Families as Allies is doing a series of trainings on the Procedural Safeguards, or as they are subtitled and we encourage families to think about them, Your Family’s Special Education Rights. These rights apply if your child is receiving special education services or if they are being evaluated for eligibility for special education services. They include your right to disagree with the school district and resolution processes available to you if so.
In February we discussed Child Find and in March we reviewed the evaluation process. You can find webinars about both Child Find and evaluation on our resource training page. During the month of April, we will focus on Individual Education Programs (IEPs), including this webinar on April 9.
It can feel overwhelming to try to decipher your child’s IEP or to attend IEP meetings. But remember that you (and often your child) are experts in an area no one else in the room is. You know your child better than anyone. You know what you want for your child right now and what you most hope for them in the long run. You know what does and doesn’t work for them. No one else on the IEP team has that in-depth knowledge about your child, and there’s no information that is more important than who your child is and what works for them. That’s why you as a parent are such a vital part of your child’s IEP team.
Your most fundamental right as a parent is to be a part of your child’s IEP team and share your expertise and knowledge just like all the other members share their areas of expertise. And your input should be incorporated into the IEP just like that of all of the other team members. There is a section at the bottom of the third page of the Mississippi Department of Education’s IEP form for you and your child’s input.
You also have rights related to recording meetings, your child’s information is kept confidential, reviewing information related to your child’s IEP and formal ways to disagree with the district. We will discuss those rights in more detail as the month unfolds, but we want to begin April just as we begin everything else: recognizing that you know your child better than anyone and you are their strongest advocate. Those two things make you an important partner on any team, including IEP teams, related to your child’s care. Even when it doesn’t feel like that is true (and it is easy to feel worn down or overwhelmed, especially with school issues), it is still true.
You can walk into any IEP meeting armed only with the knowledge that you have about your child and that is enough. No one should make you feel like less of a team member because you don’t have the same knowledge that other team members do. Remember, you know your child better than anyone in the room. At the same time, there are helpful resources out there if you want to learn more about special education and IEPs. Two that we recommend are the website, Understood.org and It’s still A Good IDEA! A Community Guide to Special Education in Mississippi, a publication by Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities, Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center Project, the Mississippi Center for Justice, Charlene Comstock-Galagan, Jed Oppenheim, Mandy Rogers, and Danita Munday.