Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Aug 07
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by Doug Goldberg

It's time for another top ten list and here we go:

10. Prepare

Review all past and present assessments, tests, letters, and IEP’s.  Put markers next to important information so it’s easy to find while in the IEP meeting.  Pay close attention to test scores and how that information may be used by either you or the District to make a point.  This may include educating yourself on how to read the test scores.  If you don’t have enough information to make your case then you won’t convince the IEP team.

9. Make a formal request

Figure out what is important to your child with regard to services, goals, accommodations, and placement before the meeting and make a formal request in writing at the meeting.

8. Don’t negotiate against yourself

Once you make the formal request wait for a response.  Make sure they respond to each request and remind them of their prior written notice requirement to generate a discussion.

7. Review the IEP meeting request form and determine authority

Do your research and determine if the right person has been invited to the IEP meeting.  While IDEA requires a District representative that can bind the District to attend every IEP meeting they are not all created equal.  Figure out how much authority the District representative has and invite others to attend if you feel you don’t have the right people in the room.  It’s difficult to negotiate if you don’t have the dealmakers in the room.

6. Get other team members on your side

Find other IEP team members who might help prove your side.  This could include general education teachers, special education teachers, therapists or paraprofessionals.  Don’t expect them to fight for specific services but their input about skills, behaviors, abilities, etc can help prove your case.

5. Listen to the other side

Ask specific questions and really listen to the answers.  The information gathered could help further your cause or shape your decisions.  Sometimes what you think you want for your child is different from what they actually need.  Don’t be afraid to change your opinion based on good information but also don’t be afraid to stand firm when the answers only solidify your opinion more.

4. Don’t argue but rather discuss

Most people don’t like to argue so try and stay calm and have an open dialogue.  Don’t avoid tough issues by having an emotional reaction.  Everything relevant to your child’s disability and needs should be discussed.

3. Know your most important issues

Remember this is a negotiation and decide which issues are deal breakers and which ones you can use as a negotiating tool.

2. Try to have informal discussions prior to the IEP meeting

Information is power.  The more information you can accumulate on what the District is thinking the better you can prepare.  This also gives you an opportunity to present your agenda so that the IEP team is not caught off guard and a good discussion can occur.

1. Have a back-up plan

If you are not willing to take the next step you have no power in a negotiation.  With respect to IEP’s, the next step could be mediation, due process, state complaint, Office of Civil Rights complaint or further assessments in the form of an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense.  Try to educate yourself as to all the options and figure out which one is best for you.

Originally Published in November 2010

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7 Responses to “Top Ten Negotiating Skills to learn for an IEP”

  1. While I agree that it is important for parents to come prepared, I believe that setting it in the context of a negotiation and a willingness to go to the “next step” imply a negative relationship between the parents and school personnel. School personnel should come with objective data to present to a parent concerning the progress of their child. Dialogue on both sides needs to be open and forthright. Districts need to listen, but sometimes, and this is often lost on both professionals and parents “no” is not a bad word. Districts just as much as parents have to be willing to go to the next step, so that a level playing field is maintained so that the discussion focuses on the needs of the child, not the parents and not the school district.

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  2. Hi William,

    Thank you for your input but it is IDEA, not this article, that sets the IEP in the context of a negotiation. This is why the School District makes “an offer” to the parents in the meeting. This is also why IDEA’s procedural safeguards were established and give parents the opportunity to ask for an IEE or file for Due Process. These are part of the parents rights established under IDEA and excersing those rights should never be considered hostile or negative. If you re-read the list I even say to not argue with the team, and feel comfortable changing your opinion if good data is presented.

    All parents should know and excerise all of their parental rights under IDEA. Doing this should never compromise the ability of the IEP team to work together to come to an agreement in the best interest of the child. In actuality the best IEP’s I have ever been in are the one’s where the parents are confident of their rights and know how to contribute to the IEP process.

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  3. I am sorry to have taken so long to respond. Let me focus on the IEP team which is the vehicle for writing and reviewing IEP’s. The “team” concept does not in any way suggest a process of negotiation , rather it suggests collaboration. There is a significant difference with the former implying an relationship of possibly opposing views, while the latter implies a co-operative relationship.

    I certainly agree with you that parents should be well informed, prior to and at the meeting, so that the collaboration can move forward in a positive, team atmosphere.

    I am also aware that there are times and places where the school district members of the team do not see the parents as equal partners and that requires corrective action. At the same time, however, the IEP is not a vehicle for parent “wants” but for those services and supports that will provide a free, appropriate, public education. It has been my experience that just as often as school districts fail to meet their responsibilities, parents make inordinate and inappropriate demands often encouraged by parent advocates who suggest to them that IDEA requires the best level of services available, not an appropriate level. I believe we need to do much more work with parents and districts that encourages co-operative relationships.

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    • William,

      Please define “appropriate” and compare/contrast with your interpretations of the “best” as you see parents always wanting. I really feel like this whole response from school admin is a cop-out answer and a way to not do what could and should be done for a child.

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      • Every child deserves an excellent education, the best we can give. But no matter how much we wish, we have to share the time and resources available with everyone. This means everyone has to give a little. I assume that is what was meant by “appropriate” (in addition to the fact that it is the term used in the law). That is, the same quality of education we are able to give the other children in our system, special ed.and mainstream.

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  4. Hi William,

    You obviously have a distaste for advocates but I think that discussion is best left alone.

    While it is called a “team” have you ever looked up what the definition of parent participation in an IEP team meeting means? Parent Participaton means:

    1. notifying the parents of the meeting early enough for them to attend;
    2. scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place; and
    3. listening to their concerns and allowing them to note their
    concerns and disagree with parts of the IEP.

    That’s all Parent Participation means so, while I am always hopeful that the IEP team meeting will be a collaborative effort, and I have been in many that have been, you must be prepared and knowledgeable when the school district is being unreasonable. This does not mean the Parents are always right either that’s why I like IEE’s to help clarify the issues at hand.

    I have been in two IEP team meetings this week where the admin rep and the team agreed to services but point blank told us the DIstrict won’t approve these services. Usually, the admin reps are not this honest and just say this is our offer and you may take us to Due Process if you don’t agree. We will end up getting the correct services for both of these children only because the admin rep was willing to stand up to her employer. Most won’t do this.

    This is why I say, prepare to negotiate becuase some School District’s are secretly manipulating what is suppossed to be a collaborative effort.

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  5. This article was very informative. As an ESE Specialist I always prepare for my meetings before the meeting date. I get information from the gen ed teacher for my PLP and I conduct the appropriate assessments prior to the meeting. Overall, during the meeting you want to have everything in place to avoid confusion and for the meeting to flow nicely. The main point is making sure that the IEP is exactly just that an Individualized Education Plan that fits the needs of the student. Thank you for the article.

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