7 Things Parents of a Child with Special Needs Should Know

Modified: February 29, 2016 10:07am

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The Learning Disabilities Association of WNY (LDA of WNY) provides support for parents and guardians who need assistance in getting the right services to help their child and pave their way for future success.

If your child is struggling in school it can be extremely stressful. The special education process can be a very trying time, because it may be unfamiliar to you. There may be things you are unaware of and school districts don’t always provide this information.

The LDA of WNY offers the following information to help you gain a basic understanding of what is involved in the special education process:

1) As a resident of a school district, your child is entitled to be evaluated at the school district’s expense and receive services at no additional cost to you. This is due to Federal laws that all school districts are bound under called FAPE and IDEA, which stand for Free and Public Education and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. These laws have existed since 1975.

2) It is important to request to have your child evaluated in writing to your school district’s Committee on Special Education (not the principal) and state the reason why you would like to have your child evaluated. The Committee on Special Education (CSE) office or Pupil Services office will reply to your correspondence and request that you sign a consent form giving them permission to evaluate your child. 

TIP: It is a good idea to start a folder for your child beginning with a copy of your letter (referral) and the consent form. Once this consent form is received by the school district, they have 60 school days to complete a psychological evaluation, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy testing and hold a CSE (committee on special education) meeting.

3) You are a very important member of the CSE meeting. The district may have gotten to know your child through the evaluations, but you spend valuable time and know your child best. You are the one who can provide the information on your child’s likes and dislikes, how your child reacts to and completes homework, how they handle school projects. This information is valuable to your child’s success in school.

4) Not all children evaluated will be found to need special education. Upon evaluation, your child may only need few accommodations to succeed. This may fall under the category of 504. Maybe your child is having a lot of difficulty in math and the evaluation determines your child would benefit from extended time on tests and a smaller location to take tests in. These accommodations can be fulfilled with a 504 plan.

6) If your child is found eligible for special education, an IEP (individualized education plan) will be developed. To create an effective IEP, parents, teachers, and other school staff must come together to look closely at the student’s unique needs. The purpose of your child having an IEP is to give your child a “level playing field” in the educational arena. There are a couple of things about this statement that deserve specific attention. First of all, the CSE is only concerned with the things that affect your child at school. Maybe your child’s bedroom is a disaster; this does not affect the school. However, if your child’s desk is just as disorganized as their bedroom, this becomes a school problem. The inability to be organized is having a negative effect on your child’s education. Secondly, the plan needs to be individualized to your child. Your child may have similar needs and may have an accommodation that is the same as another child; however their IEP should not look the same as someone else’s. The reward for turning in their homework needs to be something that motivates your child personally. Passing the class may be enough for some, other children may need something additional. Lastly, the IEP is not meant to allow your child to do better than the other children. What an IEP is meant to do is give your child as much of a chance as the other children in their class or grade. If your child is receiving a sticker for turning in their homework, the rest of the class probably is not. Chances are this is only a short-term solution for your child, but will be in place long enough for your child to complete their homework and remember to turn it in. The reinforcement of this behavior will slowly be phased out until the sticker is no longer needed and the IEP can be amended.

7) Whatever is determined necessary for your child to succeed and is written in the IEP has to be done. An IEP is a legally binding contract that must be upheld by the teachers and the school. Things put in writing to assist your child need to be completed. Even when there is substitute teacher, the IEP needs to be followed. The IEP cannot be changed without the parents’ consent and the parent does have the right to disagree. The parent is an equal member of the IEP team. The information provided here is only meant to give you an idea of your rights as a parent. If you would like more information, please contact LDA at 716-874-7200 and request the educational advocacy department.

In today’s technological society we like to think we have all the answers at our fingertips. The truth is, sometimes it takes another person to see us through a stressful situation. The LDA of WNY educational advocacy team is available to assist you in the special education process. They will listen to your concerns and provide suggestions as to what may help in the future.There is no charge for this service.

Learning Disabilities Association of WNY
2555 Elmwood Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217
716-874-7200
1-888-250-5031 Outside of Erie County
www.ldaofwny.org

The LDA of WNY offers information to help you gain a basic understanding of what is involved in the special education process