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How To Navigate The Special Education Maze

and Get The Best Services For Your Child

  Some misconceptions that parents have and how to avoid common mistakes… and some helpful tips… 

1. Parents are often given the feeling at an IEP that they have nothing to contribute since they are not the “professionals”… the teachers, psychologists, speech therapist, etc are the experts and know exactly what your child needs. Parents are an equal participant of the IEP team. Don’t let the school district’s people make you feel like you do not belong there or have nothing to contribute. You as the parent know your child the best.

It can be very intimidating to sit at a table with several educators and professionals. Professionals/educators do bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to the table. Though most parents do not have a background or degree in education, they have a great deal of knowledge and experience regarding their child. Parents are the experts in their own right.  

2. Make all of your requests in writing. This includes requests for assessments, IEP meetings, correspondence, related services, etc. Written requests are important because they initiate timelines that the school district must follow in response to your request. This will also create a paper trail.  

3. Having the School District pay for a “second opinion” by a private provider.

Under 34 CFR 300.502 Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), parents of a child with a disability have the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with the results of the school's assessment. The person who makes the IEE cannot be employed by the school district.  

4. “We never provide more than… (30 min group speech, 5 hours behavior intervention etc)…” The school District can not have a general policy regarding services that they provide. Your child has the right under Federal and State laws to an Individual Educational Plan. That plan is generated according to his or her needs and not the school district’s budget.  

5. “We don’t have enough Speech Therapist so we can’t give your child the services that he needs…” – again like in the previous point, your child’s related services are driven by his or hers needs and goals as written in the IEP. If the school district does not have enough people to provide the necessary services, the parents may seek reimbursement for private providers. 

6. You don’t have to sign the IEP at the end of the meeting. Parents are often pressured by the rest of the IEP team to sign and agree. The IEP is a very emotional process, and a lot of information is being presented. This is an important document and the contract between your family and the school district as to the placement, goals, services, assessments, and accommodations that your child is going to receive from the District. You should always take the IEP home, read and review it carefully, and than calmly decide if this is appropriate for your child. 

7. You can agree to only part of the IEP and disagree with the rest. It is not an all or nothing proposition. You may agree with goals, placement, and some of the services, but still believe that your child needs more support. You can than sign that you agree to specific portions of the IEP and disagree with other specific portions. The parts that you agreed with will be implemented and the rest will not. You than may file for Due Process. 

8. You should not say that you want the BEST education for your child. All parents want the best for their kids. This statement will be used against you. The school district is only responsible to provide your child with Free and Appropriate Public Education. However, the word Appropriate can be defined in many ways. 

9. Bringing an attorney or and advocate with you to an IEP or Mediation does not mean that you are being adversarial. It tells the school district that you are aware of the rights of your child and ready to fight for them. It shows them that you have done your homework, and they can not just offer your child the minimum. 

10. You don’t have to agree with the District’s offer. You have the right to disagree with the eligibility creteria, placement, goals, assessments, and related services. You than need to file for Due Process which can include going to a mediation and or a hearing. It is highly recommended to have an attorney assist you with this process. Attorney’s fees are usually paid by the school district so there is no cost or down side to the family in getting legal representation. 

We believe that it is important that parents of children with special needs be fully informed as to their rights under the law.  Knowledge of the law can be a powerful tool for parents.  We understand that parents of children with disabilities will have to work with their local school district for many years to come.  For this reason we strive to build a strong cooperation between a well-informed parent and an experienced legal representative, while keeping a positive working relationship with the school district.  This relationship will secure the appropriate services and protect the rights of the disabled child.   

Special Education Consulting ~ Advocates For Children With Special Needs







4335 Willow Glen Street ~ Calabasas CA 91302


General Information: info@sped-law.com


Send mail to webmaster@sped-law.com with questions or comments about this web site. Last modified: 04/01/03