meeting give each team member a copy of your list.
   9.  Ask the team to include your lists in the IEP under "Parent Concerns."

   10. Remember. You should not look at placement for your child until you complete the IEP!

More Tips

10 Tips about Placement

10 Tips for a Successful School Year

10 Tips for Schools on Avoiding Confrontation with Parents

10 Tips for Parents: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice

10 Tips for Good Advocates

10 Tips for Ending the School Year

14 Tips for Reviewing Your Child's Educational Record

10 Tips on Hiring an Advocate

18 Tips on Filing Complaints

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
E-mail: specialedconsulting@gmail.com
Webpage: https://cmklawfirm.com/

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Created: 09/16/10
Revised: 06/25/19

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