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

Feb 27
Profile photo of Dennise Goldberg

by Dennise Goldberg

Today’s blog post is meant to be cathartic for me personally. Since I spend my days entrenched in Special Education, I have become particularly sensitive to the following pet peeves. Wikipedia defines a pet peeve as, “a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it.” While some of the list below consists of minor annoyances, others make me down right angry.

1. Schools don’t diagnose they determine eligibility;

A day doesn’t go by without a phone call from a parent who tells me their child was diagnosed with Autism by the School District. School District’s DO NOT diagnose rather they have determined your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the eligibility category of Autism. The only person that can diagnose your child with Autism is a medical specialist. If you have been told by the School District that your child is eligible for an IEP under the category of Autism, I highly recommend you get an assessment performed by a trained medical professional.

2. Predetermination;

Predetermination means that the school makes unilateral decisions prior to an IEP meeting and then refuses to listen to parental input during the meeting. IDEA states, “(1) the parents of a child with a disability must be afforded an opportunity to participate in (IEP) meetings with respect to (i) the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child; and (ii) the provision of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to the child.”

3. Special Education is not a place;

Special Education is not a place but rather, it is specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Special Education can happen in any environment and very often does happen in a regular classroom. As a matter of fact Special Education must be performed in the least restrictive environment which means that children with disabilities should be educated with children who are not disabled to the maximum extent possible.

4. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program not Individual Education Plan;

An IEP is defined as an Individualized Education Program not an Individual Education Plan. Why isn’t it a Plan? As the old saying goes, “plans are made to be broken!” A program on the other hand must be followed!!

5. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was not made possible by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA);

Although there is an interrelationship between these two laws, IDEA was not made possible by ADA nor is it administered or enforced by the same agency. The Office of Civil Rights enforces ADA as an antidiscrimination law. “The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), also a component of the U.S. Department of Education, administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a statute which funds special education programs. Each state educational agency is responsible for administering IDEA within the state and distributing the funds for special education programs. IDEA is a grant statute and attaches many specific conditions to the receipt of Federal IDEA funds. Section 504 and the ADA are antidiscrimination laws and do not provide any type of funding,” from the Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities on the United States Department of Education website.

6. Medicating your child is a personal choice;

The school cannot mandate medicating your child as a condition of attendance but that doesn’t always stop them from broaching the subject in a roundabout way. Whether your child should be medicated is a personal choice that should be discussed between your family and your doctor. There are many pros and cons that should be weighed in making that decision and should not be based on pressure from the School.

7. Teachers who are told that they can’t give an F to a child on an IEP;

The Supreme Court has written that one way to determine whether a child is progressing and receiving a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is by reviewing their grades to see if they are passing classes and advancing to higher grades. Nowhere, that I can find, does it state that a child on an IEP can’t be given an F but yet I have been told by numerous Teachers that their School Administration will not allow them to flunk a child on an IEP. The only reason I can think of for doing this, is to show progress when in reality there has been none; thus preventing a parent from requesting more services from their school district.

8. Teachers who don’t read or follow the IEP;

IEPs are legal documents that are crafted by a team of individuals after assessments are performed, goals are written and services and placement are agreed upon. Sometimes agreements cannot be reached and it is necessary for either the school or parents to file for due process or some other form of dispute resolution. This process is not easy, by any means. All of that is useless if the IEP is not implemented correctly.

9. Schools that try to limit the length of the IEP meeting;

An IEP meeting should take as long as is necessary to write a program that provides the child FAPE. This also includes the right of the parents to have their concerns heard and questions answered. If this takes longer than the allotted time then the IEP meeting should be adjourned and continued at a later date. It is not appropriate to rush through sections such as present levels of performance and goals just to finish the IEP meeting within a set timeframe.

10. Disrespect and condescension

Disrespect and condescension from anyone in the room is unacceptable. I have said this time and time again: School District employees should never assume they know what will work for the child just because they spent a few hours administering a standardized test or spent a few days doing informal observations. The parents have raised this child since birth and have valuable insight. Parents, the school district professionals are trained and knowledgeable and most likely understand many different learning strategies and methodologies. If there is a disagreement, this is why the procedural safeguards under IDEA have been established. Exercising your rights under IDEA should never be seen as disrespectful and should be handled in a dignified manner by both school and parents.

These are just my pet peeves.  Share your IEP and Special Education Pet Peeves below.

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16 Responses to “Top Ten Special Education Pet Peeves”

  1. I agree that not all teachers follow IEP’s. This can be an ongoing battle for some, especially in the older grades. Parents need to stay educated, be aware of what’s going on in the classroom, and be strong! Sometimes the parents just need to educate the teachers…

    Here is the reason that teachers don’t fail students with IEP’s.

    As you know, an IEP is implemented in the classroom to help a child learn successfully. If a child with an IEP gets an F in any subject, then the IEP isn’t working, unless the child just didn’t do the work. The teacher needs to put more accommodations into place. Imagine working as hard as you could and receiving an F when others around you are getting A’s, B’s, and C’s. That would be devastating for anyone. It is the job of the IEP team to figure out ways to help a child learn and ways to help that child be successful. An F would be a punch in the gut, another reminder of being different.

    Conversely, if that same child gets an A in any subject, then the the IEP has too many accommodations and it needs to be revisited.

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    • Children who work hard and have appropriate accommodations should receive A’s when they earn them. Accommodations do not give the child an unfair advantage, instead they give a child the opportunity to learn and show that they have learned the material presented.

      Giving a child a lower grade just because they meet the criteria for an A is discriminatory. My daughter has OT issues that make it difficult for her to write out copious notes so she is provided with the notes – I go onto the website and print them out ahead of time for her – she must do the work and turn it in. If she earns an A do you believe that she should no longer receive those accommodations? Should a child who is legally blind not receive books on tape or large print accommodations if they earn A’s?

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      • Linda,

        You are right.

        If a child’s IEP is in place because of non-academic reasons, then A’s are most definitely deserved when achieved. I should have been more thorough with my response. When children are hitting the same academic level as other A students, with or without accommodations, then A’s should be given.

        This is what I should have written.

        If a student has IEP accommodations, but is not understanding/learning/developing at the same academic level as his peers who are performing above grade level, then it would be misleading for the teacher to give him an A.

        How’s that?

        Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

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        • It is my understanding (and from what I have seen reading school records) that when the curriculum is modified or the grading scale, this is reported with the grades.

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  2. Again, thanks for an informative and useful post for me and of course for my student teachers!

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  3. I completely agree!

    In fact, I could probably even add TO this list of pet peeves, personally lol!

    Your number 8 pet peeve, regarding teachers who don’t follow/read IEP’s can be very true…and, I can even add to that one topic a sub-topic regarding following Medical Management Plans (my son has type 1 diabetes and is receiving an IEP and a Diabetes Medical Management Plan)… some teachers and substitute teachers don’t read or follow the DMMP’s! This year, I have had issues with my son’s 1st grade homeroom/main teacher and another substitute providing candy to his class, or not notifying me or my husband regarding food/activity change in plans, which could have cause major issues with his blood sugars had it not been for his absolutely WONDERFUL aide speaking up and knowing what she’s doing! We fought a hard fight with his school last year to try to get him this aide (yep, they actually told me they didnt receive govt/federal funding for children with medical conditions to have an aide, only for kids with behavioral) but I thank our lucky stars every day that they finally broke down, after my continuous mentioning of our legal rights, and got him the best aide under the sun! I can’t praise his aide enough for the fantastic job she does!

    Back to topic… in his DMMP and IEP, it specifically states that they are to notify the parents of any changes in food and activity level that would be outside of the norm for his “normal day” (IE: additional snacks provided by the school or events like field days, etc). and these requests, as well as a copy of his IEP, DMMP, what to do in case of emergency, as well as other documentations, to be included in the substitute folders that are provided to the subs for review.

    We did manage to get things worked out for the immediate time… however, these issues I do plan to mention at his upcoming IEP renewal meeting.

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    • My daughter also has T1D and I am in the initial stages of getting her an IEP under Other Health Impaired. I am already getting pushback from our counselor. Was your child’s IEP related to the diabetes or another health situation that warranted the IEP? Would love to talk more to learn from what you have gone through!

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  4. Thanks for this, Dennise! Number 1 is a critically important distinction.

    As old as I am – I learned something, too! How in the world have I mistaken ‘plan’ for ‘program all these years?! On that topic, seems the requirement for a transition plan has been move to 14 years – no?

    While I’m witness to many occurrences of Number 9, parents do not have a ‘right’ to endless school personnel time. Seen that many-a time, too.

    Number 10 reminds me to mention that most of the success or lack thereof of an IEProgram is down to the individuals/ personalities of the team signing the paperwork. Non-condescension is tough to regulate.

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    • Hi Barbara,

      I’m not sure why calling it a Plan bothers me so much since most people refer to it that way. But it was pounded into my head by a Special Education attorney not to refer to it as a plan so I always make sure to refer to it by the legal term which is a program.

      A transition plan needs to be in the IEP no later than the year the child will turn 16 but most States do it by 14.

      I also agree, “Non-condescension is tough to regulate” but I sure wish I could sometimes :)

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  5. O.K. according to the counselor my son pushed some books violently and felt that the other students in the classroom “were in danger” and it took three adults to hold him down and yet my son clearly stated to leave him alone and let go. Because of their professional opinion they were worried about his safety. If they had listen to him and let him be he would have settled down! Of of sudden now he has emotional problems. I am on public aid and it’s a run around a evaluation they want I cannot get and to top it off it’s off a list they gave me. I have three sons who are in special ed. My second oldest is now out of special ed and doing fine because of his efforts and is in a regular classroom.
    Somebody with any information as to help me where to go because I’m mad and frustrated with all this nonsense.

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  6. Now to mention the staff is ridiculous to me because every word that comes out their mouth is, ” From my experience and knowledge is or that.” As mothers we know our children and know their limits sometimes better than these professionals and I hate when they talk to me like I’m stupid and look at me like oh we didn’t know you knew that.
    Their careless words are heard and I wonder how their act around my son when not under the watchful eye of anyone to make sure they are doing their jobs correctly and when something happens it’s always the students word against the involved staff members word.

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  7. Numbers 2 and 10 often go together. And when the school refuses independent educational evaluations, say their internal evaluations trump everything else…grr!

    Anita learntoreadnow

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  8. ADA is a useless law … I’m an educator and a parent in the same district … can’t get the 504 followed to save my life .. it is not mandatory because the law has no teeth … I have years of documentation and they take supports out because I advocate … have spent $9,000 trying to get it enforced … recently took out support recommended by psych … because I made the wrong person mad. Sad! And yes I’ve gone through the proper channels, just won’t say too much because I’m aware if they find a way to fire me, they will.

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  9. Tired of special ed teachers whining about classroom teachers not following IEPs. Tired of students returning tests with special ed teachers that are almost perfect as opposed to the failing grades earned in regular classrooms. Tired of being asked to supply keys to test to Special Ed. teachers. Tired of special ed faculty being the most populous faculty department in the school. Tired of the amount of money spent on providing special ed students with equal access to an education while gifted students DON’T GET A FRACTION OF the money that is spent to make sure Justin’s IEP is followed. It’s a legal document, don’t you know. Tired of allowing the nebulous “extra time” and test retakes – because you know, you will always get “extra time” to complete job tasks and opportunities to redo tasks. Guys – get off the cross.

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