In this episode, we discuss IEPs and 504 plans. Courtney Burnett’s daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at age 4. Courtney began working in advocacy due to seeing parents struggling with the special education systems. She felt the push to help and initially got started through word of mouth, calling people, and emailing people. She completed trainings to become a Master IEP Coach.
In order to have an IEP, a child needs to qualify for one through an evaluation. These are children who have educational goals and require related services, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, small group interventions, and the like. A 504 plan is created for children who have medical or physical needs who need additional accommodations in order to access their education. A big difference is that 504 plans can follow you to college, whereas IEPs cannot. Courtney recommends considering switching to a 504 plan in your child’s senior year of high school, if possible, so the child can continue to obtain accommodations in college without requiring an additional evaluation.
To obtain an IEP or 504, a teacher can reach out to the family and initiate the process of an evaluation, or a parent can reach out to the school (ideally in writing). If the school pushes back, parents can provide a written request to the school for an IEP meeting, which can start the ball rolling to determine if the child needs an IEP or if there are other strategies that the school may want to try first. If you have a young child and are concerned, ask for an evaluation to see if they require an IEP and accommodations. If your child doesn’t qualify, keep an eye on the concerns that you have, because your child may meet criteria for services several months down the road.
Before an IEP meeting, it is important to prepare a parent input or vision statement. Having pre-IEP meetings with teachers can also be helpful. Come up with ideas for what you would like in the IEP prior to attending the IEP meeting. Reviewing the prior progress notes can also be helpful prior to the IEP meeting. Also, review their service minutes, so you can compare the prior IEP to the current one. When coming up with IEP plans and goals, it is always important to think about how it will actually be implemented, and how many service minutes vs consultative minutes a therapist would need to work with your child. It is always helpful to bring someone to the IEP meeting who knows the child well, or who is part of their treatment team (such as an outside therapist). However, as a courtesy, let the team know in advance that you are bringing someone. Sometimes, it can be helpful to let teachers know that we don’t expect perfection, but that we want to make sure we are all in communication with each other, so we can help and support teach other.
If you are told that something isn’t possible that you feel is a reasonable accommodation for your child, always ask if they can point out where that policy is written down. If things aren’t moving forward, parents have the right to disagree with the team. If the school still disagrees with the parents, it is time to bring in an advocate or IEP coach. If the IEP team gives you more pushback, you can kindly explain how the accommodation can actually help the school and the other children. Of note, private preschools do not have to follow IEP recommendations. If you do not agree with the school, there are options for due process, and you can always reach out to an advocate or IEP coach who can help you through that process.
She wishes she knew that parents have a voice in the process and that there are different options within the school district with regards to placement. Additional resources include the Arc, Raising Special Kids, and Partners in Leadership. Community networking can also be very helpful.
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Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple
Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.
Copyright 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple