The craziest thing has been happening…
My inbox has been flooded with emails from parents saying the most incredibly positive things about their annual IEP and Section 504 plan meetings! It is unprecedented. Here are a few messages I have received:
“The school district developed the PERFECT IEP for my son without my having to advocate for anything. They gave Benji everything I thought he needs and more including a "3:1"! (That's right, not just a 1:1 aide, but three highly qualified teachers and specialists will be working with my child all day so he can have full inclusion in his classroom!) ~Linda G.
“Stephanie, my 504 plan meeting went so well that not only did Ava receive accommodations to meet all of her unique challenges, but was also offered multiple services including speech-language therapy, counseling support, AND a study skills class! I didn't even know she could get this help with just a 504. I’m thrilled!” ~Paula F.
“Stephanie, my son's school is setting up a 'Social Thinking' program and is even flying in Michelle Garcia Winner (the program founder), to train all the teachers in helping students with social cues and how to make and keep friends! I am so excited he will finally get what he needs!” ~John W.
"You will not believe this, but we found out today in Diego's IEP meeting that Dr. Ross Greene and Dr. Temple Grandin are now both consultants to our school district's autism team! Dr. Greene has been working on training staff in his Collaborative Problem Solving approach to help kids like ours who have behavioral challenges. Such a relief that Diego will have a plan that works when he is feeling off kilter!" ~Monica and Jorge L.
April Fools! (I couldn’t resist.) I wish it were real!
Unfortunately, meetings don’t always go so well. Not even close, you may be thinking. "I can't even get my school team to show up to a full meeting." "My child is struggling in school, and I don't even know where to start."
Let’s first understand that there is a natural tension between school districts and parents at the IEP (and 504) table. Bottom line: school districts are short on cash. In fact, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is an underfunded federal mandate which was supposed to cover 40% of special education costs; actual funding is not even close to that amount, and states and local school districts are expected to pick up the slack. The legal requirements for IDEA still stand. Basically, this unfortunate situation translates to Michaela and Juan not necessarily getting all the supports they need unless you ask for it. Not just ask for it, but ask for it in a way that means business for the school district, letting them know you are aware of your rights (and if they don’t provide what your child legitimately needs to succeed, there may be consequences).
It’s not easy learning your rights. The school may hand you the Procedural Safeguards packet, and if you are brave enough, you try to muddle through it. Are you a special education attorney or a trained non-attorney advocate? Probably not. It’s that hard to understand. It’s really unfair that parents are at such a disadvantage at meetings when they should be an equal, fully-participating team member. Moreover, you know your child best and care about their well-being the most, so you have a tremendous amount to contribute to any school meeting.
Because so many families struggle to understand even their basic rights, or know the difference between an IEP and Section 504 Plan, I was invited by Illuminos and Staying Ahead of the Game, to give an expert presentation in their "Less Stress Parenting" series, on IEPs and Section 504 plans, so parents can be equipped with some tools to bring to their IEP and Section 504 plan meetings. In this webinar, Jennifer Engel Fisher and I discuss the difference between the two and provide a lot of useful information, helping you to know your rights, and give some tips and tricks for parent advocacy.
I hope you watch it (possibly again) and find it valuable!
Click here to watch the video.
If you need support with your IEP or Section 504 plan meeting to help get what your child needs to succeed in school, feel free to reach out at Stephanie@ExceptionalEducationalSolutions.com. I specialize in helping bright and gifted students with learning differences thrive in school.
Wishing you the very best in your upcoming meetings! You are your child's most important advocate. #KnowYourRights
Stephanie Frumkin, M.A. Ed.
Educational Consultant, CEO
Exceptional Educational Solutions