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PALS February 2017 - Open Forum, Comparing School Districts, IEEs

PALS Meeting Minutes

February 22, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Market District Café

930 Freeport Road Pittsburgh, PA 15211

We enjoyed an Open Forum meeting this month where the hot topics were comparing area school districts concerning special education services and what to expect when presenting your district with an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE).

Comparing School Districts

When comparing school districts in regard to special education services, participants first shared their own experiences within FCASD. We then suggested attending a meeting of other area parent groups in the Pittsburgh area, i.e. HAPPEN (Hampton), NASEPNG (North Allegheny), MLPLSN (Mt. Lebanon).

What's Next After an IEE

Schools are not required to use an IEE to determine services under an IEP or 504 Plan. They must consider an IEE, but really their evaluation is what matters at the end of the day.

An IEP is not just about a child having a learning disability, so the idea that a child is too smart or tests good enough doesn’t necessarily amount to meaning anything. For instance even a single diagnosis of ADHD Inattentive, mild autism, auditory processing disorder, or dyslexia in itself can create deficits in learning, academic performance, or the ability to complete educational tasks at all, in part, or timely. This would be considered qualifying for special education services under the provision of Other Health Impairments. The definition of "Other Health Impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that ... is due to chronic or acute health problems such as ... attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ..."

Under IDEA, special education students are entitled to the same instructional time as traditional students and of course a free and appropriate education. This does not necessarily mean what you believe is right, but what is appropriate. This concept can be a tricky one.

Once the school has conducted their evaluation you will have to wait for the evaluation report before really understanding what comes next. There are timelines in place for everything and generally school districts deliver material at the deadline, not before. For instance, a school district has 60 days after they have conducted an evaluation to provide you with the report. They then have to hold a meeting to go over the report which is normally scheduled giving you 10 days to review the report. Most times schools will push through a combination meeting going over the evaluation report AND conducting an IEP meeting all at once. Whether or not this is good depends on if you and the school are seeing eye-to-eye, how many questions you have, etc… NEVER FEEL RUSHED in these meetings, if you need more time tell them, don’t feel as if you must conclude a meeting. You can always reconvene.

Often parents will hear the phrase, “we do that / provide that for every student” or something similar. This relates to RTII, Response To Instruction and Intervention also known as MTSS-RTII Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports. These were initially great ideas for helping all students and catching students who needed services under Special Education. Ultimately, districts realized that they could use RTII and MTSS to get out of putting services in writing in an IEP. Don’t be afraid to insist something be written into an IEP. You’re point is that it’s great that all students receive “xyz”, but you want to make sure that if something happens/changes your child continues to receive it.

Ultimately a child may not be eligible for Special Education services in an IEP, but may qualify for a 504 Plan. Study up on both. One of the best resources Pennsylvania has is The Peal Center. There are so many resources on the Peal website! They have trainings available online and in person, they have a hotline so you can talk to a parent advisor. We invite their director to come to one meeting a year to give an overview of their IEP and/or 504 trainings.

When it comes to final having a meeting to first discuss the evaluation, remember you can bring anyone with you to these meetings, an experienced friend, and advocate, an attorney. If you end up with an IEP or 504 Plan, remember you can call an IEP meeting at anytime. IEPs and 504s must be reviewed annually, but they are living documents meaning they can be modified at anytime, but can only be modified at an IEP meeting with the entire team present unless you waive the meeting, i.e. you discuss something over the phone and agree you don’t really need to hold a formal IEP meeting to add, subtract, change something. This is rare, but happens.

Next Meeting: March 22, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Lauri Ann West Library 1212 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15215

Topic: School Based Access Program

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