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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. My child has just been diagnosed as learning disabled and the school recommends placing him in special education classes.  I’m in a whirl of documents and paperwork, I want to make the right decision, but I don’t feel I have enough understanding to question the IEP Team.   Do I just trust them and sign?

Answer: No.  You as a parent are your child’s best advocate and it is not only your right but your responsibility to understand your child’s disability and educational program.  Make an appointment to speak with one member of the IEP Team (i.e. the special education teacher) and ask specifically how the recommended special education program will take advantage of your child’s strengths while directly addressing his needs. In short, are the goals on the IEP a match with the recommended special education classes for your child?  

  1. I want to be an active participating member of my child’s IEP Team/Section 504 Committee.  How do I prepare for these meetings so that I can ask intelligent and relevant questions and so that the Team/Committee will request my input and seriously consider what I have to say?

Answer: You as a parent are an equal participating member of your child’s IEP Team.  In order to prepare for your child’s meetings:

    • Ask what the agenda will be and whether there are any evaluations or documents that will be shared at the meeting. 
    • Ask for copies of documents in advance so that you can read them ahead of time and prepare a list of questions. 
    • Put your thoughts in writing to share at the meeting or to send to other members of the Team ahead of time. 

Remember, as a well-informed and prepared parent you are your child’s best advocate. 

  1. How is it possible that, even with a documented physician’s recommendation, a child can be diagnosed with a disability (e.g. ADD/ADHD) and still not qualify for special education or Section 504 services?

Answer:  A physician or psychologist’s diagnosis or recommendation does not automatically qualify a student for special education under IDEA or accommodations under Section 504.  Once a disability is determined (either by a private physician or the school IEP Team), it is still up to the IEP Team to go through the process to determine whether there is an educational impact, according to IDEA, and to what degree. If there is no significant impact on a student’s educational performance in school, the student will probably not be eligible for special education services under IDEA but may qualify for accommodations under section 504. Aside from special education services and 504 accommodations, most schools have general education interventions for students in need of additional academic/behavioral supports.  Ask about the general education intervention programs available at your child’s school.      

  1. I want my disabled student to receive the best possible education to maximize his potential.  I’m told by the public school that the job of special education in the public school is to provide an appropriate education so that my child can make meaningful educational progress.  What does that mean? Isn’t it the public school’s job to provide the best educational programs for our students?

Answer:  Not exactly.  The purpose of IDEA is to ensure that students with disabilities have available to them a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)  that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, citizenship, and independent living. While there is no specific definition of FAPE, a student’s special education program must be one that enables the student to make measurable, but not just minimal, progress toward achieving his/her IEP goals.   

  1. As a parent, I believe I have a right to all of my child’s confidential records.  How do I get them?

Answer: Absolutely. You have a right to all of your student’s confidential and other records.  Make an appointment with someone at your child’s school (i.e. counselor or an administrator) to review the records with you and request copies of anything you want.  Some schools may charge a copying fee. 

  1.  Can I insist on receiving evaluation and other school reports and information that will be discussed about my child before the scheduled IEP/504 meetings?

Answer:  You may request and receive an agenda as well as any documents that will be reviewed at your child’s IEP meeting.  However, while it is best-practices for IEP teams to do so, it is not mandated. My suggestion is to let the Team Chairperson know well in advance the information you would like to have prior to the meeting. Keep in mind that often IEP team members, due to time and schedule constraints, may be completing their evaluations and reports just prior to the meeting.  Knowing that a well informed and prepared parent can expedite meetings, most Teams, if they are able, will be happy to comply.   

  1. I have requested that the school conduct a complete educational and psychological evaluation for my child. I have been told that these tests are not necessary.  As a parent, can I insist that the school conduct these assessments?

Answer:  As a parent, you may certainly request an educational and psychological evaluation for your child.  The request should be in writing.  The IEP team is then obliged to hold a “Screening� meeting at which the student’s educational, emotional, behavioral status and progress are thoroughly reviewed and discussed.  The IEP Team then determines whether individual tests, informal assessments, or a complete evaluation would be appropriate. They may also determine that no assessments are needed. If you are in disagreement with the Team’s decision, you may appeal. 

  1. What is my recourse if I feel that my child’s IEP is not being implemented as agreed upon or, if I feel the IEP is not resulting in any academic progress for my child?

Answer: If you question whether the IEP is being implemented properly or whether it remains appropriate for your child, you can:

    • Request an IEP team meeting to review progress and update the IEP, as needed. 
    • Share your concerns, preferably in writing, with the Team in advance.

If you are in disagreement with any of the IEP Team’s decisions:

  • You may appeal locally at the district level.  Districts are obliged to schedule what are termed Resolution Meetings to collaboratively attempt to solve disagreements.

Should the local appeal fail to resolve the issues, you may:

  • File for formal mediation and/or due process hearing.  Keep in mind that neither parents nor school systems want to go to due process hearing; it is costly, time-consuming, and energy sapping for all involved. 

Remember every opportunity to resolve conflicts at the local level should be attempted prior to filing for due process. 

  1. I have received my child’s educational and psychological assessments.  While the summary, conclusions, and recommendations are clear, I don’t understand how they were arrived at.  Who can help me interpret the scores?

Answer: The examiners who conducted the assessments can be contacted directly. Ask to schedule an appointment prior to the scheduled IEP Team meeting. This will enable the examiner to allow the time needed to review the assessment with you and to answer your questions.   

  1. I feel that my child’s IEP team meetings are rushed and that I’m not provided enough time to ask questions or gain clarification. I’m told up front how long we have for the meeting (usually 45 � 60 minutes) and that the meeting must end promptly because there are other meetings scheduled.  I am told that I can schedule another meeting, if more time is needed.  Scheduling additional meetings prolongs the process and delays the implementation of my child’s special education program.  Do I have a right to request longer meetings rather than a series of shorter ones?

Answer: Yes and No.  While it is necessary for enough time to be allotted to cover the agenda, prolonged meetings (anything over 1.5 hours) are typically non-productive and an indication that the Team has gone off course. IEP Teams do/should have agendas and timelines that must be adhered to in order to keep the process focused on the student and moving forward. Further discussion and questions can be addressed by scheduling appointments with individual members of the IEP Team. This will provide an opportunity to discuss important matters that may not be necessary to discuss at the IEP meeting but that could expedite the meeting by being addressed ahead of time. Most IEP teams have time keepers whose purpose it is to keep the meeting on schedule. 

Remember the Team’s focus must remain on the development and implementation of the student’s educational program. Each member of the Team has an important role to play in that process.  

  1. Is there a legal limit to the number of people I can invite to my   child’s IEP team?

Answer: No. The law does not specify a “legal limit� to the number of persons a parent may invite to an IEP Team meeting; however, participants should have expertise regarding the situation and/or knowledge and understanding of the child.  As appropriate and needed to maintain order and address the agenda for the meeting within the time allotted, the IEP team chairperson has the authority, when necessary, to determine which participants may sit at the table and actively participate and which may sit in the meeting room as observers. 

  1. With pre-school and early elementary school children, how do we determine what is a disability as opposed to what is normal developmental variance for that age group.

Answer: The younger the child the finer the line between a true disability and readiness levels.  Pediatricians, Psychologist, Educators, and experts in the field of infants, toddlers, pre-school, and early elementary (K- 3) school students are the best sources of information regarding these age groups.  Check with your school district for the name of the designated early childhood specialist for the district and contact that person with your questions.


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IDEA � Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004

IDEA is federal legislation that mandates that students with physical, mental, emotional, and learning disabilities (ages birth to 21) receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), while also protecting these students from discrimination, within the general learning environment with typical peers to the greatest extent possible. Students with IEPs have all the rights and benefits of those covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In addition, students eligible under IDEA are entitled to an Individual Education Plan (IEP) designed to meet the student’s unique educational needs as well as enable the student to receive educational benefit.

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