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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 HoweyPat Howey has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is a member of Lamba Epsilon Chi. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal, an affiliate member of the Indiana and the American Bar Associations, and a national known parent advocate with over 35 years of experience helping families.

The author of Special Education: Plan and Simple, Special Education, The Commentary series. Pat has numerous articles published on the Wrightslaw website, Ask the Advocate. Pat has been a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau since 2005 and has presented on special education and advocacy from coast to coast.

Pat is a charter member and past Director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and a faculty member of the Institute of Special Education Advocacy at the College of William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia from 2010 through its closing in 2021. She currently works as a paralegal in the Education Division of Connell, Michael, Kerr Law Firm in Carmel, Indiana.

Pat presents From Emotions to Advocacy programs. In these programs, parents learn how to assess their children's strengths and weaknesses, build healthy working relationships with school personnel, about the "gentle art of disagreeing," and how to participate as equal members of the IEP team.

"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: 01/17/2023

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