The IEP Advocate, Inc. - Helpful Resources
                  The IEP Advocate, Inc. -                          Pam Lindemann, Advocate: 407-342-9836
Helpful Resources
 Click on the underlined title to download the material.

Articles - Feel free to use articles written by Pam Lindemann in any organization newsletters or websites, or reprint them for free distribution, as long as you include the following information: Written by Pam Lindemann, TheIEPadvocate.com.  She can be reached at 407-342-9836 or theIEPadvocate@hotmail.com.
 
"No One Will Fight Harder Than You," by Pam Lindemann, The IEP Advocate
 
 
"Practical Tips For IEP Meetings," by Pam Lindemann, The IEP Advocate



 
Extended School Year (ESY - "Summer School")
  Note:  This is some great stuff explaining ALL the guidelines for qualifying a child for
     additional services...Hint: It's more than just regression!
 
A technical assistance paper from the Florida Dept of Education.  An excellent
Q & A format.
 
presentation by the Florida Department of Education used as a training module for IEP Teams - a veritable treasure chest of information!
 
with Disabilities - A brochure for parents published by the Florida Dept of Ed.
 
Even though the letter addresses an issue in West Virginia, the information is still applicable because IDEA is a federal law.
 
Florida FCAT

Read To Learn: This is full of extremely helpful information for parents of Florida's third grade parents.  It is designed to help you understand what Florida law says about reading requirements for third grade students and promotion to fourth grade.  It also describes what the school should do to help if your child is reading below grade level.

 
IEP Information
 
Definition of Frequency of Services on the IEP - GREAT Letter from Florida Dept of Education about specifying how much therapy (for example) a child will receive and how often.  "...What is required is that the IEP include information about the amount of services that will be provided to the child, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP Team members.."

Testing Accommodations for College Bound Students

Do you have a student with ADHD, a learning disability, a physical disability, a hearing impairment, a psychological or psychiatric disability, or a visual impairment?  Many students with ADHD and/or a learning disability have difficulty processing information quickly, and completing tasks within the allotted times. Accommodations can help to "even the playing field" with other students without these difficulties. Evaluations can also be brought to college and used to apply for accommodations on tests at the college level.  Your student may qualify for accommodations on standardized testing for college-bound students. Your student can apply for accommodations through the College Board and ETS to receive accommodations on Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and on other post-college exams such as the GRE, MCAT, and LSAT. Click here for more information.

 
Letter Templates
 
Below are sample letters you can use to send to the school district.  Make sure you fill in all the red areas with your specific information.  Make sure you delete all notes and instructions before you send the letter.  If you email the letter, always follow-up by sending a hard copy by regular mail.  These letters should be sent to the principal and not the teacher; principals have the authority, teachers do not.
 
Letter requesting an INITIAL EVALUATION from the school district -
for a child who has never been evaluated by the school district before
click here. **Important:  You must also download/print the following letter from the Department of Education to send with your letter requesting initial evaluations - CLICK on the following: OSEP LETTER

Letter requesting an INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION (IEE)
   from the school district - when you want to request a private evaluation,
   paid for by the school district. Note: You can only request an IEE after
   the school district has done their evaluation first.
 
Letter requesting ADDITIONAL EVALUATIONS from the school district -
   when the child has an IEP/504 Plan and you want updated evaluations
 
Letter CANCELING AUTHORITY you gave to school district to contact
   your child's therapists, physicians, specialists, etc.
 
 
Response to Intervention (RtI) and Gifted Students
 
 
"RtI Models for Gifted Children," by Karen Rollins, Chrystyna V. Mursky, Sneha Shah-Coltrane, and Susan K. Johnsen
 
 
"Response to Invervention and Twice-Exceptional Learners: A Promising Fit," by Daphne A. Pereles, Stuart Omdal, and Lois Baldwin
 
 
 

Alternate Dispute Resolution: Your Options
When You and the School Disagree

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or IDEA, students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE. Parents of students with disabilities and school districts will often disagree as to what services are appropriate. While it is always best practice to discuss disagreements and make attempts to reach a resolution at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, sometimes a resolution is not possible at the IEP meeting. It is for this reason that alternative options are available for parents who want to dispute a school district’s decision regarding the student’s education. As you will learn by clicking on the tabs below, there are three (3) formal forums available in Florida for disputing IDEA claims. These are: 1) mediation, 2) state complaint, and 3) due process hearing.  For information on each of these options, click here.


Helpful Links
 
ESE Policy and Procedures Manual for each school district in Florida - the link to the page on Florida's Department of Education website that has each School District's ESE Policy and Procedures Manual.  Simply select your district and view/save/print the manual. It's very helpful in understanding how your district defines criteria for qualifying for services and how it implements the various components of its ESE program. http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd.asp
Bright Feats - A medical and educational resource for
                    families of children with special needs
 
McKay Scholarship Information - Helpful articles and list of private schools
 
Wrightslaw.com - Simply put, the absolute best website for special education
                         law for parents.


Dental Care

Dental Care for Children with Special Needs:  The Grottoes of the North American Humanitarian Foundation sponsors the Dentistry for the Handicapped Program.  It is designed to help needy children with the best dental care possible from dentists throughout the country.  For more information and an application, go to: hfgrotto.com or call 614-933-0711.The email address is humanitarian.foundation@scgrotto.com.


Guidelines for Determining If A Student Requires Accessible, Specialized Formats of Printed Instructional Materials

IDEA defines "print instructional materials" as printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction and are required for use by students in a classroom.  These materials are made accessible by converting them to specialized formats, such as braille, large print, audio, or digital text. Click here for full Technical Assistance Paper from the Florida Department of Education.


Information For Parents Whose Children May be at Risk for Arrest by Police at School or in The Community

Note from Pam: A year ago I was representing three different children - all in kindergarten - who had the police called on them for "sexual harrassment." All three of these children had special needs and I can assure you, it was not sexual harrassment, or anything close to it.  In today's school system, officials are calling the police more often.  You must make sure you are informed.

What Youth Need To Know if They Are Questioned by Police: Tips for Parents to Prepare Their Youth with a Disability: This fact sheet contains a brief summary of information for parents of children or youth with disabilities at risk for arrest by police at school or in the community.

 
Make Sure All Teachers Show Up In Person
At Your IEP Meeting
Many times parents go to IEP meetings and expect to have all the teachers and therapists be there, only to find some of them couldn't make it.  Instead, the parents are given a standard form on which the teachers have written down their thoughts about the child's progress and participation in the classroom.   Personally, I have never found the written summary form to be useful whatsoever.  How are you supposed to ask questions of a piece of paper?   Still, the school districts often resort to this technique so that they don't have to pull teachers out of the classroom.  All teachers (and sometimes therapists) need to physically be in the meeting so they can participate in the discussion, give input and answer your questions.  If, after the meeting has started and you no longer see a need for a particular person to stay in the meeting, you can excuse them.  If you don't excuse them - they need to stay. Here's what you do to avoid "the form:" When you write your letter to the prinicpal requesting an IEP meeting, state in your letter that you need all teachers (and therapists) to be present and that the written form will not be an acceptable alternative.  If you do not need all the teachers, then just specify those that you do need. 
 
 
It's The End of The First Quarter - Has Your Child Made Any Progress Toward Their IEP Goals? 
 
NOW is the time to pull out your child's IEP, review the goals and compare them with your child's performance in the first quarter.  Has your child made progress?  If not, why not?  Are your child's report card grades good or not?  If they're not passing in any subjects, find out why not.  Talk to the teacher.  Why is the child not passing?  What struggles are they having?  Do they understand the assignments?  Are they turning in homework assignments? Talk to your son or daughter.  Ask them questions about the class, the content, and the teacher.  Is your child feeling overwhelmed?  Are they able to understand what is happening in class?  Are they on task or lost? NOW is the time to intervene by asking questions and coming up with solutions to solve problems.  If your child has a problem, and it is not corrected now, your child will not be any more successful next quarter.
 
 
Critically Important: Review Your Child's School File 
 
The cum (pronounced "cume") folder is the official file that has all the school records for your child.  It should have a copy of the IEP, any supporting documents, the matrix, notes from doctors, copies of evaluations, etc.  It is a very important file and one that you should review at least once a year just to see what is in it and to make sure all the information that's in the file actually pertains to your child. Simply write a note to the school staffing specialist or guidance counselor and tell them you would like to see your child's file.  Most likely they will set up an appointment for you to come in when a school employee can sit with you while you look at the file...after all, it is your child's official school record and the school doesn't want a parent walking off with any of its contents.
 
Finally, if there is anything in the cum file that you don't have, like a copy of your child's IEP for example, ask the school to make you a copy.  They may charge you a nominal fee for copying, they may not, but it is important that you have a copy of everything in the file.
 
 
A "Screening" Is Not An "Evaluation"  
 
When you are requesting that the school district complete an evaluation for your child, make sure they actually complete a full evaluation and not just a screening.  In some school districts, they will do a screening first and from those results then decide if they should do an evaluation.  If the screening does not show a need for further testing, then they will say the child doesn't have a need and therefore doesn't qualify. 
 
If this happens to you, write a letter to the principal stating that you do not accept the results of the screening. 
Explain that you specifically requested an evaluation and that is what you expect from the school district because it is your right as a parent as provided for in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
 
Note:  I have never had a school district refuse to do the full evaluation after they have done a screening.
 
 
You Can Have As Many IEP Meetings
In A Year As You Feel Necessary
 
Although the school district may schedule a meeting once a year to review your child's IEP, as the parent you have the right to request an IEP meeting whenever you feel one is necessary.  To request an IEP meeting, write a letter to the school principal. It is important that you put your request in writing and give it to the principal...the guidance counselor, staffing specialist and teacher have no authority over what happens in the school...the principal does.
 
 
Importance of Prior Written Notice:
Know Who Is Coming To Your IEP Meeting
 
The school must tell you in advance who is coming to your IEP meeting.  The names of attendees should be listed on the meeting notification form that the school is legally required to send you at least 10 days before the IEP.  If the actual names of the individuals are not listed on the form, I would send the form back and ask to know who specifically is coming.  Technically, the school does not have to tell you the actual names of the people attending, just their title.  However, don't let that stop you from asking. For example, it's not enough to know "Area Administrator" - you want to know that it's John Smith, Area Administrator.
 
Similarly, if the form states "Occupational Therapist" don't assume your child's OT will be the one in attendance.  Sometimes the actual therapist cannot make the meeting so another therapist will come in their place and read the therapy notes.  As a parent, I want to talk to the actual therapist who is treating my child, not a substitute.
 
If someone comes to your IEP meeting, and they were not listed on the meeting notice, you do not have to allow them to stay in the meeting.  There have been cases where a parent walks into an IEP meeting and there is a table full of people the parent never expected.  You do not have to allow them to stay.  You can ask that they leave.
 
If someone shows up at your IEP meeting, and you don't feel they have your child's best interest at heart; if you find them intimidating, whatever your reason, you can ask that they leave the meeting. 
 
One final note:  While the school must inform you of who is coming to the IEP meeting, you do not have to tell the school who is coming with you.  If you are bringing an advocate or a child's private therapist, you don't have to let the school know.  Some parents like to tell the school in advance, others don't.  It's up to you.
 
 
IEP Meeting Strategies:  The Importance of Notes
 
    At the beginning of the IEP meeting for a child in elementary school, the teacher opened up with the statement, "John is at the level he's been at since the beginning of the year."  The minute those words left her mouth, I wrote them down on my pad of paper.  As the advocate for the parent, my job is to make sure everything is documented.
     We are already in the second quarter, and the teacher has announced the child has not progressed at all.  This is not good.  An IEP must confer benefit.  If the child is not benefitting, then the IEP is not appropriate and changes must be made.  We spent the next two-and-a-half hours discussing changes and improvements in the IEP and services.  It was challenging to be sure.
     At the end of this IEP meeting, the staffing specialist read the notes.  I said that we needed to add one more thing and asked her to include, "At the beginning of the meeting the teacher stated that 'John is at the level he's been at since the beginning of the year.' "  The staffing specialist wrinkled her nose, but she added it to the notes.     As the advocate for the parent, part of my job is to make sure everything is documented.  When the teacher, or another member of the IEP team makes such a signicant statement like above, it is absolutely critical that the information is documented in the notes.  During IEP meetings I use the left column of my note pad to jot down things that I want written in the notes.  At the end of the IEP meeting, I insist the notes be read outloud and as they are, I go down my list crossing off the items that are in the notes and requesting the others be added.
     At the end of the IEP meeting, particularly one that runs a few hours, is when everyone is very tired and ready to leave.  BE CAREFUL!  Don't succumb into fatigue just yet...hang in there for a few more minutes and make sure all the important information is written down in the notes.  Your child's education depends on it.
 
 
If Your Child is Struggling, Now Is The Time To Request An Evaluation From the School
 
Time is running out...if your child is struggling in school, and the school district has not completed a psychoeducational evaluation yet, then write a letter today to your principal requesting the evaluations.
 
Here's why time is of the essence:  From the day you sign the school's consent form for an evaluation, the school district has 60 school days within which to complete the evaluation. The important point here is school days. (In Florida it's 60 school days, but it can differ from state to state.)  Note:  This 60 day rule only applies to initial evaluations. It does not apply to re-evaluations of children who already have been evaluated and/or have an IEP.
 
So, for example, if you sign consent for testing on Monday, January 11, 2010, approximately 60 school days later would be April 15!  Yikes!  School ends in May/June.  The time goes by fast when you don't count weekends, holidays and spring break.  The point is this...you need to have an evaluation as soon as possible.
 
 
IEP Meeting Strategy:  Progress Should be
Based on Data, NOT Observation or Opinion
 
During a recent IEP meeting, the staff gushed about how cute the little boy was, how much he got along with other children and how much they enjoyed working with him.  It was a lovely feel-good moment, and all of that was fine, but I wanted to know how the child was progressing in school.  They staff may love him, but are they teaching him?
 
After several requests for evaluation data, the reading scores showed that last year the child was reading at a 2.4 grade level.   A year later he's at a 2.6 reading level. He's in fourth grade. The fact that he had only made two months progress over an entire school year - which I was quick to point out to the IEP team - put a damper on the their enthusiasm for "how wonderful he was doing."  Two months worth of progress was not acceptable and I wanted to know what they were going to do to improve his reading scores.Lesson to be learned:  Be careful not to get caught up in things you want to hear that make you feel good, but don't amount to much substance.  This mom left the meeting with an entirely different perspective on her son's "progress" in school.