When do I use an attorney versus an advocate?
Advocates for special education are far less costly than attorneys and educate parents as the family goes through the process of intake, meetings etc. Attorneys represent parents at due process hearings with school systems, advocates usually do not.
When you start your representation with EdvoCare, one of two things will happen:
When is a child eligible for special education?
A child needs to have been found to have a disability AND the disability needs to interfere with the child's education/learning.
Who can/should refer a child for special education/regional center services?
Anyone can: you, the teacher, a caseworker, etc. School Systems actually have an obligation to identify all children with a suspected disability. Put a request in writing or via email for an assessment for all suspected areas of disability.
What is an IEP meeting?
An IEP meeting is a meeting during which an IEP document, an Individualized Education Program, is generated. This meeting takes place at least once a year (if you request an additional IEP in writing, then another one should be held within 30 days) and/or as a consequence of a requested assessment 60 days after the assessment plan was signed by the parent. This IEP document, outlining where the child has needs and how these needs will be addressed, is a legally binding commitment for placement and services for the special needs child.
What is FAPE?
FAPE stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education, to which every child in the United States is entitled. The discussion and difference in opinions usually pertains to what is appropriate. Parents should use the word "appropriate" over the word "best" as far as what they are pursuing for their child goes.
What is the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)?
This refers to the educational placement that your child is entitled to and that approximates the closest to typical functioning as possible considering the child's needs. For example: a preschool-aged child with autism will most likely fair better in a preschool with typically developing children as role models with an ABA-trained shadow aide accompanying him/her during the school day, than in a Special Education setting. The General Education classroom would be the least restrictive environment (closest to the how typically developing children are educated). A self-contained class, with only special needs children is more restrictive, less typical. Many times school systems push for self-contained classes versus general education settings with a special education teacher and, if possible, a one-on-one aide (will vary from school to school based on staffing budget) This is when we would use the term LRE to advocate for the general education, the least restrictive setting.
Please note that there is no right or wrong here, it is fine if you decide the general education classroom is not for your child, but let that be because that is your opinion and gut instinct as a parent, not because it is cheaper for the system.
How can I prove that a certain service or placement is appropriate?
The law says that interventions have to be research-based but by far the most effective proof for an appropriate service of program will be by getting a written opinion from an expert in the field, one who has no interest in the outcome of the recommendation. Think about it, school systems have an inherent conflict of interest: they will evaluate your child and then recommend what services are appropriate?! That is like asking a medical insurance company for the prescribed treatment option!
There are many knowledgeable experts out there who will generate an unbiased opinion, that we can refer you to. Many times parents privately fund such expert assessments. Depending on where you are in your journey with the School System, you might be able to get the expert evaluation funded for or reimbursed by the System.
How can I obtain my child's records?
Make a request in writing for any and all records pertaining to your child's education and the records by law will have to be produced generally within five business days. You might want to specify a date from which on you need the file, as many times you will be charged copying charges by page.
If you could give parents only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Prepare for hearing, so you don't have to go to hearing. In other words, create a paper trail of the evidence that you would submit for a hearing, document everything and make sure you have proof of receipt.
In my experience this has been the best way to obtain the services your child needs as quickly as possible.
If you have any additional questions about how an advocate for special education can help you and your family, please contact Edvocare today.
The world of special education is quite technical and complicated and as this involves your child, you want to get things right the first time. The nature of special education puts parents in a position of facing school systems who unfortunately might not look out for the best interest of your child but rather the school system.
Even though your child is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and you want your child to thrive, school systems are sometimes facing serious budget issues to fully service everyone. For this reason parents face entities that have an inherent conflict of interest, having to assess your child and then recommend services while trying to be empathetic to the school system’s budget. We will guide you through these interactions so that assessments of needs will be appropriate and lead to the right services. We know your rights and our experts have attended and most cases conducting more than a 1,000 on behalf of students.
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