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:
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!!