An IEP State of Mind
You will often hear special education attorneys and advocates say “best” is a dirty word at IEP meetings. Parents are warned that saying they want the “best” for their child will cause other committee members to lose their minds and chase the parent out of the room. This advice has some basis – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not guarantee children the “best” special education services and repeated reference to wanting the best for your child or maximizing your child’s academic potential may cause you to lose credibility with the committee. The IDEA entitles children with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education and nothing more (not the best education, not ideal services, etc.).
But don’t let this paralyze you from asking for services or advocating for your child at the IEP meeting. Rather, prior to the IEP meeting, reframe the question you are asking from “What is best for my child?” to “What does my child need to make meaningful progress?”
So what is appropriate to ask for? It really depends on the individual situation. But look at your child’s evaluations, progress reports and assessments for direction. Do you have evidence to back up your requests? If you don’t, do you need to request evaluations to provide support? For instance, if you believe your child needs speech therapy, but you have no evaluation to support that request, request a speech evaluation prior to or at the meeting.
When you’re asking yourself the “What does my child need?” question, don’t think about cost. Cost is not your concern, and really should not be the concern of the committee. If the service is appropriate for the child, then it is required under the IDEA. Now does this mean that you are entitled to the world’s best speech pathologist that charges $5,000/hour? No, as long as the school is offering an appropriate speech pathologist. But if the school district does not have a speech pathologist and your child needs speech therapy, the district needs to pay for private therapy for your child.
Good luck and stay tuned for more posts on IEP meetings!