The process to be found eligible for special education services is not fast.  Even though IDEA has timelines in place to move the process forward, it can take several months before a qualifying child begins receiving services.  There are certain documents that you can provide the school that would potentially make it move faster.  Your advocate will explain the timelines and what documents you already have, or can obtain, to get an IEP approved, developed, and in place sooner.

Having a team that you feel is working toward a positive outcome for your child is important.  Your advocate will guide you in determining what options you have when you disagree with an IEP team member or feel they are not working in your child’s best interest.

The most direct answer to this question is: Whatever your child needs in order to access their education and make meaningful progress.

There is no secret menu of services that the school provides to families that know to ask for them.  Although there may be common accommodations and services the school provides, each plan is individualized to meet your child’s unique needs.  The IEP team is tasked with analyzing where your child is performing academically and functionally now, and collaborating to determine what is needed and appropriate for them to make meaningful progress.  Even though your child’s eligibility category describes the disability that most profoundly impacts their access to their education, the services provided are not dictated by that code.

This is where your vision is important to share with the team.  Keep the team focused on the bigger goal and encourage creative problem solving on how to get there, school year by school year.

A medical diagnosis is not an automatic qualifier for special education services. IEPs are intended for children who require specialized instruction in order to make progress in their education. Some children with disabilities may only require accommodations such as extra time for tests, break cards, or lecture notes.  All of these accommodations can be provided through a “504 Plan,” which refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  When academic interventions or different ways of teaching a student are necessary, a student may be found eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is a different federal law.

When you present documentation to the IEP team, they must consider the information.  If the documentation includes a recommendation that you believe should be included in your child’s IEP, the request and the team’s decision regarding the request must be documented in the Prior Written Notice document after discussing it at the meeting.

Sometimes parents fear the presence of an advocate will turn the IEP process adversarial. Depending on the approach of your advocate, your child’s school team, and your history with them, bringing an advocate can indeed change the dynamic of the team.  However, a skilled advocate is not combative, and a team may become more relaxed and compliant when they realize your advocate is knowledgeable and collaborative.

For families wanting guidance and coaching, but who think even a collaborative advocate will be disruptive to the team, you can enlist Charting the Course LLC at the hourly rate to review your child’s situation and coach you on ways to improve the outcome of your IEP meetings without the presence of an advocate.

In Maryland, all districts are required to have a written policy regarding permission to record IEP meetings.  This policy must be applied across the board.  Most districts allow the audio recording of IEP meetings by parents when prior notice is given.  When a parent (or their advocate) records an IEP meeting, the school also records the meeting and the recording becomes part of the student’s educational record.  As Maryland is a two-party consent state, do not secretly record any discussions you have with the school.

Charting the Course offers transcription services for IEP meeting recordings, which can be especially useful when needing to identify specific time stamps during dispute resolutions.

Truthfully, you should keep everything.

Some documents are more valuable than others, and you will need to reference them often.  Others should be filed, either physically or digitally, in the event they are needed during a dispute. Your advocate will assist you in identifying the most crucial documents that you will reference often.  You can also receive help developing a physical binder or electronic directory of your child’s educational and therapeutic records.

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