When first considering special education evaluation for your child, it is also a good time to learn about how you can advocate and be an effective part of the process. The following points are lessons learned and shared by parents experienced in the special education process.
- Make sure everything is in writing! Even the request for a special education evaluation should be in writing. Some people find it effective to send a letter requesting a special education evaluation by certified mail with a return receipt request to make sure that the school received the request. Documentation is very important for the obvious reason that you are attempting to communicate something to the school, but it is important for other reasons as well.
- Participate in school activities with your child. This will help you and the school staff get to know each other. Your children will benefit from the relationships you forge with the people who care for them.
- Work to build positive relationships with the school district staff. Remember, you will work with these people as long as you are living in the district and your children attend their schools.
- Be an active member of your child’s IEP team. Parents and children are not only invited to special education meetings, but need to participate in the IEP process.
- Surround yourself with supportive people during IEP meetings. You may bring family members, friends, advocates or an attorney to the IEP meeting. It is important and courteous to notify the school if you are bringing additional participants to the meeting.
- Take good notes for all contacts with school staff. Many parents keep a log of everyone with whom they come in contact. Some logs are spiral notebooks with the following information: *Date of contact *Person contacted *Phone number and extension of the person contacted *Content of discussion *Agreements made during the contact *Follow up plans identified during the contact
- If you prepare as though Due Process is possible from the start, it is less likely that you will have to engage in Due Process.
- Some diligent parents will submit a summary of the conversation in writing to the person with whom they had the discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Follow up agreements can be documented here with due dates and the people responsible for tasks to be completed. If problems arise regarding your child’s special education plan, you will want to be able to provide any documentation that you have. There are timelines by which the school must abide that have been established in state law concerning special education. In due process cases, these timelines can be very important in determining whether a school is compliant with the law. It may seem like a technicality, but records of such transgressions may make the difference between prevailing in a due process hearing and losing the case completely.
- Another method of documenting requests is to make the request in writing and leave a space at the bottom of the request for a staff person at the school to sign, indicating receipt of the request. Some parents prefer this method since there is a face-to-face contact with the school staff. Sometimes, parents are able to schedule an appointment to review the request on the day that the request is tendered.
Special Education – Main Page
Requesting Special Education Services
Case Management for your Child’s Special Education Services
Inclusion/Least Restrictive Environment
Advocacy Toolbox – Main Page