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10 Tips about Special Edcuation 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

18 Tips on Filing Complaints

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPat Howey has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College where she graduated with honors.

Pat is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and other organizations. The Learning Disabilities Association of Indiana honored Pat with its Outstanding Service Award for her commitment and compassion towards students with disabilities.

As a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau, Pat provides training for parents, educators, and others who want to ensure that children receive quality special education services. Wrightslaw special education law and advocacy programs are designed to meet the needs of parents, educators, health care providers, advocates, and attorneys who represent children with disabilities.

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

Contact Information
Pat Howey
Special Education Consulting
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
Website: patriciahowey.com
Email: specialedconsulting@gmail.com

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Created: 09/16/10
Revised: 03/22/12

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