When your child needs support or special educational services, it can feel challenging to know what your role is in the process as the guardian or parent. The simple truth is that you are in control along the way. There are many rights and procedures you should be aware of in order to make sure your child’s best interest is at the forefront of any decision.
Request an Evaluation
The first and most important way to take charge is to realize that you have the right to request an evaluation for your child at any time. If you are concerned about your child’s academic growth, you do not need to wait for the school or teachers to suggest getting an evaluation. It is always a good idea to collaborate and discuss this process with the school as they can help you along the way but do not feel that you need the school's permission to request an evaluation. The process of requesting an evaluation is simple but must be thorough.
Ask the Right Questions
Once the IEP process has started, you have the right to know about all the assessments being administered in the way of consent. An evaluation cannot be administered until a consent form is filled out by you, the parent or guardian. This way, you are aware of the assessments and evaluations taking place. This is also an opportunity to ask some questions about what will be tested on the evaluations. Questions may include:
What is this test testing for?
Can the results be explained to me?
Can I please have a copy of the testing prior to the meeting?
It is important and necessary for you to understand the results of the assessments and evaluations as well as the academic implications. Families will also get a Procedural Safeguards packet from the school or Department of Education that outlines additional rights and procedures to protect you and your child along the way.
Participate in the IEP Meeting
After evaluations are complete, families have the right to participate in the IEP meeting. Being at the IEP is a CRITICAL way to know what is going on for your child and advocate for his or her needs. Most importantly, during the IEP meeting, you have the right to disagree with the decisions made. The outcomes of the meeting will come to you in the form of a document called Prior Written Notice. This document will have placement recommendations as well as special education service recommendations. It is your right to have a copy of this document for your records. If you do not agree with the outcomes of the meeting, you have the right to seek out a due process hearing in which a hearing officer looks over all the information to determine if, in fact, the correct decision was made.
Keep in mind, not every state or district always works the same, so it is important to research your city or state rules. However, the Individuals with Disabilities Act is federal law that looks out for all students and families that qualify. There are many other ways in which you can take control of the IEP process and understand your and your child's rights. If you would like to learn more, please contact us at PLEASED for more information and support.
For more information about the evaluation process, check out this conversation where I answer frequently asked questions.
Special Education Advocate