Presenter: Staci J. Greenwald, Esq.
You will learn the origins and intent of the IDEA, what free and appropriate public eduction in the lease restrictive envirnment should look like. Placement in the appropriate learning environment will be discussed and what an IEP should contain, including short term objectives and annual goals. 504 plans and accomodations will also be covered.
Staci Greenwald has 27 years experience as a lawyer in this field and has a personal connection to making things right. Staci J. Greenwald is a partner in Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler, Esquires, in Cranbury, New Jersey, where she handles special education matters and offers advocacy in cases involving the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), guardianship, and estate planning for families of special needs students.
Watch Webinar Below
Thanks, Kelly, and good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining us. A presenter for tonight is Attorney Stacy Greenwald. Stacy is a graduate of Douglas College and received her Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall, law school. She is admitted to practice in all New Jersey courts, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Additionally, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences, and is a certified teacher of the handicapped.
She is eminently qualified to advocate on behalf of her clients in forums, ranging from the Office of Administrative Law to the federal courts.
She handles special education matters and offers advocacy in cases involving the Division of Developmental Disabilities, guardianship, and estate planning for families of special needs students. She’s also a frequent lecturer throughout New Jersey.
Stacie, we’re so pleased to have you join our webinar family, and now, without further introduction, I’ll turn tonight’s program over to you.
Thank you very much, and thank you for that great introduction. I would just like to say, before I start the actual presentation that I practice in New Jersey. So, any information that I’m giving you is going to be on New Jersey specific. You need to make sure that if you’re from another state, that you check your state’s code, Because while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1873 are both federal laws, the IDEA is procedural in nature, and it leaves up to each individual state how they’re going to implement those laws. So there are some differences between state, so you want to make sure that that you do check with your state.
Tonight, I’m going to give you a brief historical overview of the law, and then I’m going to review some of the salient areas that have been impacted by recent amendments.
So, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as I said, is a federal law. and it started with Public Law 94, 142, which started as The Education For All Handicapped Children’s, Act of 1975, A law mandated for the first time that parents be equal partners in making educational decisions for their children. Empowering parents to become educational advocates.
So, understanding what Congress envisioned, when it enacted the law, gives us some idea as to what our roles are in providing services. It talked about improving educational results.
It talked about independent living and economic self-sufficiency. And if you see, in my second bullet in, talks about ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
Note the language where it talks about ensuring. Congress made sure that they were very strong in what they were looking for this law to provide for our kids.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act started, as I said, with Public Law 94, 142, in 1975. And then it was re-enacted into the IDEA the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It’s supposed to be re-authorized every five years. Unfortunately, the last time that it was re-authorized was in 2004. But in 2004, we did make some major changes in the law itself. And it talks about now and requires that an IEP contain a statement of transition service needs. It used to be at age 14. And it needed to be updated annually to ease and support the transition from public school and IDEA programs in public school to education, employment, and independent living, after the student left public school.
So, in 2004, it changed the timing, so that we’re now talking about providing those transition services, with the first IEP after the child turns age 16, and, again, talks about that post-secondary planning.
It also went on to modify the purpose section. And this, I find, to be very, very important. It always talked about preparing students for employment and independent living, but for the first time, an added further education on it. Finally, amazing that Congress realize that our kids have the ability to go on and do wonderful things in life. And I say our kids, not just because, I’m a special education attorney, but because, on both my kids, went through special education as well. And, you know, what I knew about my kids and what I know about the kids that I deal with, is that a lot of them are really, really bright and really, really capable. And, finally, in 2004, the IDEA, acknowledged and realize that maybe our kids learn a little differently, but they are capable of going on to further education, so that was wonderful to see.
Some of the other goals, with regard to the IDEA of 2004, talked about providing maximum extent possible, and this was really important, as well, because we want to give them every possibility to go on and do whatever it is that they can do.
So, what is a child, with a disability entitled to. They’re entitled to a free, appropriate public education. Now, every child who meets the laws definition of a child with a disability is entitled to a faith in what we call the least restrictive environment. As part of faith, a child with a disability is entitled to special education. This must be individually designed to meet the unique needs of the students and prepare the child for further education, employment, and educate an independent living.
The program must provide for significant and meaningful educational benefit.
The child is also entitled to related services.
Special education and related services is what the child is entitled. Prior to 2004, the child, in order to be eligible for special education needs needed to either require special education or related services, and now it’s special education and related services. And the related services is a broad definition, and it’s not meant to be all inclusive. It includes transportation, speech, occupational therapy, counseling, they are entitled to related services that will enable the child to benefit from their educational program.
It also talks about enabling the child to be educated in the least restrictive environment.
Now, the New Jersey Administrative Code, and, again, for those of you who don’t live in New Jersey, your administrative code is going to talk about what your least restrictive environment is. A buddy in New Jersey, section six, A colon 14, 4.2 says, to the maximum extent appropriate, a student with a disability is educated with their non-disabled peers. And that’s separate classes. Separate schooling, or other removal occurs only when the nature and severity of the educational disability is such that education in the regular class with the use of appropriate supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Now we’ll get on to what appropriate supplemental aids and services are, in a little bit, but that’s what the child is entitled to under a free, appropriate public education.
We talked about the least restrictive environment, which is defined as the environment closest to home, where progress rather than regression or stagnation will take place.
We can only have one least restrictive environment while we can have more than one appropriate placement. So, in order for a program to be appropriate, not only, or, excuse me, least restrictive, not only does it need to be appropriate first, but it would be the one closest to home.
So, if we have two programs, and one is appropriate, ones not appropriate, even if the one that’s appropriate is further from the child’s house, that becomes the least restrictive environment. It’s the environment closest to home where that child is going to be able to make significant and meaningful educational placement.
So, what is placement?
Placement is the appropriate learning environment for your child. And as we talked about before, the IEP team must consider placement in the regular education setting first. That doesn’t mean that the child necessarily has to attend a regular education setting, but it needs to be something that’s considered. For some students, it’s clear from the outset that a regular education program is not going to be appropriate, but we at least need to consider whether it’s going to be. And we have a number of things that can be done in terms of placement. And we have a continuum that we look at. And we go down that continuum to determine what is or is not appropriate for the child. So we start with modifications within the regular education setting, which is a change in the type and amount of work that’s expected of the students. And then we talk about accommodations. It changes how the student learns, and the way they demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Now, this is where we get into, a difference between Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If a student requires a 504 plan, we’re talking about providing modifications, and accommodations. When we talk about an IEP, the student requires special education as well. So, that is one difference, and we’ll talk about it a little later.
We have other things on the continuum that we look at when we talk about the mainstream class with curricular or instructional modifications, we can provide assistive technology. Teacher aids, related services, integrated therapies, these are all things that can be provided as part of a safe, for your child. We start with in class resource programs, which is where we have two teachers in the classroom, one of them being a special education teacher, one of them being a general education teacher on if the team determines that in class resource is not appropriate. We can look at a pullout Resource Center program. From there we look at self-contained classes and we have a variety of those ranging for from kids and have behavioral disabilities and emotional disabilities to children with learning disabilities or cognitive impairments. That runs the gamut.
We then have New Jersey approved private schools for students with disabilities. And then, we have non approved, but accredited private schools. And then, finally, we have Home Instruction and Residential placements. And these are all set forth in the New Jersey Administrative Code.
So, what happens and how do we go about locating, identifying, and referring a student to determine whether they’re eligible for special education or related services?
There is a difference between Child Find and Referral.
In some cases, before, a student is actually referred to the Child Study Team for evaluation. We do something called RTI, Response to Intervention, or we try, what we call Intervention and Referral Services, which is where the student is identified as a child who may be in the future, or currently eligible for special education and related services. And we provide supports for that child, before we actually go on and evaluate that child.
When that doesn’t work, or we find that the child is not benefiting, then we go on and, have that child referred to the Child Study Team.
A direct referral to the Child Study team has to be made when a parent requests and evaluation when the student is not responding to the interventions, or when it’s clear from the outset that a referral is warranted. And I just want to go back to the IRS. You know, there are kids who are receiving special education through, you know, reading services, anything that you can do through an IEP, you can actually do through your INRS, but if it’s not working, then we want to go ahead and we want to refer that child to the Child Study Team.
Who can refer a student? Any member of the school staff, including teachers, the parents, any outside agency.
You always want to make sure that the referral to the child study team is done in writing. It should be addressed to the director of special services, and it should be dated and explain the nature of the student’s disability and indicate that you’re giving consent for the student to be referred to the Child Study Team and why you’re making that referral. It’s always helpful to indicate, the types of issues that you’re seeing. Because the more information that you can provide, the better the team is going to be prepared to determine whether evaluation is going to be done.
A lot of times, a parent will have an outside evaluation done. And the law says that all non-district reports must be considered. However, there is nothing in the law that mandates that the reports be accepted.
So, a school district has to look at it, and they can accept part of it, they can reject part of it. And they can decide what they’re going to use or not use. The school district has 90 days to do their evaluations.
Prior to actually sitting down and having the evaluation meeting, where you go over the evaluations to determine whether the child meets the criteria, and is going to be found eligible for special education and related services, the school district has to provide you with the reports at least 10 days in a dance.
Once the evaluations are done, they then sit down and determine whether the child is going to be eligible. If the child is eligible, then we’re going to go on and determine what that IEP is going to look like.
So, if at the eligibility meeting, the child is determined eligible, then the school district has to provide you with the team’s determination in writing. You have a right to bring anybody you want with you to the eligibility meeting, and actually an IEP conference. I will tell you that if you’re going to bring an advocate and, Or an attorney most of the time-, if you’re going to bring an attorney, the school district is absolutely going to have their attorney there. Most of the time, if you’re going to bring an advocate, then the school district is going to have their attorney there as well.
You have a right to tape record that meeting, and you have a right to ask as many questions as you want or need to, in order to determine and decide whether you understand the reports that are being provided by the school district.
So, when we do evaluations, and we’re looking at initial eligibility, the law talks about, you know, doing at least two evaluations.
The Child Study team in, all likelihood is going to look at and do a social evaluation, they’re going to do a psychological evaluation, and they’re going to do an educational evaluation, when we determine eligibility the law talks about evaluating the child in all areas of suspected disability. And this is where I find that we have a lot of problems. Sometimes a child will have Tourette syndrome or they’ll have ADHD, or they’ll have emotional issues and the school district will sit down, and when they do their evaluation plan meeting, they’ll talk about doing a psychological evaluation and educational and maybe a speech and language. But they don’t talk about doing a psychiatric evaluation. They don’t talk about doing a neurological evaluation. They don’t talk about doing an auditory processing evaluation, or an audiological evaluation.
In order to determine whether a child is eligible, we need to evaluate that child in all areas of suspected disability. You as a parent have a right to say to the school district, listen, I think my child has ADHD. I think my child suffers from an auditory processing disorder. I would like the district to pay for an evaluation in that area. And the school district, if they’re going to evaluate in all areas of suspected disability, should be agreeing to do those evaluations.
Who is eligible under the IDEA? It is a three pronged test that we look at. The child has to have a disability.
The disability needs to adversely affect educational performance, creating an educational need, and the child must be in need of special education and related services.
When we look at eligibility, and there are 13 categories in New Jersey, and I’m going to show you them in a minute. But having the disability itself isn’t enough. It’s the adversely affecting educational performance, creating an educational need. What we find sometimes is, with a lot of our, what we call, 2E students, twice exceptional, kids that are really, really bright, but also have learning differences, or may have other disorders that impact their ability to function classroom. We find sometimes that we have a dispute over whether there is an educational need because the child is functioning maybe in the average range, but because of the child’s innate intelligence, that child should be functioning much higher. And the school district is arguing that there’s no educational need.
The other thing that we need to look at is that a child must require special education and related services. And this is really the difference between our 504 kids and our special education students, our special education students, require that special education, while our 504 kids are, are the ones that just require the accommodations and modifications. So, what is an educational need?
An educational need requires that the child show evidence of need of special education services by an inability to progress in a regular education program. But, again, education need is not limited to academics. Education is a broad concept, and includes a lot more than academics. It’s social skills.
It’s toileting, communication, emotional functioning. A lot of times, I see one of the areas that we run into problems is children with emotionally based issues, whose academics are absolutely fine, but emotionally they had difficulty functioning in the classroom. They may get easily frustrated if something is difficult. They may have behavioral issues. You know, they may have school refusal. They may be impulsive or distractible. Those kids may require social skills, instruction, executive functioning. They may need refocusing by their special education teacher. They need new things broken down. That’s an educational need, and it doesn’t matter that the child may be academically at or above grade level, if it’s impacting their ability to function in the classroom. It’s an educational need and should be addressed.
Our IDEA disability categories, I’m not going to read these, because you guys can read them yourselves. But these are the areas that would qualify a student under the IDEA. And when we determine eligibility, we have to fit our students into one of these categories. I should note that if we look at preschool, children with preschool disabilities, all students between the ages of 3 and 5, no matter what their disability is, is classified as preschool disabled. And that has its own innate issues. because when we classify all students under one category, sometimes the lines get blurred, in terms of what kind of program is or is not appropriate.
So, let’s talk about this a little bit more. What happens when the student is found eligible for special education and related services? What we do is we write an IEP, an individualized educational plan, is a plan designed specifically between your child, between the school and the parents outlining how the student is going to be educated. It is the blueprint of special education, and it tells us what kind of services, what kind of programs, what kind of accommodations and modifications the student is going to get.
The IEP must address the children’s academic, functional, including non-academic needs related to behavior, social, and emotional functioning, and life skills. Because, as I indicated before, the IEP and education is not just academics. And it has a variety of areas that we need to address. And I’d like to just pinpoint some of them. If you go to, at least in New Jersey, the New Jersey Administrative Code, and you look at section 3.6, that’s where we talk about the IEP itself. But we want to make sure that the IEP details accommodations that the IEP team determines necessary.
It has to require and contain the transition services. And again, when we talk about the accommodations and modifications that have to be in the IEP, those are the same accommodations and modifications, or could be the same accommodations and modifications to get to a 504 plan to any student that is IEP eligible, by definition, is 504 eligible. We just take those 504 accommodations. And we put them into the IEP itself.
When we talk about the IEP, and I see this is one of the biggest issues, the IEP is supposed to talk about what the school is going to do for the child, not what the child is going to do. So, if one of our goals is for the child to seek out help when he needs it, that’s a great goal, but how are we going to teach that child to seek out that help, what the school is going to do for the child, not what the child is going to do. And the IEP also has to address all of your child’s school related needs, not just those for which he or she has been referred, and this would include behaviors that occur at school. It’s a global document that’s supposed to help the child achieve significant and meaningful educational benefit.
So, the New Jersey Administrative Code also talks about requiring that at the beginning of the school year, the district or Board of education has to have an effect, an IEP, for every student who’s receiving special education and related services. This is very important. A lot of times, teachers haven’t seen the IEP and don’t know what is required. You need to make sure you ask your teachers, including the special teachers, if they’ve seen the IEP. If they haven’t, go ahead and give them a copy. Very, very, very important.
So, what are we looking at in an IEP?
Oh, I’m sorry. one more before I get there. The IEP also requires that every student’s IEP be accessible to each regular education teacher, special education, teacher related service provider, and other service providers. Who’s responsible for implementation? This is really important, as well, because if a teacher doesn’t know that your child has an IEP, how are they going to provide the appropriate supports, services,
and special education that the child requires, As I always like to say, a child’s needs don’t end when they leave the regular education classroom. They follow that child throughout his entire day, and therefore, it’s important that all teachers know what’s going on.
When we talk about the IEP, one of the main sections that we want to make sure is done correctly is what we call the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance, and this should describe what the pupil can and cannot do, and answer these questions. What does the student most need to be taught?
Where should instruction begin?
What learning characteristics of the pupils must be considered?
And it has to address the social and emotional needs. It must be written in objective and measurable terms. So often I see IEPs that say, you know, the child is reading at about the second-grade level or the child is very friendly. We really want to get specific here, you know. Angie was given the… now, and she is reading at a level K she was also given a reading comprehension tasks and she scored at the 2.4 grade level. In unstructured time she is distractible and impulsive and needs to be refocused. It should also contain, however, your child’s strengths because it’s important for all teachers to know not only what your child has difficulty with, but what the child really does well at,
so we can use the child’s strengths to help remediate some of those weaknesses. From the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. We want to then develop the annual goals and the annual goals not only include the academic and functional goals to meet the child’s disability related needs and enable the child to progress in the curriculum. But it may also needs to meet the needs of the child that results in the child’s disability. They have to be detailed and apprise you as parents and special education service providers and the expected level achievement for each goal.
Even though it should detail and apprise, what we’re expecting, the student to do or achieve within a one-year period is not a performance contract. You cannot say, just because a student didn’t meet all of their academic goals or any of their nonacademic goals, that the school district has failed to provide an appropriate educational program. But clearly, if, you know, at the end of the year, the child has not, we certainly want to sit down and figure out what went wrong and how we change things so that the child is going to make significant and meaningful educational progress.
The other section that I want to talk about is a short-term objectives, and they’re the intermediate steps between where the child is now as measured by their present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. But where we want that child to be at the end of the one-year period, so these are waypoints. And as I said before, the IEP is the roadmap to special education. So, if we look at this as a roadmap, we really want it to be detailed, giving an example, I had a Learning Consultant that I had worked with, years ago, who gave a wonderful Roadmap example, where he talked about the fact that if I said to you that on November 13th, 2009, I’m here, and on November 18th, 2020, I want you to be over there.
The I’m here is the Present Levels of Academic and Academic Achievement, and the annual goal is for you to be over there in a one-year period. It’s not very detailed, and nobody knows what you’re talking about. But, if I said to you that, on November 13th, 2019, I’m at Exit one of the New Jersey Turnpike. And my annual goal is in a one-year period. I expect you to be an exit 12 of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Again, very specific, I know where you are now. And I know where I want you to be in a one-year period. My short-term objectives might be that, by December 15th, I expect you to be an exit three of the New Jersey Turnpike again, That’s very specific. And it gives us the opportunity to gage how that child is doing throughout the year. So that is by December 15th,
i’m in Delaware. You know that I’m going in the wrong direction, and maybe we need to revise the goals and objectives. So that it’s more in line with how the student learns, and what the student needs to learn. If, on the other hand, I’m at, or close to exit three, then you know that the goals are working, and the instruction is working. And then I’m learning what I need to, so that my IEP is going to provide that significant and meaningful educational benefit.
The IEP also has other areas on. It needs to talk about the strengths of the student, the academic development and functional needs of the student. The results of the evaluations conducted and needs to set forth the performance on general, state, and district wide testing.
In case of a student whose behavior impedes his or her learning, you want to make sure that there’s a behavior plan or is going to take into consideration whether that child is exempt from the discipline code. It needs to take into consideration the communication needs of the student.
We also need to make sure that assistive technology, devices, and services are made available, if the student requires it.
It also needs to detail accommodations that the IEP team determines necessary. And again, when we talk about an IEP team, that includes the parent. The parent is part of that IEP team.
So, if we’re going to develop the IEP and make changes to the IEP itself, we can excuse members of the IEP team, if everybody agrees.
If the meeting deals with the excuse members’ areas, they have to provide written input to the parent and to the team in advance.
If the parent and the local educational agency agree, you can make changes to the IEP after the annual IEP meeting, by doing what we call an amendment. And an amendment is a written document that gets sent to the parent that outlines what the change to the IEP is. And as long as the parent signs that amendment and sends it back, the change to the IEP can be made without actually holding an IEP meeting.
An IEP is supposed to be held annually, but can be held more often, if necessary. There are students because of their needs and their ever changing needs, that we may hold an IEP conference more than once a year. I’ve had situations where we’ve held 1 every 8 weeks. That’s the exception rather than the rule. But we can hold them, you know, more often, if needed.
I should say that if a parent does not agree to the amendment and doesn’t sign it, the IEP cannot go into effect. And that’s the amendment part. An amendment must be signed by the parents, at the end of the IEP meeting. The parent has to be provided with a copy of the IEP or written notes, setting forth the agreement, with respect to the IEP as determined by the IEP team. And if agreement cannot be reached, the child study team must finalize the IEP. And then the parents are left with their, with their rights, with regard to whether that IEP is going to be implemented or not.
A parent, and again, this is New Jersey, apparent only has to sign consent for the initial IEP. They’re after, if an IEP is given to you, at a meeting, and you disagree with it, but you do nothing, or you send a letter to the director of special services or your case manager and you say, I disagree with this IEP. If nothing else happens, that IEP is going to go into effect 15 days after you get it Doesn’t matter that you objected to it.
The only way to prevent an IEP, except an initial IEP from going into effect, is to file for mediation or due process within 15 days. Or to get in writing from your school district, that they agree to keep that IEP in draft form. So, if you write a letter to the director of Special Services or your case manager. and you say that you disagree, and they say, OK, we’re going to keep it in draft, and we’re going to hold another IEP meeting, You don’t have to worry about it. But, if you send a letter saying you disagree, and they don’t agree to keep it in draft, it’s going to go into effect 15 days after you get it. Unless you take affirmative action to stop it.
Always save your child’s IEP and progress reports each year, very, very, very important. It’s amazing how many parents, go back and look at the progress reports, and realized that the goals and objectives hasn’t been changed, or that their child is functioning at the same level. So, you want to make sure that you have all of those, so that you can compare them from year to year.
Remember, IEPs have to be reviewed at least once a year, but you can ask for an IEP meeting more often, if necessary.
So, the next section I want to talk about is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
And for purposes of Section 504, it is designed to prevent any form of discrimination for eligible students with a disability, and a parent or student themselves can request accommodations to level the playing field for eligible students. So the difference between our 504 kids and our IEP kids is our IEP kids require special education, while our 504 kids require only accommodations and modifications.
For purposes of Section 504, a disabled person is one who has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. It’s about the degree of impairment, not the diagnosis itself. So, you want to make sure that you remember that. So, what are major life activities? Communicating, thinking, learning is a major life activity and that provides for reasonable accommodations and modifications to again level the playing field so that the child is on even footing.
What are the factors that we look at in determining substantial limitation? We look at does the impairment result in failure or underachievement when compared to their same aged, non-disabled peers? Does the impairment impact a major life activity? Does the impairment last for at least six months?
And will the impairment disappear without any intervention from the school?
If we look at those factors and we answer yes to those questions and the child could be eligible for a reasonable accommodations and modifications under Section 504.
So, when we talk about examples of Classroom 504 accommodations, tailoring homework assignments, changing the way a test is given, Simplify instructions.
Providing a copy of peer notes, supplementing verbal instructions. Using behavior management techniques. These are all things that we can do.
We also have, excuse me, things like oral testing. Use of a tape recorder, computer aided instruction, providing nurses, nursing services to supervise administration of medication. These are meant to just be examples of types of things that we do that could be considered reasonable accommodations.
What do we do if there’s a disagreement about what’s appropriate for the child? There are a variety of things that we can do. The first thing we can do is, we could ask for an independent, educational evaluation to see if somebody from the outside, who’s not working for the parent. Or the school district. Some thoughts as to what the child requires. You can ask to meet with the child study team. Again, to see if you can come up with some, you know, reasonable compromise that everybody can live with. You c an request mediation, and that’s through the State Department of Education. And in New Jersey, you can look through the New Jersey Administrative Code and the Parental Rights in Special Education, your prize book that they give you. And it’ll tell you exactly how to go ahead and request mediation.
You can file a complaint with the State Department, or you can request a due process hearing.
These are all things that can be done to determine and help get rid of differences between you and the school district. What are your rights as a parent? You have a right to be considered a full, participating member of the IEP team. Planning for the child, you should be heard, and you should be listened to.
You have the right to provide information about your child that can be used in developing interventions, evaluation planning, and educational programs.
You have the right to ensure that your written permission is given, before any formal evaluations, … You have the right to receive written notice.
You have the right to access your child’s records, and have someone available to explain those records, if you request it.
You have a right to a complete evaluation, where we’re using multiple tests or procedures to determine whether the child is eligible for special education, and what services the child requires. You have the right to confidentiality of all records.
You have a right to a free and appropriate public education.
The right to ask for an independent assessment.
The right to be involved in the development of your child’s IEP.
The right to receive transportation and other related services necessary for your child to benefit from his or her special education and related services.
You have the right to request mediation and due process.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you prepare to go into an IEP meeting. Always be prepared, go into the IEP meeting knowing what you want. I always like to tell my clients to send a letter in advance of the IEP conference outlining the things that you’d like to discuss, and the things that you’re going to be asking for. A lot of times, the people at the table are not necessarily the ones making the ultimate decision. So if you tell them in advance what you’re looking for on, there’s a better chance that you’re going to have an open conversation and be able to discuss things, because they’re going to be able to talk to their superiors in advance to see if that’s something that they can discuss with you.
Don’t be adversarial.
There’s a difference between, I have little code advocating for your child and being adversarial. I always like to say you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.
So, go in. And if you state your case, in a very objective way, without yelling and screaming, you’re going to go a lot further than if you go in ranting and raving.
Don’t be afraid to share information. I can’t tell you how many times I have parents come into my office who have outside evaluations, who have outside tutors, and say to me, we didn’t provide the district with any of this information.
You want to give the district as much information as possible, so that they can help meet your child’s needs. Keeping that information to yourself doesn’t help anybody. You want to make sure that they have all of the information, so that they can meet the needs of your child.
Remember that from the time you receive an IEP with which you disagree, and this is in New Jersey, you have 15 days to file for mediation or due process to invoke stay put. I always like to tell parents that, because a lot of parents come into my office and don’t realize that just telling the district they disagree is enough. You need to file for due process or mediation to invoke that, stay put.
Experts – to convince a district to provide services, or change a program or placement. A lot of times, you need an expert. We, as parents, know our kids better than anyone. But, professionals in the field want to hear from other professionals, so if you have outside professionals that you’re working with, who can write letters, who can provide outside testing, that’s going to go a long way to teach or tell your school district that you have outside professionals who know what they’re talking about. That, say that a child needs a particular service.
And, finally, know your rights. Very, very, very important. Attend seminars and lectures like this. Join other Facebook groups and other parent groups. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of information to share, and, you know, it’s a good way to meet people and to get a lot of information. I have, at least in New Jersey, actually, nationwide. Listed a couple of resources that are really great for parents, COPAA is a coalition of parent advocates and attorneys, and they are a listing of advocates and attorneys and practice for parents across the nation. And there’s a lot of good information on that website. Not just about people that practice in the area, but what your rights are and things that you can be asking for span.
www dot spanadvocacy dot org is a statewide parent advocacy network that is across the states. You can go to your Department of Education, look at Facebook groups. Parents support groups like the Tourette’s Association or Chadd, are all great organizations that can help you learn not only from experts in the area, but other parents who are very, very knowledgeable. And it’s a good support group. I know when my kids were younger, I belonged to Chadd, and it was wonderful to talk to other parents who knew exactly what I was going through.
So, I think we’re just about at a time. We’re leaving some time for questions, so I want to thank you very much for listening to me. And, if anybody’s got some questions, I’m here to answer them.
OK, thank you. And I will give you a minute to kind of catch your breath and maybe try a cough drop or something to ease that. So, we have a lot of questions, so how’s the voice, so you OK, Yes, I apologize for the cough, OK. Yep, no apology, necessary, I understand, OK, so, need a clarification about something. The question is, I always thought, I’m assuming this is an educator. I always thought that 504 plans gave accommodations, but not modifications and, the, the question says, that, I believe you said a 504 plan can give modifications. Is that correct?
Yes, it’s a reasonable accommodations and modifications depending on how far those modifications go. You know, if we’re, we’re providing a shortened test, shorten test will be an accommodation. But I’m trying to think of a modification right now, but can provide modifications there. They’re mostly, most of the time, it is an accommodation, but modifications can be provided as well. It just can’t go to a level of providing special education, OK. So, it’s, you could then you have an accommodation that needs to be tweaked, basically. So, the modification would be to an accommodation that’s already in place, is that what you’re saying?
So, for example, you know, an accommodation might be extra time on a test.
A modification might be that the student could give the test orally as compared to, in written form, or only has to provide you three answers instead of four answers, but they’re going to be held to the same curriculum as everybody else its just accommodating or modifying so that it equals the playing field, OK? All right, thanks for the clarification. Do 504 Plans have an ending date?
So a 504 Plan is normally done for a one-year period. Just like an IEP would be done.
And every year it has to be re-authorized, OK? So you would be looking to reauthorize that then at the end of the previous year or the beginning of the new school year. It depends on the district that you’re in. I have some districts that will do it at the end of the year and we’ll have some that do it in the beginning. I would prefer that it be re-authorized at the end of the year.
So that in place for the beginning of the next year, because sometimes what happens is a child will go from an elementary school to a middle school, and that 504 plan gets lost in in the in the shuffle.
So, in the 504 plan is re-authorized and they can, the parent can take that 504 Plan and take you to a new school and say, here’s the 504 plan that we have and you know, this is what you need to implement. OK, thanks – so if the child scores approached expectations of PARCC and I’m going to let you I’m sure you know what that is. So, for our audience, I’ll let you explain what that is. So, is so if a child’s school has approached expectation on that test, is the district supposed to take specific remedial actions to try to bring the child up to met expectation level?
So, the district and the PARCC is the standardized test that New Jersey was giving. And we’ve gone from the California Achievement test. And we’ve had all different kinds of tests. The PARCC was the latest that that New Jersey was using. And it’s only a snapshot in time. It’s not the end all, and be all, so, what a school district is going to do is they’re going to look at the results of the PARCC testing, and they’re going to also look at how the child has done in school. You know, where they are in the curriculum, they’re going to look at the testing that the teachers have given the rubrics, because each district has rubrics that they use in terms of math scores and written language scores in reading scores.
They’re going to take all of that into consideration to determine what kind of remediation, if anything, that a child needs, you know, speaking from personal experience, you know.
One of my sisters, one of their kids, her kids, didn’t score well on the part, on the PARCC. But everywhere else, he was doing beautifully in school, so she called the school and said, you know, what are we going to do to remediate this? And the school was able to sit her down and say, well, that was just one day, and one snapshot here that, you know, 72 things that the teacher had given during the year, which shows us that he actually was meeting expectations, OK. So, that’s a snapshot in Time. Isn’t a great way to explain that. Thanks, OK. And that’s the same thing with standardized testing as well, you know, even when we evaluate children, a lot of times, we may get a high score or a low score, and it’s different than what the teachers getting within the classroom, And all of that needs to be taken into consideration to look at the total child.
OK, so another educator, with a question, I use the language of access for 504 versus success for IEP with parents, and that often helps to clarify the difference. And the question is, Is that appropriate?
I think that’s a very good way to talk about it on the, at the access.
You’re absolutely right. You’re providing access to their educational program, but you’re also setting them up for success. So, I agree with you with regard to the 504 Plan, But I would make the argument that you’re setting them up for success with that 504 Plan, as well.
OK, I don’t know if there’ll be another come back on that question, but we’ll leave it at that for now.
So, I have a question about behavioral accommodation, and an example of what that might look like.
A behavioral accommodation might be, if the child is, every time the child is asked to write something, he tries to crawl on the floor under the desk. Because he’s frustrated, a Behavioral accommodation might be that that child, you know, is permitted to take a walk. If he can finish, you know, two sentences.
Or a behavioral accommodation might be that if, you know, everybody else is required to participate in an activity for 15 minutes, the child may only be required to, to participate for 10 minutes. It runs the gamut depending on what the child’s needs are, and what the behavioral issue is correct. Yes. Yes, OK, All right.
Trying to paraphrase this a little bit. So how can we help educate the medical community about the process for determining the need for an IEP, or a 504?
And then specifically, it says that, doctors who are prescribing in quotes, IEP 504 as educational programs, etcetera, without collaborating with school professionals.
So, I’m guessing that the medical professionals are making decisions without any educational collaboration.
So there, there are two things that I see there. one is the physicians who are not referring parents to appropriate agencies and district personnel based on reports from the parent.
So, pediatrician to, you know, the parent, says, I have concerns at my child, you know, maybe struggling in school, or having issues, and those professional, is not doing anything. And then we have other professionals who are taking it upon themselves, to write letters, saying, you know, based on my evaluation of this child, I think the child needs these 27 things in the classroom without speaking to the classroom professionals or collaborating.
And those are two different issues, but it’s the same result, which is where we’re sort of working in a vacuum, And I think that it has to come down to training of the medical professionals, and, you know, we, we have tried to, to do that in terms of going to some of these professional conferences like the New Jersey Association of Pediatrics. We, we’ve reached out to different pediatricians, offices, but I think that it really just, like I always say, it comes down to training of teachers at college and what we’re teaching our teachers. I think that it comes down to providing medical doctors with the same type of training and requiring them to take a course in, you know, evaluation and the law when it comes to students. Because even, you know, regular pediatricians who are not, you know, developmental are going to come across kids that have IEPs or that they should know when to refer or not to refer. And I think that that comes down to, you know, the colleges and the teaching in the schools. Do you think it’s in part, possibly That, you know, that the pediatrician is being pressured to write something like, I need something for my kid and then they’re completely sure either, but that’s their patient? So, they want to provide something.
And I find that school districts, a lot of times, will say, you know, it’s great that the doctor says that this child needs whatever it’s going to be. But, you know, we have an opinion as to how the child is functioning in school, and the doctor didn’t reach out and find out exactly what’s going on. That’s why I think that, you know the best doctors and there are a lot of really, really good doctors out there are the ones that are sending out forms to schools, you know, tthe Basque form or the Connors rating scale, not only giving it to the parent to find out what the parent’s concerns are. But let’s give it to the teachers to find out what the teacher’s concerns are if the teacher has concerns at all? Informed decision.
Good point, Thank you. Who determines how many and which tests will be provided to determine eligibility?
So that’s supposed to be done by the IEP team collaboratively, and sometimes what will happen is, we’ll start with basic screening tools.
So, for example, if we’re looking at the learning consultant and the evaluation, the learning consultant is going to give most learning consultants start with either the woodcock johnson or the the Wechsler individual achievement test. And then based on, you know, the result of those evaluations and where the child scored higher, scored low, we should be delving deeper into, OK, where are the other areas that the child may really struggle? But it’s supposed to be collaborative. So, when we sit down and say, OK, we’re going to be doing a speech and language, well, what areas do we see the child struggling with? Is it pragmatics isn’t it sommantic? It shouldn’t be a cookie cutter, one size fits all, you know. A lot of times, I do see school districts saying, OK. Well, we’re going to give, you, know, the receptive, one, word picture, vocabulary test, and we’re going to get the expressive one, word picture, vocabulary test. You know, in the end, the parent doesn’t know any better, but the parent, Excuse me. This child really doesn’t have any receptive language issues. The child’s issues are in pragmatics or semantics. or, you know, other areas. May maybe it’s social media executive functioning.
So you want to make sure that it’s the areas that you’re seeing the child struggled in. And the parent has a lot of good information because they see the child at home and in different environments. So, they can say, Listen, I don’t know what kind of test this is. But I know that my child has difficulty comprehending or I know my child has difficulty with oral language. Or reading, decoding words, or, you know, they’re really impulsive.
And based on that, excuse me, the team should figure out what tests should be given, OK? Take a breath, take a drink. Yeah, That’s all right, I’m sorry. No pressure. No, don’t apologize. I’ve, I’ve been in that situation, and it’s really uncomfortable.
one thing I did forget to mention that I want to mention this, because I think it’s really, really important. one of the things that I used to do when my kids were young.
I’ve told all my clients to do this, is what I call the cheat sheet for parents. You know, when you have a child with a disability, you want to make sure that your child’s teachers know who that child is. So what I always tell my clients to do is, at the beginning of the year, to come up with the 10 things you want, your child’s teacher to know most about your child. Whether it’s strengths or weaknesses, or how he learns, or things that they can be doing in the classroom. Because your child is not the only child with issues that, that teacher has to deal with, especially when you get to middle school or high school. And a lot of times, while they’re supposed to be reading the IEP, some of them just glance over it. So, you want to make sure that you reach out, tell them who you are, introduce yourself, and say, hey, these are the things that have worked really, really well in the past. I just wanted to bring them to your attention to give me a little heads up, so that maybe we can, you know, move up the learning curve a little bit.
Excellent. Great. That’s a great idea, too.
So, what does it mean?
What does, what does me understand this? What does it meant for re authorization?
So this question’s a little confused to me, But I guess at what, what, what it is what does it mean re authorization? So, every five years, Congress is supposed to sit down and look at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And they’re supposed to decide what they like about it. what they don’t like about it, what changes they want to make. And then it’s supposed to be re-authorized. Unfortunately, the last time it was re-authorized was it was in 2004, so we really, we have not made any changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And it’s now actually the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. That was the last time Congress actually looked at it. That doesn’t sound good. Now, OK, what is I R plus S?
Oh, so that is intervention and referral service. So that’s the precursor to having the child referred to the actual Child Study Team. So it’s intervention and referral services, group of people in the school that sit down usually on a monthly basis, and students are brought to their attention. And they’re supposed to put accommodations, modifications, and special education services in place, prior to actually putting it into an IEP, to see if, with those additional supports, the child’s functioning can improve so that we don’t need to necessarily classify the student.
OK. Thank you for clarifying that. This is a question specific to New Jersey, but it’s really a solid question. In terms of children with hearing loss in New Jersey, do you find one plan is better than the other?
So, I’m assuming 504 / IEP here, is there one that makes the most sense for hearing loss?
It depends on the child. Whether into 504 used to be, years ago, that it was always an IEP, was better than a 504 plan, because people didn’t know 504 plans, and people weren’t following them the way they should. That has changed. And I think that a 504 Plan now has, as much bite as an IEP, The positive about, for, especially when you’re in high school, Is that an IEP, and the day, the child turns 21. Well, I should say June, in the year, the child turns 21. Or when the child receives our high school diploma, whichever occurs first. So, for most kids that are going on to college, they’re going to graduate at 18, and they’re going to go into college, because they have an IEP, the IEP then needs to be converted to a 504 plan, because colleges don’t follow IEPs, they follow 504s.
If a child already has a 504 plan, you just hand that 504 plan to the college, and you’re good to go. With regard to hearing impairment, it’s going to depend on what the child needs. If you’re looking for a child to receive teacher of the deaf services, you’re probably looking at, you know, an IEP, because it’s a special education service. But if the child only requires reasonable accommodations and modifications, a 504 plan is going to be great. And in fact, I’m going through this with my niece right now because I do have a niece with a hearing impairment. And she had a learning disability as well, and we’ve remediated the learning disability to the point where now she really only needs accommodations and modifications. So, we’re talking about actually converting her from an IEP or 504 plan, OK, Go to that you have what you just comment, that you just made about the IEP turning it into a 504.
So, who does a parent see about that? Does the school do that? And when would that process begin? You’ve got to allow time for that, correct. Yes.
So, we can do 1 of 2 things.
Sometimes colleges will allow you to take the, they’ll just look at the testing that’s been done. And as long as the testing has the reasonable accommodations that you’re looking for, we might be able to do it that way. Otherwise, what you want to do is going into the senior year, probably, no later than January. You want to sit down with your 504 team or your IEP team. And say, listen. You know, what I’d like to do is to take all the accommodations and modifications and put them into a 504 plan so I can just present that to the college. OK, so the sculpt your team at the school is the one that you should be doing that, OK? Can you can I mean, we’re over time, but we have some more questions. But if your, if your throat has had it, I’m willing to. you know, to wrap it up here, you tell me how you’re doing. Let’s do another three, how’s that? OK, another three.
In New Jersey, is a parental request written within the IEP enforceable? No.
Alright quarter for request anything.
But unless it is agreed upon by the team, it’s not something that they have to do. So a lot of times a school district will say, the parent has asked for one-on-one reading instruction, five times a week, with a Level one certified Wilson instructor. The team does not feel this is necessary.
OK, so you can make all the requests you want, but you’ve got to get agreement. We, this is a parent, so are we entitled to receive the draft of the IEP before the meeting?
No. At the reason I say that is because technically speaking, they’re not supposed to be coming in to the IEP with a draft. Otherwise it’s considered pre determination.
With a school district will normally do is come in with the draft and say we just I just jotted down some ideas. These are just for discussion, but, you know, we can modify this any way we need to, but there is nothing in the New Jersey Administrative Code that requires the school district to provide you with a copy of that draft in advance. It will tell you there are some districts that do it, but it’s not required. OK, but you still you still get some time to review it after you receive it correct? 15 days absolutely. OK, and I think this next question: we’ll wrap it up after this one is a pretty timely one. So, and again, I don’t know if this is a parent or an educator or doing this. Ff they (I’m talking about the state here.)
If they remove right to choose health interventions, for example, vaccine choice, and keep special ed children from school, or do they lose their right to FAPE?
Yes. At that point, well, I shouldn’t say that, I can’t answer that question yet, because I don’t know what they’re going to do if they take away. And I know New York has done this if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t attend New York Schools. New Jersey hasn’t done that yet. But if New Jersey, where to do that, I don’t know whether our legislature would put something in into our code, talking about students who are not vaccinated, who receive special education, does the school district have to provide alternative services? I can’t answer that question right now. Because I don’t know what they’re going to write to the law. OK, And you don’t. We’re not even sure that they’re going to do anything about it. Correct?
All right, then. I promise that was the last one. There are many more questions, so I’ll let Kelly talk about how that’s going to get handled. But we have just had a really wonderful turnout tonight and really great questions. So I’m going to wrap this up here. Thank you so much, Stacey. It was a really great presentation. And turn this over to Kelly for a wrap up.
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