It's “back to school” time! While many of my clients receive Extended School Year (ESY) services over the summer, I have learned over the years in my special education law practice that, regardless of whether your child receives ESY services, a number of things can occur over a summer that might impact his or her special education needs. Those changes may well call into the question the appropriateness of his or her special education program for the regular school year. Since a child's IEP is typically developed at the end of the prior school year, it is very important that you review and revisit the question of its appropriateness in the Fall.
Significant changes in a child's performance, behavior, or diagnosis might necessitate revisions to the IEP, or might even demonstrate the need for one if none presently exists.
Following is a list of 10 questions which you should ask yourself right around the beginning of the new school year. Significant progress or regression might require a change in the program, or at minimum a revision of the annual goals. It is your right as a parent to ask that an IEP Team Meeting be convened, even if it is not time for your child's Annual Review.
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it is probably a good time to ask for an IEP Meeting to review your child's new program and placement:
1. Have you obtained or received any new evaluations of your child over the summer?
2. Have you obtained or received any new diagnoses of your child over the summer?
3. Did your child make significant progress over the summer?
4. Did your child regress over the summer academically, behaviorally, or functionally?
5. Were there any important changes to your child's medications over the summer?
6. Is your child about to turn 16? If so, double check the IEP to make sure that his or her IEP includes proper Transition Services and goals.
7. Is your child about to reach the age of majority? If so, has anybody from the public schools discussed the Transfer of Rights with him or her? If you don't believe your child is capable of making his or her own educational decisions after the Transfer of Rights has occurred, it is time to take the appropriate and necessary legal action to secure legal decision-making authority for him or her.
8. Did the IEP Team which met at the end of the prior school year recommend any testing, reviews, or follow-up in the Fall? If so, it's time to get that meeting on the books now.
9. Are there any unexpected changes to your child's program or school that were unknown to you at the prior IEP meeting?
10. Did new concerns, behaviors or issues develop in your child over the summer which were not discussed at the end of the year IEP Meeting?
Just as you get ready with new clothes and supplies, so too should you be considering whether you are “special education ready” for the new year.
Unfortunately, I have seen so many cases where year after year is lost because matters “slipped through the cracks” or because it took longer than necessary for the IEP Team to get together to review updated information. If you are diligent about considering these issues early into the school year, every year, you are far more likely to have positive results.