Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome To School Year, 2010

Welcome to a Fresh New School Year.

May all your teachers be understanding.

May your child have the best IEP in place.

May the IEP be worked upon in a meaningful way.

May your child grow and flourish this upcoming year.

May we all give thanks to our teachers, aides, therapists and school staff so they work with our children despite their challenges.

And finally, may we stay strong as advocates for our children despite our low energy, time constraints, and other responsibilities.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Small Story of Inclusion

My daughter has Severe Autism, Rett Syndrome. She can't speak, use her hands, eats by g-tube, has seizures and many other complex needs.

I hear a lot about how kids like her are not included in activities in school so I'd like to share a little story of inclusion.

Kate is in a multiple needs classroom. Throughout the day she integrates into 1st grade and K. She likes K because it still has a lot of music and flexible creative times. 1st grade she enjoys for the circles.

Today the 1st grade had an end of year play with 5 skits. How would they include Kate who is in a wheelchair, nonverbal and can't move well? The teacher did not even have to include Kate since she is only in her class part of the day. But both teachers, the K for a graduation ceremony, and 1st grade for the play, really stepped up.

Kate's job was to introduce each of the plays. Beforehand the lines were put onto a step by step communication switch for her to push when it was her turn to speak. A talking switch is a big button that hold a recordable message or multiple messages in a row.
The messages were recorded in a child voice.

When it came time for Kate's part her one to one moved her into place and put the switch in front of her. She was able to hit the button and would receive applause. The audience could see how much work it was for her to get her hands up and then back down to hit the button. She fit right into the play with no problems.

During the last two skits Kate fell asleep. She was up the entire night before since she had her schedule mixed up. Since the teacher had set it up that she was to introduce the play her one to one hit the button. (she would have fit right in to Sleeping Beauty skit if they had one).

This is just one small example of integration. If they can include a nonverbal, wheelchair, sleeping child into a play...then other activities should be a easy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Parent Interview: Success in Obtaining ABA Therapy

Today's Interview is with Vera M. Vera is a mother of a 5 year old child with Rett Syndrome (Form of Autism). Vera was successful at obtaining ABA Services for her daughter recently.

Who did you have to advocate with for ABA services? Was it the school or insurance?

I dealt with the local regional center. The Local Regional Center coordinates the special need services in my school district.

What was your daughters classroom like?

My daughter has been attending a typical Pre-K classroom for 3 hours each day with a 1:1 aide that our district hired from an ABA company on my request.

Was the school district open to providing the ABA therapy upon request?

No. I asked that the regional center fund an additional 2-3 hours of in home ABA in the afternoons and they initially refused.

Did you ask the reason for refusal, and if so, what did they say?

Yes. They said ABA therapy was inappropriate for a child with Rett Syndrome. They also said things like: She has to be in an Autism Class for this service and Rett is not an ASD (autism spectrum disorder)

What did you do next to resolve the issue?

I requested a meeting with the Autism Board who makes the decision and an appointment was granted.

What Happened at the Meeting?

When meeting with the 7 members of the Board last week, I laid out my strategy. I said I was not there to argue appropriateness of any therapy for a diagnosis. I was there to argue that ABA therapy was appropriate for my daughter.

I also said I was not the only one who strongly believed this. I presented letters of support from my daughter's treating physician (Director of our local Rett clinic), DAN doctor/Homeopath, ABA company providing the aide in school and also Judy L (my daughter's case manager and AAC/AT expert). Each person said they were prescribing 25-40 hours of ABA therapy per week, consistent with ASD intervention.

I then explained that during school, my daughter's academic goals are: socialization, communication and interaction. Her goals for in home therapy are: Social & Functional Communication and Adaptive. There is no time to work on the latter goals during her three hours in school.

Specifically, Lilia's expert team and I would like to see her learn to navigate her new Tango communication device independently so she can communicate her desires and have her needs met. I explained that when she is frustrated from inability to independently communicate, she exhibits behaviors (I had to use Autism speak, even though this made me cringe!). These behaviors include teeth grinding, tugging on her hair with her right hand and other signs of frustration.

Learning to navigate a new communication device requires lots of repetition, time and learning. Additionally, we would like her to practice interaction via reciprocal turn taking. Again,, this requires practice and repetition. We'd like to see her strengthen independent learning skills to fade out adult support (again, being able to communicate through independent Tango navigation). There were more goals, but you get the jist.

What was the result of this meeting?

After a 20 minute presentation, I was given approval for 10 hours of in home ABA therapy with the same company that goes to school with my daughter. The regional center will also be providing additional time for preparation, set up and writing goals.

What do you feel was the most important advocacy tool you used?

I'm not sure if this was a good or bad comment, but the members of the board said they had never met anyone like me. I decided to take that as a compliment and said "thank you" and smiled. The point is not to give up. I have always won everything in appeal. Figure out their objection and remove it. That's my strategy.

As this interview concludes it is important to note that Vera did many important advocacy steps:

She called another meeting, gathered important information including medical reports and letters of support, provided reasons why this service was appropriate for HER daughter specifically, outlined the goals that they wanted to work on. She even tied her outcomes to socialization, something her daughter was not currently receiving services for.

Great Job Vera!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Music Therapy--My Personal Experience with Adding Music Therapy into an IEP

Today I will tell you about how Music Therapy was added to my daughters IEP.

Music Therapy is a service that in many schools opinion is a costly add on only reserved for those parents who show a distinct interest and advocate for it. Therefore, rare is the school that will actually come out at a team meeting to recommend it as a related service. Sometimes they will when it is already a service being provided for another child in the classroom.

In this posting I am speaking about the Music Therapy where a teacher who is familiar working with kids with special needs will come into the school to work with a group of kids. Sometimes, the therapy will involve goals in the IEP and others its listed as a additional service somewhere in the IEP.

I am not speaking about Music Therapy provided one to one with a student with direct goals and objectives. This is something I have not seen provided in the schools I've dealt with and is usually covered outside of school by insurance. If someone had an experience getting one to one music therapy in school I would love to post your success and how you went about it.

The Federal Laws Standpoint:

Artistic/cultural programs are specifically mentioned in the federal regulations for IDEA as "other developmental, corrective, or supportive services (such as artistic and cultural programs, art, music, and dance therapy) if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education in order for the child to receive FAPE" (U.S. Department of Education, 1999a, p. 12548). Artistic and cultural programs are designed by art therapists, dance therapists, and music therapists to address the individual needs of students with disabilities. These professionals:
assess the functioning of individual students;
design programs appropriate to the needs and abilities of students;
provide services in which music, movement, or art is used in a therapeutic process to further the child's emotional, physical, cognitive, and/or academic development or integration; and
often act as resource persons for classroom teachers.

Steps to introduce Music Therapy into your child's class:

1. I found it was easier to obtain the therapy since my child was in a self contained classroom. It gave all the children in class access to the therapy. If your child is integrated you may find that he may be taken out of class with a group of kids that all can benefit. Maybe in a class down the hall a child you don't know about is receiving music therapy. Can your child attend also?

2. You may need to get an evaluation from a music therapist in the area. They can assess your child and write a report to show the school how the child would benefit. You may have to pay for this evaluation but its yours for life. The school may say that they can't find a music therapist. At that point you can say that the person who did the evaluation is available to come into the class once a week for an hour long small group session (you'd have to find this out first of course). That is another reason to seek an gives you a resource to bring to the school. Sometimes the school will agree to hire the person as a consultant for a period of time. Other times they may decide to hire their own Therapist. Sometimes the school may even agree to send your child to the Therapy Center after school.

3. If you live in MA you have even more leverage for Music Therapy if your child has Autism. The MA Autism Bill in 2007 went one step further than the Federal Law to state the the team need to consider other options when providing services to promote Social, Educational opportunities.
You can look this up at:

4. If the team refuses to provide music therapy you have a few options. You can call another meeting, gather more information including evaluations and try to work it out. Or, you can sign the IEP but reject the Music Therapy portion. The team will then hold an emergency meeting to try to resolve the issue or you can go to mediation. The third option is Due Process which at that point I always recommend having a Legal Advocate to assist you.

In our case, the school provided music therapy to my daughters class once a week. Everyone benefited from the therapy. Warning: Even though the school did say she would receive it I found that they didn't actually write it in the IEP. You want to make sure its in the IEP with time frames. You don't want to move schools or classrooms someday and find that they won't honor the therapy because its not in the IEP.
Also, if you don't have time frames:i.e. once a week for one hour, they don't have to provide the compensatory time if the therapist is out.

Good Luck!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Happens When the School Wants to Cut a Related Service?

Cutting Related Services:

I get this question a lot and I have been through this situation a number of times myself. It seems every meeting the topic comes up to cut back on services. My daughters needs are not changing yet her IEP team tries every year to cut back her number of therapy sessions. My son has less needs and according to my husband: he's low hanging fruit ready to be cut.

How do I go about advocating for not cutting services?

Step 1. I always request that the team provide assessments at least two days prior to the meeting. That way I have time to review their recommendations and see what the reasoning is.

There were times that assessments were not done and services were to be cut. Did you know its your right to make sure they assess your child before cutting services? Did you make sure those evaluations were done by someone trained and qualified to perform testing?

Also, if you don't agree with the teams assessments this is the time to decide if you'd like to request independent evaluation. (independent evaluations will be discussed in a later blog).

Two Personal Scenarios:

One time I requested the team do an assessment before cutting my sons speech. When they went back and did the testing they found that he still needed services. If I had not asked for that assessment he wouldn't have the SPL for the past three years that he really needs.

The second time, in terms of PT, I also asked that he be evaluated before they cut his service. The PT tested him and he was found to be in the normal range in all aspects of the assessment. At that point I agreed with them to discontinue the PT since I had no case and it was apparent that he did come a long way.

Step 2: Try to chart your child's progression/regression on a chart. Someday I will blog about how to do this but if you are in a timely situation there is great book from Wrightslaw that walks you through it.

I never knew how important this two days at Wrightslaw Bootcamp would be. If you don't understand the tests the schools use and how they are interpreted you can make assumptions that are incorrect. Did you know that a 80th %ile sounds good but actually may mean your child is behind the norm? The %ile ranking are totally different than grades we all know and no school is going to explain them to you. If you can go into a meeting and show the school a chart with your child's scores then it becomes up to them to tell you why they no longer need services if they are behind the norm.

Step3: If you feel strongly a service should not be cut look for any way to compromise. Say, can we keep the service and look at this year to see how the child does? A child does not need to keep services only if they are doing poorly. But, if your child really is doing good and doesn't need a modified curriculum than its time for relief and being thankful that the services did their intended job.

Step4: If you feel that a cut in services is really not appropriate you can file for Mediation or Due Process. In this case you want to prepare your case with all documented requests, evaluation reports and any other information that will help the mediator make a decision. You will have a gut feeling if the issue is worth it to you whether or not to file. I always give the school another chance to have an informal emergency meeting before filing for mediation. You can usually tell at that meeting if they are willing to compromise or not.

Overall, services and IEPs are only intended to be for kids who are unable to access the curriculum (meaning: they are falling behind their peers in daily activities). The delays also need to be due to their disability. If this is the case then you have a right to pursue services. It may not be easy but its well worth the work!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Personal Experience with an IEP Not Implemented

Today I will tell you about my personal experience as a IEP Advocate for a girl in High School. This girl was in Foster Care and had been out of school for 5 years due to a very upsetting home situation. No one was able to give me her previous IEP until well into the end of the story below. If I had her IEP on file I could have made the school use it until her new one was signed.

When I first started working with the student it took me about three months for the school to enroll her. Every time myself or her group home would call to find out when she'd start they'd tell us that she wasn't enrolled. It took us enrolling her a number of times before they finally found that she was listed in another part of the computer system and that was the hold up. Also, due to the fact that she needed evaluations I had to push for them to provide tutoring in the group home until the start of school.
(Throughout the process below keep in mind that I went through every step that I could including: calls to state for advice, dated letters, speaking with the special education director, rejected a portion of the IEP) Everything short of mediation and due process which is still pending based on an upcoming meeting to discuss ESY.

I would like to think I am a pretty patient person. I really try to advocate for only services that I feel are needed and always try to see the schools point of view. I can't tell you how hard I had to contain my anger in this child's case. After speaking with the Director of Special Education, dating many letter and emails, he said it was all set and they were going to look at placing her in the following couple weeks. I said, based on the lack of communication from the beginning I expect to hear from you before you proceed to placing her so I can look at the classroom. I was told, of course, we'll let you know so you can prepare her before she's moved.

Well, I called the group home a week later and I was told: she was put in the high school at the beginning of the week in the general education classes. I was once again ready to blow. This was a girl who hadn't been to school in 5 years and has significant special need issues. She was placed in a huge High School in regular classes.

Luckily her IEP meeting was the next week. I though for sure we'd get this straightened out then. The day of the meeting no one from the team attended but two members. The Facilitator was not even there and sent someone in her place. As a advocate at this point I could have said: I would like to note that the team is not present and therefore I would like to reschedule. But, due to the emergency nature of the meeting I said: Lets have the meeting, get into place what we can and reconvene with the team in a couple weeks. At the meeting the girls SW, and the two team members who reviewed the evaluations (two out of five that were supposed to be done) all said she needed to be moved into special education asap. I said what does that mean because I need to write down when since it never happens. They said the following Monday. It was Friday at that point.

Three weeks later, the student still not moved and here we go again.
Nothing in the meeting was conveyed in the IEP I received. Talk about a slap in the face. The IEP had goals written that were laughable, the Vision statement said something that we didn't even mention at the meeting and it didn't have any of the supports we spoke about. There was one line that said: The team is concerned the student likes to rush through her work. We never even said that and rush..we were concerned based on her evaluations and psych. eval. that she was a danger to herself or others in stressful situations.

Cut to two months later, another emergency meeting with the Special Education Assistant Director (who after the meeting left the position and I wasn't told) and the student never moved from the classes she was now flunking with no supports at the school.

I had it with empty promises to move her into a support program, meetings that never happened, phone calls not returned, dated letters not acknowledged. Why was this happening? I found out the facilitator at her school was always busy with MCAS (not our problem), the facilitator that took over just up and quit. No one had the time, energy or forethought to put any type of program in place. Is it because she is a foster child? I never have been so fed up with a school team in my life.

What did I do:

I couldn't take it anymore. I would call the group home every other day to see if the child was moved and she wasn't. I would then call the school to see why but no one would return my call.

I decided one last ditch effort before filing a complaint with the state. Filing a complaint is an option but it takes time for them to review. I needed this resolved asap and I still can file a complaint if need be.

I went to the High School in person. When I checked in at the office I said: I am a state appointed advocate for a Foster child named..who is in your school. She was supposed to be moved into a special education support program and she has not been moved. I am not leaving until someone meets with me and explains what the hold up is.

They called down a couple people I hadn't met before. I told them the situation and they couldn't believe what was going on. By the time I left the school they had moved her that day.

Today, a few days later I received a letter to meet to clear up the rest of the issues.

The classroom they moved her to has a Social Worker, Special Ed. Teacher. She told me that she hears of a lot of students who may be coming to her program but never do. Jeez, I wonder why..What parent has the determination to go through what I had the past six months.

The best part of the story though is this: I received an email from the group home that the student was moved and really likes the new program. Where once she was thrown into school on her own she now has a place to go that is supportive and not as intimidating.

That makes my job all worth the while.


Friday, May 29, 2009

IEP Question of the Day--Why Is My Childs School not Using his/her Communication System?

Question from Parent:


Thank you very much for sharing this valuable information with all of us.You helped me a lot when I had my first IEP for my daughter (you probably don't remember, but I'll never forget)anyways, I have a question for you. I live in California and my daughter's school is supposed to be using my daughter's communication system but I feel they are not doing it. A few reasons that make me think that way are:

1.- When I come to observe, I have never seen anybody using it.

2.- The book looks perfect, like brand new (it hasn't been used)

3.- The speech therapist made some comments that make me think she doesn't get the idea of the system.

My question is, what do I do to get the staff trained with the system? BTW the system we are using is the one used by Linda Burkhart. I feel everybody involved in my daughters day should be trained with the system directly with her. I have showed them how I use it, but it is not the same. It is in my daughter's IEP that they should be using the system, and they say they are doing it, but so far I don't have proof of that. For me it was very hard to grasp the concept behind the system until I went to a conference and saw the developer.


You may be missing an important person on your daughters team. I went through this with my daughter who is nonverbal and relies on Augmentative Communication. During Preschool I quickly learned that the SPLs in our school were not experienced with Augmentative or Alternative Communication. They were pulled from working on Speech Articulation into classrooms of kids who are nonverbal. They had no idea what they were getting into. Although they were trying, the children were not receiving the services they needed. For example: Augmentative Communication requires a high degree of technical skills and computer knowledge. Some SPLs do not have that training as some do not even like to use the computer. The result was the classroom would go through three SPLs a year and sometimes parts of the year had no staff. Never mind the goals on the IEP were not worked on.

Two years of advocating and mediation and my daughters services in that area are absolutely great now. What Happened? I made them write in her IEP that Kaitlyn would only receive SPL from a Therapist who was trained in Augmentative/Alternative Communication. When they didn't have that type of person on staff they had to hire someone. Kate's Augmentative Therapist came from a local hospital. She worked with Kate on developing all kinds of communication systems. When it came time to trial the MyTobii she came to the evaluation and gave her input. She knows how to calibrate it, set it up and work easily with any computer generated devices. She teaches everyone in the class how to use her communication devices and makes sure they are using them throughout the day and properly. Note: If your child is working with high tech. devices you also want to mention that in your statement.

Not only did Kaitlyn benefit from this SPL/Augmentative Therapist. The school saw how well she did, realized what they had been missing and hired her full time to work with all the nonverbal kids.

If I only knew to put the following one sentence in her IEP it would have saved so much wasted time: "Kaitlyn will only receive services from a SPL that is trained in Augmentative/alternative Communication since she is nonverbal."

Also, it helps to put consults in writing on the IEP. If the school does not know how to use a communication system than putting one to two hours a week for staff training from a outside consult can help. You can even compromise on having a consult come in to teach the SPL and Classroom Teacher once a week for a couple hours instead of direct services.

You can make sure progression with the communication system is one of her goals with objectives on her IEPs. Then they need to track her progress automatically. But really..if they don't know how to use the system no matter how much effort they put forth still may not help the child.

I can go on about noncomplaince and reprimanding etc..but I am a digger.(meaning I will try to get to the root of the problem to solve it). I found that complaining did nothing and the actual problem was not having the person trained to do this type of work in the school.

Good Luck and really push for that much needed person on your team!!!

(Advocates, People Familiar with the Linda Burkhart system and others welcom to comment)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

ESY -Extended School Year

It's that time of the year again. Too late to start a Extended School Year Request without a lot of hassle, or, trying to wrap up IEP promises of summer services.

Personal Experiences: I have some teams tell me: "we don't have a summer program", or, "your child is not severe enough to require services". The response: If the school does not have a summer program and your child needs summer services that is their issue. They need to provide the service if they have to create one or contract out. In a couple schools faced with this issue I accepted tutoring for one child and outplacement at a therapy center for another.

In terms of what child can benefit from summer services I will outline that more below.

Extended School Year is addressed in IDEA under Regulation 300.106. It is not even mentioned in the Statute. When you research a special ed. topic you want to look under the Statutes, then the regulations. ESY is not a clear cut topic. You also need to look at your state regulations as they differ also. Decisions in ESY are changing all the time so you need to research some recent case determinations also.

Regulation 300.106 a. each public agency must ensure that ESY be provided only if a child's IEP Team determines, on an individual basis, that the services are necessary for the provision of a FAPE to the child.

What does that mean in layman terms: When the team is meeting they must take in consideration the child needs. They can't say, all the kids in the 101 Autism room don't have summer services. That's a no, no. They need to look at your child only. This is another reason why they can't tell you that their school does not have a summer program.

Also, FAPE means your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education.

This next Section Outlines standards for ESY. (wrightslaw)

In Standards for Extended School Year (ESY), Nissan Bar-Lev describes the legal basis and standards for ESY as defined by federal courts around the country. Dr. Bar-Lev is the special education director of CESA-7 in Green Bay, WI.Letter to Given (OSEP, 2003) After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a decision about ESY in MM v. Greenville County, 303 F.3rd 523, 537-538 (2002), the Department of Education issued an Opinion Letter clarifying that lack of progress is not the only criteria for finding a child eligible for ESY. They noted that "likelihood of regression, slow recoupment, and predictive data based on the opinion of professionals are derived from longstanding judicial precedents," and that the Fourth Circuit noted that ESY decisions are fact and case specific and a showing of actual regression is not required to find a child eligible for ESY." (pdf)

Personal Note--You may hear the school say: ESY is only for students who will regress. As you can see above that is not necessarily the case. If you child may regress, or even have trouble the first few months back at school regaining skills then you may be found eligible. Your team should sit and look at date collected and see how long you think it would take your child to relearn the material. So you may say: This is just an example: If he is out of school 9 weeks, he will lose at least 5 hours of straight math application and will be behind by 35 hours over the summer. Based on that number it will take him three months to regain those skills. I recommend he receive math tutoring for at least two hours a week for the nine weeks. In addition I'd like worksheets so we can work with him ourselves.

The regulation goes even further to state:

The public agency may not

1. Limit extended school year services to particular categories of disability. (believe it or not even though this is in the regs. I have had schools tell me that their summer programs are only for the kids who have severe disabilities).

2. Unilaterally limit the type, amount or duration of those services. (Once again, they may say we only offer kids a tutor for one hour a week over the summer)

Note: Recently I attended a conference and they mentioned that if a child is working on emergent skills it is even more important to have Extended School Year. This means that if a child is learning how to read, perform basic math calculations, verbalizing needs more, sitting or walking with PT have even more on your side to advocate for summer services.

Lastly Here is a list of what the ESY is and isn't:


Based only on the individual student’s specific critical skills that are critical to his/her overall educational progress as determined by the IEP committee.

Designed to maintain student mastery of critical skills and objectives represented on the IEP and achieved during the regular school year.

Designed to maintain a reasonable readiness to begin the next year.

Based on multi-criteria and not solely on regression.

Considered as a strategy for minimizing the regression of skill, thus shortening the time needed to gain back the same level of skill proficiency that existed at the end of the school year.

Deliverable in a variety of environments and structures such as:(a) Home with the parent teaching, and staff consulting(b) School based(c) School based with community activities(d) Related services alone or in tandem with the above.


It is not a mandated 12-months service for all students with disabilities.

It is not required for the convenience of the school or parents and, therefore, cannot serve as a day care or respite care service.It is not required or intended to maximize educational opportunities for any student with disabilities.

It is not necessary to continue instruction on all of the previous year’s IEP goals during the ESY period; rather, the focus should be on those specific, critical skills where regression, due to an extended vacation period, may occur.

It is not to be considered to help students with disabilities advance in relation to their peers.

It is not for those students with disabilities who exhibit regression, which is solely related to medical problems resulting in degeneration, or transitional life situations such as divorce or death of a family member. This type of regression is not due to the interruption of summer vacation.

It is not required solely when a child fails to achieve IEP goals and objectives during the school year. ( don't make the mistake of telling the that your child needs summer services since they didn't meet their IEP goals...common mistake but they may pick up on it and let you know)

It is not to provide a child with education beyond that is prescribed in his/her IEP goals and objectives.

Our thanks to Nissan Bar-Lev and the staff of Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7 for permission to use this article.URL:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

IEP Chat

Hi: I thought since I do a lot of IEP Advocacy maybe we can chat together on topics. I always can use new suggestions and I have a lot to share.

I have two kids on IEPs and I am a Special Education Advocate for kids in Foster Care.

Today I'd like to speak about what to expect at an IEP meeting.

Prior To IEP

  • Get letters from Drs. and Specialists to state how much services your child needs. For example: If you believe your daughter needs 3 sessions of PT make sure a Ortho. can write a letter on your behalf. Also very important to get letters if you feel your child needs a one to one aide. In that case get a letter from the child's Pediatrician and other Specialists.

  • Look over the request for evaluation forms. Make sure they have all the tests that your child needs. Sometimes the school may not do an evaluation but cut a service. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder to them that they need to do an evaluation before a cut in service. Once they do that most times they find that the child still qualifies. If your child has behavioral issues you also want to request a Psychological Evaluation.

  • I always ask for evaluation reports before the Team Meeting. The school is required to provide these to you two days prior to the meeting. Make sure you put your request in writing with a date. If they don't get the reports to you and you feel that you really need them prior you can ask them to reschedule the meeting. I only do this if its absolutely necessary since it puts off the meeting and services. Also, they need to tell you in advance if a team member can't make the meeting. If you go to the meeting and find half the team not there you may want to ask for another meeting. It is one of your rights.
The IEP Meeting
  • Bring a Picture of your child and keep it in front of you. This is your focal point during the meeting for when you get nervous or when you need to speak up for a service. Also, try to bring one person with you to the meeting for support.

  • You should go into the meeting with goals and vision statements. Also, have a sheet of paper that says: Concerns, Addressed How and Responsible Party, Resolved, Yes ,No in columns. During the Meeting write what you speak about. Ask that the sheet be attached to the IEP.

  • Listen to the teams reports and evaluations.

  • Offer Suggestions for Goals.

  • Bring up your concerns that you may have. The Infamous "Service Grid". Make sure you advocate for services and timeframes on the grid. OT, PT, SPL are they group or one to one (specify), are they 30 minutes, 45 minutes etc. and how many times a week. Do you need a consult from different specialists to home or the classroom? Will the therapists make up time if the child is out of school for how many days?? Will the services be provided by a therapist or therapy assistant. Many times a parent assumes that their child will be getting PT two times a week. Come to find put they are getting PT from a student assistant two times a week overseen by a PT and its in a group setting.

  • Discuss Extended School Year. A topic all on its own. Boy have I learned a lot about ESY. It doesn't actually mean that your child will regress to get services. It means that the time delay between services will be prohibitive for them to progress. Also, I learned that any time a child has emergent skills they will find that summer services are even more important. Think, times when a child is learning to read, do math etc..

  • Discuss Transportation Needs.--Does your child need working AC and Heat on the bus?, Does your child need an aide on the bus?

  • Placement can only be determined after all the service needs are discussed. At this point in the meeting you can say: based on the evaluations and service needs what type of program modifications for the classroom/alternate setting do you suggest? They should have some ideas in mind. Ask them to visit those classrooms to see if they are appropriate.

  • Never sign the IEP at the meeting. Ask to look over the draft when they send it to you. Make sure the goals are meaningful and measurable. Some IEPs offer goals that are very watered down and not measurable. It will make it easier in subsequent years if you have goals you can track. Make sure all the services you requested are in the IEP. If you have a strong opposition or can't agree on a service sign off on the IEP but reject the portion you don't agree with. That way they can start with the services you do agree with. I have only rejected an entire IEP once and that was because most of the team did not show up, the facilitator was a substitute and never sent the information along to the person drafting the IEP. Most times I work with the school to compromise on services. A few times I had to reject a portion of the IEP, a couple times we had a meeting that settled the issue and once I needed to go to mediation.

I have tons more information on IEPs but this is just a basic list to get the topic going. It is my hope that a lot of people will blog with their suggestions etc...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Autism Awareness Event

Autism Awareness Event--Family Fun

Sunday April 19th


Merrimack Valley Hospital, Haverhill, MA

Vendors, Entertainment, Kids Activities, Raffles, Chef Demos and more

Come support Childrens Hospital's Clinical Trial of the IGF1 drug for Rett Syndrome. A severe form of Autism that my daughter Kaitlyn suffers from. The Trial may translate to other disorders such as; Autism, Dementia, Parkinson's and Mental Illness.

Go to for more information.

Thank you,

Linda McInnis