Spend the Summer getting your child’s file in order

June 25th, 2011

It is summer and it is so tempting to sit back and relax.  But it is very important that you use this time to make sure you child’s special education file is in order.  Take this time to file all of the meeting minutes, progress reports, evaluations, and any other important documents into the three ring binder.  If you are missing any documents, make a request for the documents.

If you feel there are issues that need to be addressed, take this time to contact an advocate.  Meeting with an advocate before there is a crisis can help you better understand the process.



Beat the IEP Uptights by Being Prepared

August 9th, 2010

Wait a minute. You’re probably saying to yourself that you have prepared. You have done your three-ring binder with all of the education records carefully placed into the right category. Each page in the binder has highlighted sentences, lots of sticky notes, statements that are sure signs of mischief on the part of the school district are carefully underlined – and double underlined .

Ok, but do you get a tight feeling in your throat, boiling blood, maybe a sagging feeling as you stick the keys in the ignition to drive to the school for an IEP meeting?

What else, you ask, is there to getting ready for an IEP meeting?

The Three Rs:

Respect for yourself;

Respect for Others; and


Respect for yourself

Why is it that most parents, in any setting other than an IEP meeting, have a tremendous amount of self respect? Why is it that their confidence and self respect seem to slide down the tubes the moment they get into the car to go to the IEP meeting?

“They make me feel stupid,” parents say.

Once, an attorney mother of a disabled child told me that she felt “stupid” at IEP meetings for her own child. How is that possible?

Simple: The special education language, the laws, the regulations, the school policies, and all of the other stuff that go along with special education administration seems so complex that learning how to navigate through it for a parent – any parent – seems impossible.

Here is the good news: Not only can you learn how to wend your way through it, you can also get results when results are justified. It is not easy, but it’s also not nearly as difficult as we first think. Cut this next sentence out and paste it on your bathroom mirror. Look at it every time you brush your teeth:

You are just as smart as anyone else sitting around the IEP table.

Respect for others;

Treat everyone with dignity and respect even when you think they don’t deserve it.

There are scads of explanations for why the method works. Most of us are familiar with phrases such as “what goes around comes around,” “Vibes,” “Good Karma-Bad Karma,” and so forth. Each of the phrases have something in common.

We human beings tend to treat others as they treat us. And, I might say, that treating others with dignity and respect begins long before you lay eyeballs on the school folks at the IEP meeting.

Maybe you have those mind bending one-sided phantom arguments in your head before the meeting. If you do, then you spend a lot of mental energy having a conversation with the folks on the school team – before the meeting even starts..

You might mentally call them ignorant, liars, or other colorful nouns and phrases. Do that, and you will have yourself whipped into a frenzy and ready for a fight by the time you arrive at the most important meeting you can ever have that will – I repeat – will affect your child’s ability to get an education for the rest of his or her life.

Ask yourself: Is it more important to “shove it up the other side’s nose,” or is it more important to get what your child really needs? I know what some are already saying: “I’m not going to kiss up to anybody,” or something to that effect. Treating another with dignity and respect has nothing to do with kissing up or bending over. It has everything to do with setting the stage for discussing your child’s education on a logical and reasonable basis.

Watch Court TV sometime. Notice how adversary lawyers address one another as Ms. Blah, Blah, Mr. Blah, Blah, Learned Counsel, and so forth. You should know that each of the attorneys would sell their own mother just to win an important case – and they ain’t kissing up to the opposition. They are using protocol and words as tools to win.

School folks count on you being hacked off when you arrive. That is the most common way they easily defeat parents and eventually get them out of their hair.

An old and true saying: The person who can make you mad is the person who can control you. On the flip side of that, the person you treat with dignity and respect is a person who cannot make you angry easily: you remain in control.

Responsibility for your child and your own actions.

Relying completely on someone else, or some entity, to provide what your child needs puts you in the weakest position you could possibly imagine. Your strongest position comes from deciding that you are responsible for your child’s education and your child is going to get whatever is necessary even if you have to pay for it yourself or develop creative ways of getting the needed services.

One mother I know in Oregon ran into a stone wall with the school system. Her son is autistic. She barely had enough income to survive. Each day her son was without services was a day forever lost to that boy’s chance at becoming independent. That mother beat the agency doors until she crafted a full program, including respite care, apartment rent, transportation, assistive technology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and too much more to mention here. The services were provided by Medicaid, other federal and state agencies that the school either did not know about or did not want to spend the time developing.

After more than a year of providing on her own, this mother again tackled the school with renewed confidence because she knew that regardless how the school acted, her son would get needed services. I cannot say that she met with 100% success with the school district. I can say that she was able to get a lot more from the school for her son than she ever did before.

Coordinating agency referrals and keeping all of the people continuing with her son’s services was not easy. This mother simply looked at it as the price she had to pay to see that her son had a decent shot at becoming an independent adult. Does she still get frustrated with the system? Yes, but she does not give in to frustration.

What she knows is that frustration can lead to passivity, and passivity leads to accepting “what is,” and accepting what is, leads to giving up.

“So,” you ask, “What is the magic? Is there a sure-fire way to get a good IEP – and get it implemented?”

No, because we are constantly dealing with human beings.  If you use the Three Rs formula, though, you will immediately increase the odds in your favor.

Author: Brice Palmer, Benson, Vermont.

Good Job, Dot

August 3rd, 2010


You’ve climbed Mount Everest in your shorts.

Good job.

That’s a line from an episode of Law & Order. District attorney Adam Schiff said it in praise of one of the assistant district attorneys after winning a tough case.

And, I think that line fits the job Dot French has done with Education-A-Must and her personal advocacy to improve the lives and education of children with disabilities.

I first ran across Education-A-Must while searching the Internet many years ago. Several years after that I met Dot at a COPAA conference. We’ve been great friends and colleagues ever since.

The guy standing next to Dot in front of the White House is George, Dot’s husband, cheer leader, and source of inspiration.

I used the line from Law & Order because in spite of many difficulties, Dot put together and grew one of the premier advocacy organizations in the country. I don’t make that claim lightly.

Her invitation to the White House for the 20th anniversary of the American’s With Disabilities Act is testimony to her work in this field.

Thank you Dot, and thank you George — good job.


Does Your Child Qualify for Extended School Year Services?

April 6th, 2010

by Theresa Kraft, Esq.

When developing an IEP for a student with disabilities, the IEP team must consider whether the student’s special education needs can be met during the traditional school year.  If the child requires an extended day or an extended year in order to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), then the school district is required to provide the student with programming.  Generally, this is referred to as Extended School Year Services (ESY).

ESY can take any form that will ensure FAPE and should not be dependent upon the school district’s schedule, services, availability of personnel, etc. – in other words ESY, like the IEP, should be based on the child’s individual needs and not the convenience of the school district.

The IEPs used by many NH school district’s include a section to consider ESY, but it is not uncommon for that section to contain language indicating that the decision regarding the need for ESY will be determined by a specific date.  April seems to be the month to discuss ESY.  Regardless of whether the discussion is taking place when the IEP is first developed or at a later date, the discussion is part of the IEP process and therefore must take place within a team meeting.  At the IEP meeting that discusses ESY, the team should consider the student’s needs for ESY, including degrees of progress, emerging skills, regression over breaks, length of time to recoup skills lost over breaks, the nature or severity of the disability, interfering behaviors, as well as any other factors the team determines appropriate in consideration of whether FAPE will be provided.

ESY is not a one size fits all program.  ESY is not reserved for only specific categories of students with disabilities.  ESY is not an enrichment program.  ESY is not determined by administration based on NECAP, NWEA, DRA, or any other acronym’s scores.  ESY does not have to take place in a school setting.  As with all IEP discussions, ESY discussions should be based on the student’s needs and a focus on how those needs will be met.

When preparing for the IEP team meeting to discuss ESY, consider:

  1. The student’s progress during the traditional school year
  2. The type of programming the student receives and best practices for that type of programming
  3. The need for consistency in schedule
  4. The ability to focus more intensely on skills to foster emerging skills
  5. The need for social interaction in a structured and supported setting

For more information regarding a ESY, see NH DOE Memo 44.

This post can be found on Attorney Kraft’s website as well.

Special Education Questions Answered

December 3rd, 2009

Those of you who attended the Transition Workshop, you had the opportunity to ask Brice Palmer questions regarding Special Education.  Those of you who didn’t attend missed a wonderful opportunity to gain a new perspective to the madness we lovingly refer to as Special Education.  Now everyone has the opportunity to ask questions.

The Mulberry Bush is an opportunity for you to gain insight that has just the right mix of humor and common sense! So go ahead, ask the question!