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Understanding the Special Education Process (2 of 3)

In part 1 of this series we talked about the special education process and the referral meeting. Now let’s talk about what happens next. After the referral/ planning meeting you will be invited to a second meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to review the results of the testing that was conducted. You will also find out whether or not your child is eligible to receive special education services.

All of the professionals who evaluated your child should be present at this meeting, as well as the classroom teacher. They will discuss their findings and review test results. You may hear positive information, but you may also hear disheartening information- so be prepared. If possible bring someone with you for added support and for another set of ears. Take notes and ask questions. Sometimes we clinicians use technical jargon so if you hear something that is unclear ask for clarification. Trust me- we don’t mind!

After all of the information is presented the team will tell you whether or not your child meets the criteria to be classified eligible for special education. If he/she is eligible, the team will present a plan for your child. This is the IEP or Individualized Education Plan. The IEP discusses how the child is currently functioning and outlines the goals for your child. These goals are annual and reflect what the team thinks your child can reasonably accomplish in one year. The IEP should also list any related services (i.e. speech, occupational, physical therapy) and the frequency in which that service will occur. For example if your child is to receive physical therapy, the IEP will state it in writing: physical therapy __ x’s per week, for ___ minutes, in a group/ individual setting.

Remember when I told you that you are apart of the team- well that still applies. Developing the IEP is a team task and it includes YOU! You have the right to ask questions, accept, reject, or request changes to any part of the plan.

Once you agree to the IEP, you will receive a copy of the plan as a complete document. You will also be given an implementation date which is the day that the new services will begin. If it was determined that your child needs a related service that start date will be outlined as well. Once the service(s) begins, it is a good idea to contact your child’s therapist(s). Maintaining open communication with everyone involved in your child’s school day will help you stay aware and be the best advocate possible. And knowing what is happening in the classroom and the therapy room will help you practice those skills at home.

If you leave the school and still have questions, call your case manager. Nothing is ever set in stone; IEPs can be amended. For more tips on how to be your child’s education advocate click here and read 10 Ways to be an Effective Advocate for your Child. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, I hope it’s that you are apart of the team.

Your involvement matters and is welcomed!

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