We talk a lot about paperwork in the special education process and few things are as dense as a psychoeducational evaluation report (say that 3 times fast!).
If you're new to this world, a pyschoeducational evaluation is typically conducted as part of the eligibility process (learn more here!), and it includes a variety of measures to determine your child's strengths and weaknesses and to assess how they may affect his or her academic functioning.
Typically, one of these evaluation reports is 12-20 pages long and includes a narrative history, IQ test results, achievement test results, test conditions, limitations, and finally recommendations and suggestions. These reports (and the results they provide) are typically the biggest factor in determining whether a student has an "educational disability."
So what happens if they school conducts one of these evaluations and you think the results are terrible?
It is not uncommon for parents to disagree with the evaluation report-- either the diagnosis or the recommendations put forth by the psychoeducational evaluation summary.
Parents might disagree for any number of reasons, including:
It doesn't matter why the parents disagree with the evaluation report— the recourse is the same. The procedural safeguards outline a process for having an independent educational evaluation (or I.E.E.) completed at public expense in the case of parental disagreement.
What does this mean? It means that if you disagree with an evaluation conducted by the school district, you can request an outside agency to conduct a new evaluation (and the school will pay for it).
A few things to know: an IEE can be requested not more than once per year, and it can be requested for any type of evaluation that the school has completed. This not only applies to psychoeducational evaluations, it also applies to assessments, like an FBA or Functional Behavior Assessment, if the parents disagree with the school team’s conclusions.
While we don't want to constantly pull students out of class in order to conduct assessments (because this results in lost instructional time and can cause frustration for the student), knowing how and when to request an IEE is an important tool for parents.
Why? Because we want to make sure that your child’s educational program is built upon correct information that you, the parent or guardian, agrees with.
Want more information? Please consult your procedural safeguards handbook for directions for how to request an IEE!
Want to be part of a community that discusses issues like this? Join our IEP Guru Facebook group and check out the Live Q&A videos that I do (almost) weekly! It's a great place to share questions and brainstorm solutions.
Ahh yes, the acronyms again! I swear there are more acronyms in special education than in any other field. I could write an entire email that would include 25% text and 75% acronyms and it would take a CIA code-cracker days to read it.
My hope is that (if you've been following IEP Guru for awhile) you could crack that code in under an hour.
Today I going to discuss the second most important acronym in special education after I.D.E.A. (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)...
We're talking about F.A.PE.-- free, appropriate, public education.
F.A.P.E. is the foundation upon which special education is built. F.A.P.E. ensures that our kids with disabilities are able to access their right to an education just like those without disabilities. F.A.P.E. means that the learning of our students with special needs matters as much as it does for any other student.
But what is F.A.P.E, really? And what does a free, appropriate public education mean?
Let's break it down into it's relevant parts:
1. Free: This is the easiest of the bunch! All children, disability or not, are entitled to a free education funded by local and state government (and in reality, the taxpayers). No matter where they're educated (in their neighborhood school, in a specialized school, or even at home for students who are medically fragile), and no matter how much that education will cost (due to additional staffing needs, specialized software, etc)-- children with disabilities have a right to be educated for free just like their peers who don't have disabilities.
2. Appropriate: Here's where it gets messy. In addition to a free education, students have a right to receive an appropriate education. But who decides what's appropriate? For many, many years this was up in the air and left to the discretion of IEP teams and individual districts. In 2017 however, a formalized consensus was given by the United States Supreme Court in their Endrew vs. Douglas County decision:
"The Court held that to meet its substantive obligation under the I.D.E.A., a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. In clarifying the standard, the Court rejected the “merely more than de minimis” (i.e. merely more than trivial) standard applied by the Tenth Circuit. In determining the scope of F.A.P.E., the Court reinforced the requirement that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives." (Emphasis mine)
What does this look like for your child? Check out this blog post for an excellent resource about how to apply this information to ensure your child's educational program is appropriate for him or her.
3. Public: This simply means that a student with a disability is entitled to be educated in a public school (and ideally with their neighborhood peers), unless a more appropriate placement is determined by the IEP team. This provision ensures that students with disabilities are no longer automatically segregated to a specialized school like they were historically. But what if it's determined that a student is not receiving an appropriate education at the public school? If the parent can prove it, then the district is required to provide reimbursement for a private education so that the education is still free and appropriate, as the student is entitled. (This can be hard to swing though-- check your procedural safeguards for information about reimbursement for private schooling).
4. Education: What does your child's education really have to cover? What sort of education must be provided? I.D.E.A.'s definition says that students with disabilities are entitled to "special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living." Note-- this doesn't just include academic standards! A student with a disability is entitled to an education that also prepares them for employment and independent life.
That's today's summary of F.A.P.E! If nothing else, it's worth taking a survey of your child's current educational program and asking yourself whether it meets these basic benchmarks. If it falls short, you have some advocacy work ahead to ensure that your student is truly getting what they are entitled to; it's important to maximize those entitlements because at age 22 they dry up!
If you're concerned that your child might not be receiving what they should be out of the IEP process, or if you're unsure about how to go about advocating for their needs, please check out our IEP Guru resources page to start getting the help you need!
You may not know this about-- I have a toddler at home.
She is wild and busy and headstrong and sweet (as toddlers are). She certainly gives me a run for my money most days, but the hardest part of parenting a toddler, other than the constant redirection and gentle discipline, is the wondering...
Is my child on track?
Is she supposed to be running or jumping by now?
Why can't she identify colors like the other kids in music class?
How many words can she say? Does "wa-wa" count as a real word if she knows it means "water"?
You know the drill. There's that constant internal nagging to be on the lookout for something amiss. (Or maybe that's just me, since I work in this field! My guess is that I'm not alone though.)
Today's post is all about eligibility, or the process of determining whether a child needs and qualifies for special education services. If that nagging feeling that your child may need something more has lingered into school-age, this post is for you.
Like nearly everything else in the special ed world, this process follows a straightforward series of steps:
1. Referral - if someone in the child's life feels like the child may need to be evaluated, they can make a referral to the school to initiate the process. This referral can be made by a parent/guardian, a teacher or other school personnel, or by an outside source like a doctor or a disability service provider. The school district has a formalized process to identify students who they feel may need to be evaluated, and this process is called "child find." You can learn more about Child Find here.
2. Data collection - Once a referral is made, the school team will begin to collect information that may be helpful in determining whether or not to formally assess the student. This information can include parent and student input, a summary of interventions tried already, a statement of the student's current performance, results from vision or hearing screenings, and any relevant medical assessments. Once this data has been collected...
3. The team meets - This includes school personnel, the school psychologist, medical providers (if necessary), the parent/guardian, and anyone else who may be relevant! The team will meet to review the documentation previously collected and come to a decision about whether to formally assess the child. The team's decision about whether or not to assess must be given to the parent in writing (this is considered Prior Written Notice). If the team decides to move forward with a formal assessment, they will discuss specific areas of concern and what instruments should be given based on those areas of concern. The team must obtain the parents' written consent prior to conducting the evaluation.
4. Evaluation is conducted - A school psychologist or another clinician completes the evaluation using the chosen instruments. Often the team will chose to do a full psychoeducational evaluation which includes an IQ test (such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, or WISC) and an Achievement test (such as the Woodcock Johnson, or WJ-III). This psychoeducational assessment will also lay out the child and family's history, his or her behavior during the test, the assessor's observations, limitations of the instruments used, and an overall summary. This summary may include an educational diagnosis, such as autism or intellectual disability, and may include suggestions for supporting the student in school.
5. The team reconvenes - after the evaluation is complete, the team will meet again to discuss the results. Note: the student is not automatically eligible for services, EVEN IF the evaluation report indicates a diagnosis. The team, including the parent, will review the evaluation report (in addition to the other documentation collected previously) and will compare this information to the eligibility requirements set forth by the state. The team must determine a) whether the student has an educational disability and b) whether that disability adversely impacts the student's educational performance. Criteria for determining these conditions is available on your state's Department of Education website. If the team determines that the student meets the criteria outlined...
6. An eligibility category is assigned - In order for a student to receive special education services, they must be determined eligible under one of 13 categories outlined in the I.D.E.A. legislation. These categories include: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment (OHI), specific learning disability (SLD), speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or visual impairment. Some districts may also consider "developmental delay" up to age 9-10, and some states may include other categories such as "functional delay" (here in Tennessee) or even "intellectually gifted" which falls under the special education umbrella.
7. An IEP meeting is held, and an IEP is developed - As long as the IEP is later signed by the parent/guardian (they've given their written consent), the student is now eligible and required to receive the special education services outlined in the IEP.
8. Child receives special education services, the IEP is updated at least once per year, and eligibility is reviewed at least once every 3 years - This cycle continues until your child is either determined to be no longer eligible for special education services, they graduate high school, or they age out of the system at age 21-22.
Phew! That is the quick-ish and easy-ish explanation of how eligibility is determined. Need more info about this? We have an entire online training module dedicated to IEP Basics in our Digital Course-- check it out here!
Welcome to week 3 of our ABCs of SPED series! Today we're talking about consent.
It seems like it should be obvious that you, as a parent, have a right to give or withdraw consent on behalf of your child. After all, they're a minor!
But do you really know, within the special education process, what you must give consent for and what the school is able to do without your approval? And what you need to do to withdraw consent?
After this post, you will!
First and foremost, please know that all of your rights and responsibilities surrounding consent in the IEP process are outlined in your Procedural Safeguards packet. I'm going to use this as yet another opportunity to state the obvious: you must read your procedural safeguards. Read them, know them, love them. Nothing will help you more in the IEP process than knowing your rights. I also need to include a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, and that the content presented in this blog post is solely meant to be informational.
So what is consent in this context? It means that:
1. You've been fully informed of a proposed action (in your native language)
2. You understand and agree to the proposed action in writing
3. You understand that your agreement is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time
Simple enough, right? Nevertheless, it's a great starting point to understand the definition and how it applies, particularly the fact that consent must be given in writing.
So what are you required to give consent to before it happens?
This means that the school cannot evaluate your student for a disability, provide any sort of specialized services, or conduct a follow-up evaluation without your written permission. Most importantly, it means that your child's very first IEP will NOT go into effect unless it is signed. This is unique to that first IEP-- after that, it can go into effect without your signature (i.e. without your consent) after a certain number of days (check your procedural safeguards for the exact number in your state).
What the school can do without your consent:
Additionally, there are circumstances under which the school may proceed with an action without your consent so long as they have made a "reasonable effort" to obtain your consent prior to proceeding. In this case, the school must keep detailed written records that show their attempts to secure your consent via phone calls, emails, home visits and even visits to you at work.
You can also withdraw consent if you no longer wish to have a certain service (or any services) provided to your child. Any withdrawal of consent must be given in writing! Did you know that it is possible to refuse to consent or revoke consent for just a part of your child's IEP? Wrightslaw discusses this point succinctly here.
And lastly, my favorite little-known tidbit surrounding IEP consent: you can make a written request to change (or amend) your child's IEP without having a full meeting (provided the annual IEP review meeting has already been held). That's right, you can waive your right to another meeting and request that the changes you suggest be reviewed without a meeting. If the team agrees, you'll be given a new consent page to sign.
That's it for this week, folks! Have you ever had any issues with giving or revoking parental consent during the special education process? Share your thoughts over on the IEP Guru Facebook page!