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Back to School Series 2010

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August and September can be two of the most trying months of the year.  Families everywhere are planning for the return to school - trying to get back on track in old routines or create new ones.

For parents of children with special educational needs, back to school means the start of a new IEP advocacy year.To be an effective parent advocate, you must know the steps to take to ensure that your child receives an appropriate education.

In our Back to School Series, you'll find information and advice, advocate's tips, and legal resources to help you start the year off right.

Part 1

Get the School Year Off to a Good Start

Help! School is starting. I want to make sure I have done my homework so this year is better than last year.

Find advice about how to make the transition back to school as easy as possible, and tips to help you get off to a good start.

Learn how to get the extra help your child needs, with suggestions and tips from Pete and Pam Wright, seasoned advocates, and other experts in special education.

In Wrightslaw: All About IEPs, we answer more than 200 questions and guide you through scenarios. We will describe legal issues that you may encounter if you have a child with a disability who receives special education services. We will outline your rights and responsibilities, and explain the law in plain language you can understand. .

Part 2

Your Role: Representing Your Child's Interests

As your children return to school, it's time to think about what you need to do to start this school year right.

Effective advocacy comes from research, planning, and preparation. To be a successful advocate you need to:

  • Know your child's disability and his rights
  • Understand your rights and responsibilities
  • Hone your advocacy skills and techniques
  • Learn to negotiate for quality services
  • Maintain a positive parent/school relationship

Planning is the key to success. Your child's special education is a long-term project. You need a master plan. You will revisit and revise your plan as your child grows.

Find advice and advocacy strategies to help you make educational decisions for your child. You will learn how the effective parent advocate stays focused, anticipates problems, and avoids mistakes.

New to special education and don't know where to start? Right here - Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.

Part 3

The Law: Your Rights and Responsibilities

Parents have extensive rights under IDEA 2004.

  • The right to ask for an evaluation of you child.
  • The right to ask for a re-evaluation at any time.
  • The right to be part of the team that decides what special education services and therapies your child will receive.

It is essential that every parent understand the law thoroughly, so you know what your rights are and what services your child may be eligible for. Learn how to use IDEA and state academic standards as a tool to negotiate a better educational program and develop your child's IEP.

Find out how to use IDEA and the No Child Left Behind Act to improve educational outcomes and results. Take the vocabulary quiz.

Know your rights! Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Multimedia Training programs on CD-ROM are available 24/7 - wherever you live, whenever you want.

Part 4

FAPE - What Does It Mean? Caselaw about FAPE

If you have a child with a disability, your child is entitled to FAPE - a free appropriate public education, under the IDEA. What does this mean?

In a nutshell, FAPE is an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from which the child receives educational benefit, and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living.

Last week you learned about the law and your legal rights. It is also important to read caselaw about your legal issue. Caselaw often determines how the law and regulations are applied. Even adverse decisions from the courts teach valuable lessons.

Learn about the legal concept of FAPE, who is responsible for providing a free, appropriate public education and what the courts have said about how it is delivered.

Are you having difficulty getting the school to provide FAPE for your child? Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition.

Part 5

The 411 on Evaluations, Tests and Measurements

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores, Wrightslaw Training on CD-ROMDid you realize that knowing how to measure your child's educational progress is more important than knowing the law? Is your child learning and making good progress in the special ed program? Is your child falling further behind the peer group?

In Part 4 you learned your child must receive meaningful educational benefit to receive FAPE. How can tell if your child is receiving educational benefit? If you compare your child's educational achievement test scores over time, you will know the answer to that question.

Learn about tests and measurements that allow you to measure your child's progress or lack of progress (regression). These statistics provide information about your child's needs, strengths, and weaknesses that you will need to make wise decisions about his special education program.

In Understanding Your Child's Test Scores, you'll learn how to draw the bell curve and how to use your child's test scores to create powerful progress graphs. Pete will also teach you about standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, composite or cluster scores, and subtest scatter.

Part 6

Your Child Needs a SMART IEP

Take a look at your child's IEP. Do you see goals like this: "Evan will improve in reading...increase study skills for academic success...demonstrate better writing...?"

Not good enough! Your child needs a SMART IEP that is:

S Specific
M Measurable
A Use Action Words
R Realistic and relevant
T Time-limited

Find an IEP game plan that will describe how to create SMART IEPs, step-by-step. Learn how to determine your child's present levels of performance and write measurable annual goals that are SMART IEP goals and objectives.

Download Chapter 12 about SMART IEPs in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition. Read and reread Chapter 12 until you understand these concepts. Complete the homework assignments that will teach you how to write SMART IEP goals.

If you have questions about IEPs, please look at our multi-media training program, Legal Requirements of IEPs. The program shows you exactly what the law requires.



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