For a special needs parent, entering the special education process can be quite complex. However, some parents jump right into the middle of it without researching information. If your child is newly diagnosed or has just received a special education eligibility, then you first want to make sure you get and understand foundational information before you move forward.
Here are a few essential questions that you should know the answers to.
What does my child’s disability mean?
In order to receive special education services, your child has to qualify under one of the 13 categories of special education listed under IDEA. But once your child has a special education eligibility, what does that mean? For example, if your child qualified for services under a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), do you know exactly what your child is struggling with? Or what weaknesses were shown in their evaluations? Additionally, what does the research say about children with SLDs? Make sure you understand this information and if you have questions, do not hesitate to ask. When you are going over your child’s evaluation at their eligibility meeting, the school psychologist or evaluator should be able to answer all of your questions.
they record my child’s progress?
Your child is now receiving special education services. But how do you know if they are making progress? This is a major question for parents. Since collecting data can vary from school district to school district and even within the same school from teacher to teacher, you need to know how YOUR child’s teacher will be collecting data. It would make it easier if data collection was universal across school districts, but this is not always the case. This is why you need to ask questions about how the data is collected, when the data is collected, and how percentages are calculated. Do not leave the IEP meeting table, until you understand this process.
information is in your State’s Procedural Safeguards?
Before your first meeting, you should have read your State’s Procedural Safeguards. In your State’s Procedural Safeguards, you can find information about your child’s evaluation, the procedures if you wanted to get an Independent Educational Evaluation, and what you can do if you disagree with the school district. When you do have any questions, always refer back to your State’s Procedural Safeguards first. If you have additional questions, then ask the IEP team.
staff will be working with my child?
There are various special educational personnel and all students do not work
with every individual. It all depends on your child’s eligibility and specific
needs. If your child does not qualify for speech and language services, they
will not see the speech and language therapist. The same thing goes for
occupational therapy, physical therapy, special education nursing, adaptive
physical education, mobility services, etc. Sometimes parents misunderstand a
special education eligibility. They think once their child qualifies for any
special education service, then all special education services are
available to them and this is not the case. It all depends on your
child’s individual needs. Always ask questions if you are not sure what
services they will be receiving and who will be providing these services.
the school help my child?
what strategies, special curriculum/programs and accommodations/modifications
will be in place to help your child. Remember the goal for all children is to
make sure they are progressing towards the general education curriculum.
Essentially, you should know in detail what exactly is going on in the
classroom. If your child’s teacher mentions that they are using XYZ
program, know exactly what that program is and how it will help your child. You
can always ask your child’s teacher or do your own research.
type of support will be provided for my child?
This pertains to accommodations/modifications, 1:1 support, mobility equipment, sensory breaks…basically anything that is listed in your child’s IEP that will support them throughout the day. Sometimes things are listed in the IEP and they are not followed. Always know exactly what supports your child is receiving and follow up to make sure they are receiving them.
Asking and keeping track of all of this information can be overwhelming. But it is important to make sure your child is receiving the services that they need.