There are so many questions parents have about special education. However, in my experience, these are the top 10 FAQs about special education that I have been asked by parents.
1. What is the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP?
A 504 plan is an educational plan that is written for a student who needs modifications or accommodations within the regular classroom environment. 504 plans pertain to students with medical conditions, psychological disorders, physical disabilities and ADHD. An IEP is a student educational plan that is written when a child qualifies for special education services under eligibilities such as autism, specific learning disability, intellectual disabilities and/or speech disorders. Special education falls under IDEA while 504 is a component of the Civil Rights Act of 1972.
2. How can my child get an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?
First, a child must qualify for special education services through your school district. If the school or the parent suspects that a child is having difficulty in one or more areas, the school or parent can make a request to evaluate the child. After the evaluation is complete, a IEP meeting is held to discuss the results and to determine if the child meets the criteria for special education services. If the child does meet criteria, an IEP is written specifically for your child.
3. Can I refuse or revoke special education services for my child?
Yes, you have a right refuse or revoke services for your child. You also have a right to deny consent for any additional evaluations. Parental rights outline your right as parent to give consent for testing and consent for special education placement. If your child is placed in special education and you will like to terminate services, you have a right to do so.
4. What can I do if I do not agree with special education placement?
Special education services are discussed and agreed upon by an IEP team and you are a part of that team. The IEP team determines the best placement for your child based on the results of evaluations, standardized tests, behavior data, classroom data, medical data or anything else that is relevant for placement. If you do not agree with placement, you have a right to negotiate with the school. If you are not satisfied, you can appeal to the school district. If further negotiations need to be made, mediation is the next step resulting in a due process hearing. However, keep in mind that the IEP team is there to come together to provide the best possible services for your child. No one likes to go through the drawn out process of mediation that is why the majority of issues are resolved before they enter into a due process hearing.
5. If I sign that I attended the IEP, does that mean that I agree with everything that was stated during the meeting?
Many states require that IEP members sign in at the beginning of an IEP meeting to document who attended the meeting. This is generally used for compliance issues. However, if you sign an IEP, it can indicate that you are in agreement with the IEP. This can pose a concern for parents because signing in at an IEP meeting can occur at the beginning of the meeting, before anything was discussed. And what about electronic IEPs? Nowadays, many IEPs are electronic, so there are no signatures. Having said all that, if you do not feel comfortable, do not sign the IEP. Additionally, if you do not agree with something in the IEP (such as a program or goals and objectives), have the recorder make a note in the minutes. If you feel the IEP needs to be modified, you should write a written letter for a revision of the IEP and have the letter attached to the IEP for documentation.
6. Is the school district required by law to provide services for my child?
Yes. Public school districts are required by law to provide a free appropriate education under FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). This means that your child with a disability much be educated by the public school at no cost to you and their education needs to be tailored to meet their needs through an IEP. This means the most appropriate education for your child, not the best education possible.
7. Are school districts required to pay for private school placements under FAPE?
FAPE is only a requirement for public schools, unless the IEP team determines that a service required for the child can only be met in a private school setting. This is usually not the case because the public school system has a variety of services to meet the needs of students with disabilities. You as a parent can enroll your child in a private institution, but know that you are responsible for paying for the costs. Private schools are governed by different regulations so they are not required to provide services for special education students nor do they have to implement an IEP.
8. Can my child be suspended or expelled from school?
Yes, the school has a right to suspend and expel students with disabilities. If your child displayed a behavior that goes against the school’s discipline procedures, then the school has a right to suspend your child for up to 10 days. If suspension of more than 10 days or expulsion is warranted, then a manifestation determination IEP meeting must be held in order to determine if the violation was a direct result of the student’s disability. If the IEP team determines that the violation was caused by the student’s disability, he or she cannot be expelled. However, if the IEP team decides that the infraction was not related to the disability, then expulsion can proceed. Your child is still entitled to educational services that would enable him to participate in the general educational curriculum usually thorough an alternative education program.
9. Can I record IEP meetings?
Yes. You have a right to record all meetings. However, if you bring you bring out a recorder, be prepared that the representatives of the school will most likely record the meeting also.
10. If my child requires speech services does that mean he will need an IEP?
Yes. Special education includes speech-language pathology services and other related services as provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Students who only show delays in speech and language go through the same process as other students who are displaying cognitive, motor, adaptive and/or social and behavior delays. A referral is made for special education, an evaluation is conducted, an eligibility meeting is held to determine if the student qualifies for services, and then an IEP is written to determine how the school district can address the student’s needs.
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