Are you concerned that your child may have Asperger’s Syndrome or be on the Autism Spectrum even though special education personnel in your school district say that they don’t? Is your child struggling academically even though school personnel say everything is fine? This article is for you! I will be discussing the 6 steps to special education eligibility, and how you can prepare for each step to increase your chances that your child will be found eligible!The federal law that covers special education is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 or IDEA 2004; which all states must comply with.Step 1 is the Request for Evaluation. According to IDEA 2004 school districts must find, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, under the Child Find section. You may submit a written request that your child receive a comprehensive psychological evaluation, to determine if they have a disability.You should include any information that supports your case that your child has a disability. Outside evaluations, medical reports, district and state wide standardized testing, teacher comments etc. Also in your request, mention all areas that you think your child may have a disability in because schools must test in all areas of suspected disability.Step 2 is the decision by the school district whether they are going to test your child; which is usually done at a meeting between parents and school personnel. You must stand up for your child at this meeting, and absolutely insist that your child be tested in all areas of suspected disability.Step 3 is the consent to evaluate. If the school agrees to evaluate your child you must sign a consent form for this testing. IDEA 2004 requires that parents give informed consent. What does this mean? This means that you understand what tests are going to be given and in what areas. You may withhold consent to test in one area, or to give a specific test if you do not agree.Ask that all evaluation reports be sent to you by mail at least 10 days prior to the eligibility meeting; so that you can be a full participant in the process.Step 4 is the actual evaluation. The school has 60 days in which to complete the evaluation. Most evaluations have interviews with one or both parents especially if a Vineland or an Autism Rating Scale is being given. Rating Scales should be filled out by parents because they know the child best; and this will increase the reliability of the Scale.Step 5 is the Eligibility Conference and the Individual Educational Plan Meeting. If at all possible bring another parent or an advocate who is familiar with special education.Ask lots of questions especially about terminology that you do not understand. Ask evaluators to fully explain their report, and especially any scores that are below grade level. If scores are below grade level evaluators should be able to tell you why? For example: A third grade student that reads at a first grade level may have undiagnosed learning disabilities. Any area that is below grade level means that a child may need related and or special education services in this area, in order to benefit from their education.If the child is found eligible then an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) must be developed for the child. All services needed should be included on the IEP, as well as minutes per week that the child will receive the service.Step 6 is Consent for special education Placement. IDEA 2004 requires that parents sign for initial related and special education services. Special education is not necessarily a special class, but can be services that your child needs for their education. Related services are things such as therapies, assistive technology, counseling, etc.While eligibility is not guaranteed, advocating for your child you will increase your chance of having your child found eligible for special education services!
Are you the parent of a child with autism or a physical disability, that receives special education services? Does your child need transportation services? Do you think that special education personnel are not being truthful about what the federal special education law (IDEA 2004) says about transportation? This article will be discussing 5 lies that are commonly told to parents about transportation. Also, discussion on how to overcome these lies to help your child receive needed, transportation services.Lie 1: We can keep your child on the bus for as long as we want. While IDEA 2004 does not address length of bus ride, long bus rides can be negatively affecting a child’s education (causing stress, negative behavior).The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) stated in a policy letter to anonymous (1993) that lengthy bus rides may be discriminatory, and may result in denial of FAPE. Why could a long bus ride be discriminatory? If children with disabilities are on the bus longer than children without disabilities, this could be considered discrimination.Lie 2: No one says that we have to provide transportation to your child, and we are not going to. Transportation is considered a related service and needs to be given to a child, if they need the service so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).Lie 3: The transportation director makes decisions about whether a child needs transportation not the IEP team. In a document from OSEP entitled Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation OSEP states “The IEP team is responsible for determining if transportation is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services… ” If your child needs transportation make sure that it is listed in your child’s IEP as a related service (if child not riding regular education bus).Lie 4: The state says that we can bring your child to school 15 minutes late every day, and take her out 15 minutes early due to transportation issues. Ask the school to show you in writing any documentation that proves that they have the right to do what they want to do. In the above example you could ask for “Please show me in writing where it states that our State Department of Education is allowing cutting short of education due to transportation issues!”
Actually the above OSEP document makes it clear that the school day for a child with a disability should not be longer or shorter than the school day for general education students. Since a child would receive less educational time this could also be a denial of FAPE.Lie 5: If you want your child to participate in extracurricular activities then you must provide transportation, we do not have to. Actually IDEA 2004 states that a child with a disability has a right to transportation for required after school activities as well as for extracurricular activities. Make sure that the extracurricular activity is listed on your child’s IEP, and also listed that they require transportation in order to participate in the activity.How do you overcome these transportation lies?1. Learn about transportation requirements in IDEA 2004 (which is the federal special education law). I use the book Special Education Law 2nd edition from Peter and Pam Wright, which is fantastic. This book as well as a lot more advocacy information for parents can be found at: http://www.wrightslaw.com.2. Call your states Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for help with advocating for transportation issues.3. Bring all of the above information to an IEP meeting to assist you in your advocacy.Good luck in your advocacy!