Special Education basic rights discussed

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC) held a workshop on the basic rights of parents in regard to the Special Education process on Thursday evening at the Westfield Technical Academy. Leslie Leslie from the Federation for Children with Special Needs gave an overview to around one dozen parents and educators in attendance on the process of receiving Special Education (SPED) for their children.
Leslie said all children with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate education. Special Education services must meet the needs of the child, which she said is the reason individual education plans (IEPs) are put in place.
Parents, teachers, professionals and physicians may all refer a child for an evaluation, which is the first step in the process. Parents must consent to the evaluation in writing. Parents might refuse services for various reasons, such as a concern about labeling their child, or wanting to wait and see if the problems resolve themselves.
Referrals might be prompted by a child missing developmental milestones, or by teachers getting a sense when someone’s “not there” in reading and other skills. Throughout the presentation, Leslie talked about the journey of her son, who is dyslexic, and the challenges she went through in getting him the appropriate services he needed.
A “consent for evaluation form” must be sent to parents within five days of a referral, listing all of the concerns regarding the child. Once the form is signed, “it starts the ball rolling,” Leslie said.
The school then has 30 school days to evaluate the child, not counting weekends or days that school is not in session. Tests may include a reading test, fluency test (to determine comprehension), functional behavior evaluations, and more. Physicians may be asked to do a comprehensive health exam. There may also be a psychological assessment done by a licensed school, educational, or general psychologist. Home assessments may also be done.
Parents may have a dialogue with the school about the testing. “You want to be comfortable that the school is testing in all areas of disabilities,” Leslie said.
The school then has 45 school days from the report for an initial IEP meeting. Parents should request a copy of the evaluation two days prior to meeting with the school. The evaluation will cover procedures used, results, diagnostic impressions, student’s needs and explicit means of meeting needs.
The IEP team may include parents, students (required to be present over the age of 14), school district representatives, SPED educators, general educators, the person who did the evaluation, and related service providers. Leslie said parents are allowed to bring other people for support. She suggested bringing a friend who’s a note taker.
“You’re developing a relationship with your school and your educators,” Leslie said. She recommended showing respect throughout the process, and using the three P’s: Positive, Professional and Persistent.
At the initial meeting, parents will hear the results of the evaluations, as well as the Special Education eligibility determination for their child. If the child is eligible for specialized instruction, the school will move forward with the IEP and determine placement.
An IEP contains annual goals for the student’s progress, benchmarks and objectives. Parents have the opportunity to respond to the IEP by accepting it in part or full, or rejecting it in part or full. They may also respond by accepting the placement, or rejecting it.
The standards for services include being free, appropriate, individualized, public, providing education and transition services. Students also have a legal right to access all the programs in the school, including extra-curricular and field trips.
If a child is not eligible, parents will hear the reasons why. A child might be eligible for a Section 504, not Special Education, which provides for accommodations and related services. A child under a 504 has fewer rights, and there is no legal right for transition planning after school ends.
Leslie said parents need to understand their child’s disability, set high expectations, and understand the process. She said parents also have a right to have everything written in their native language.
Leslie also recommended participating in the Westfield SEPAC. The SEPAC will be holding its next informational meeting on Section 504s on November 12, 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the Westfield Technical Academy, Cafeteria.
More information on the process may be obtained at the Federation for Children with Special Needs website at www.fcsn.org, or at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education www.doe.mass.edu.

To Top