Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
My son Matthew is finishing up fifth grade as a student in the moderate to severe autism class. This year we have the IEP as his Triennial and Matriculation. I started researching Middle Schools online early in the year and found out through the Assistant Principal that the dreaded Middle School I would not enroll Nicholas into had an autism class. During spring break Matthew and I visited this school and left knowing there was no way he would attend it.
In Negotiating The Special Education Maze third edition, chapter seven known as Selecting the Route there is a section for Visiting Placement Options. “ You should find this guide useful when you visit a school or classroom before giving permission for your child to be placed there; you should also find it valuable when you have questions and concerns at parent-teacher conferences.” The key word glaring at me is “permission”. The school personnel and district representatives have not visited the schools or classrooms that they offer for your child to attend. This is all figured out according to your address and not your special needs child. That is why it is essential for parents to visit when school is in session, ask questions of the administrator and teacher.
The Guidelines for Placement Observations in the book cover the layout of the classroom, atmosphere, daily schedule, consistency, variety, environment, peer interactions, curriculum, materials, groupings, teaching style and performance expectations. These four pages have many questions for you to ask on your visit. I have a classroom visitation checklist that is more geared to preschool and elementary schools and then here are the questions I asked when I visited Middle School classes. I am glad that atmosphere is addressed in this book because I will be bringing it up at the IEP meeting as a positive for the school I have chosen.
The fourth edition of Negotiating The Special Education Maze was published March 24, 2008 and available at Amazon.
In an article on wrightslaw.com, entitled How to Prepare for a Due Process Hearing the Advocate Brice Palmer offers parents this tip ”Your job is to present your case in an organized manner that gives the decision-maker enough good factual information to reach a conclusion in your favor.” Prior to reading this I already started my pros and cons lists for the two Middle Schools. I think the wording should probably be a comparison so I am not displaying negativity at the meeting. The final suggestion by Bruce in his article is worth repeating, “A well planned presentation, a calm attitude, a predetermined goal, and control over any anger you harbor will achieve more for your child than anything else I can think of.”
I need to find a two-hour block of time with no interruptions so I can view my DVD, Surviving Due Process: When parents and the school board disagree. This is based on the true story of a child with autism. The cost is $19.95 and sold through the www.wrightslaw.com site.
Also within the third edition of Negotiating The Special Education Maze is Chapter Ten on Due Process with the subtitle Detours. None of the examples pertain to my issue, which is placement, but I did find the sections, what happens at the due process hearing, rights of parents in the hearing and description of the hearing very helpful and insightful.
For residents of California you can always check out the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) Cases with the California Special Education Hearing Office (SEHO) and see how other cases were tried and who won.
I have the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities that was written by Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) that is based in California. Chapter 6 covers Information on Due Process Hearings/Complaints. My copy is the eighth edition from 2000 and I know there was another edition in 2005 that I never got around to ordering. Therefore, I am not sure how relevant my manual is for 2008. This does cover a compliance complaint, due process and mediation.
I did attend a Parent Resource Network meeting a few years ago where the presentation was an Overview of Due Process Options and have reviewed my notes to help prepare. I have been a member of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education - (CAC) for two years and even took part in a few Due Process Committee Meetings. I gave my reasons as a parent who never went to Due Process and now find myself in that same situation and feeling overwhelmed.
I am even contemplating taking photographs of both schools and classrooms to prove my point in showing which one is more suited for my nonverbal autistic child. Even his new assistant visited the school the district is offering and he found the Administration negative and not helpful in answering questions.
Because this is a transition from Elementary to Middle School time is of the essence here. I asked to push up the date of the IEP meeting so we can get the Due Process or Informal Dispute calendared soon. Two major differences between these schools are the school hours and the school calendar. Both schools wear the same uniform so I want to get Matthew prepared for wearing these and may just buy one this month so we can be ready beforehand and wear this school year as a test run.
In reading the Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR)for IEP Disagreements I find more choices to make. Besides this option, which is geared for assessment, eligibility, placement and services, there is also a mediation only option.
I need to make phone calls and speak again to the Assistant Principal to figure out the timeline for all this so I am well prepared.
Sample IEP Meeting Agenda -A2Z Educational Advocates. Which is from the bookby Beth Fouse, Ph.D. entitled Creating a "Win-Win IEP"
Preparation for Special Education Hearings - A Practical Guide for Lessening the Trauma of Due Process Hearings. This is a pdf file courtesy of ERIC (Education Resource Information Center) Clearinghouse.
The Los Angeles Daily News wrote an article on March 13, 2008 LAUSD, parents at odds over special education. It mentions that over the past seven years the complaints by parents has soured 25 percent.
The Course of Due Process -Teachng Exceptional Children -JAN/FEB 2004
Guidelines for Preparing Effective Parent Input Statements - Special Education Law Blog
Glossary of Special Education and Legal Terms - Wrightslaw
Parent Advocate Liaison
Protection and Advocacy
Office of the Independent Monitor - LAUSD for the Modified Consent Decree
Preparing for Due Process Hearings - a pdf power point presentation from a Lawyer in CT.
Special Education Policies and Procedures - Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
Due Process Hearings - Wrightslaw
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.