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...