S2E16 - How to Prepare for and Survive the IEP Process w/ Sudane & Sunday

Episode 16 January 17, 2024 00:58:08
S2E16 - How to Prepare for and Survive the IEP Process w/ Sudane & Sunday
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S2E16 - How to Prepare for and Survive the IEP Process w/ Sudane & Sunday

Jan 17 2024 | 00:58:08

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Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this supersized, but highly informative, episode guests Sudane and Sunday share their professional insight into the Individualized Education Plan process (IEP) and Aisha shares part of her personal experience navigating the process as a parent.
 
A detailed examination of IEPs and 504 plans is provided, highlighting their uses, differences and recommendations for navigating the process. The conversation also covers obtaining services from public and private schools, offering advice on how parents can advocate effectively during the various phases of the process.  All three, offer the sage advice encouraging parents to be proactive and involved throughout the process. They conversation also touches on the structural forces, racial disparities that impact seeking special education services and the growing acceptance and transparency around IEPs. 
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to start to finish motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on. [00:00:16] Speaker B: Your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins, and I'm partnering with. [00:00:22] Speaker C: You every step of your journey. [00:00:24] Speaker D: Hi, everybody. [00:00:26] Speaker C: So I'm here today with a panel to discuss something that I recently have gone through. So nothing prepares us for parenthood. [00:00:37] Speaker A: It's like love at first sight, followed. [00:00:39] Speaker C: By a lifelong commitment to go ham, which is hard as a mother for these tiny people that we're entrusted with that we hardly know. [00:00:49] Speaker E: Right. [00:00:50] Speaker C: We are getting to know them as we are also trying to navigate some fairly new systems that we haven't navigated as parents. So today's episode is focused on the individual education plan, aka the IEP process. So, having gone through the IEP process as a single mother by choice, I have to admit that I was not ready. And I'm a person who prides herself on being ready for most things. And this just kind of took me by surprise because it's nothing that I've ever gone through. It's nothing that I've sat down and spoken with my friends about. And so it was a totally new experience for me. Thinking back through my experience, I wanted to put together a podcast episode that would address information that I wish I had had prior to initiating the IEP process. And when I posted the question in. [00:01:47] Speaker B: The melanated single mothers by choice group. [00:01:49] Speaker C: It really got a lot of conversation going. A lot of parents are either going through or about to go through or suspect that they might have to go through the IEP process. And so I wanted to pull together this panel. [00:02:03] Speaker A: I have two guests here today, and I will go ahead and let them introduce themselves. [00:02:09] Speaker D: Hello. So, I'm Sudani. I am a certified school psychologist, bilingual in New York state. I also am certified in New Jersey. I am an adjunct professor. I teach students who are at the master's and doctoral level in school psychology program. And I'm a single mother by choice at this time. I have a 13 month old daughter. [00:02:30] Speaker A: Well, thank you. [00:02:31] Speaker F: My name is Sunday Taylor. [00:02:32] Speaker G: I am a developmental and educational psychologist with a lot of experiences working with families and young children in terms of development and disabilities, and then a lot of experience helping families navigate the special education services systems and also navigating their child school setting, particularly where you might have the child not from the dominant culture, and in a setting where they are a minority or not adequately represented. And oftentimes I work with families when they're trying to work out issues or concerns or come to some mutual understanding. I am also a single mother by choice. I had been on this journey for about eight years before I was successful, and I had my child almost five years ago, so very excited. [00:03:17] Speaker A: All right, well, welcome. Okay, so let's go back to zero. When I posted this question in the group, we had some moms that were saying, okay, my child is three, and I'm going through the process. My child started going through the process at eight. So I think that there are a few points in parenting where you could get that initial inkling that something is just slightly off. So as you go through your pediatric visits, the doctors will kind of do a milestone check to see where your kid is developmentally. I think that that's one point where things can be noticed and acknowledged, and then there's the point where you're getting feedback from the school that something is going on, and then you have your own parental observations. Are those the three main areas where parents can take that feedback in and then do something with that information? [00:04:21] Speaker D: Yes, absolutely. That's exactly how it would go. That either they might see something or the pediatrician or someone where the child is either attending daycare or so. In the initial process, really what's required is the parent permission to get started. So the parent would likely write a letter, bring it to the school, either present it to the administration at the school, or if there's a team that they're already familiar with, that includes a school psychologist and a school social worker that work on evaluation so they can present that information to them, provide them with a letter, and then that letter will be used to open the evaluation process. So just writing a letter indicating your concern and then that you would like your child to be evaluated for special education services. [00:05:04] Speaker A: Okay, so let's take a quick step back. So I'm assuming that one I got the acronym correct. I've seen it as individual education plan or individual education program. So is there a difference between the two? [00:05:23] Speaker D: I think it just depends on the state. Like, what term is used? At least in New York, it's individualized education program, but plan is also perfectly fine. [00:05:32] Speaker A: Okay. And then I was always going around using both IEP and a 504 plan interchangeably, but I've come to learn that they are different. Can you take us through, what's the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? [00:05:51] Speaker D: Well, an IEP is a much more comprehensive plan than a 504 plan, and also in a student actually could have both. But typically, 504 plans are associated more with different types of accommodations that a student might need. They don't necessarily have to be a student that is receiving special education services, but say, for example, that there's a student that has a diagnosis of an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as people refer to as adhd, and they have difficulty focusing, or they need more time to complete a test, then they would be eligible as long as a doctor provides documentation to indicate that the student needs more support testing accommodations, they could get those additional supports through the 504 plan. So there are different accommodations that a student can have for testing or just functioning in the school to their optimal level that comes through a 504 plan, but it's not necessarily a component of special education. Then there is the IEP, which is an individualized education program or plan, which is a special education support plan. So the student would have to have disability classification as part of that process, and then they will be eligible for a program. So that could be just like the type of classroom setting that they have. It could be a type of what we call related services. So that might be, for example, speech language therapy, counseling, occupational therapy. Like later on in the conversation, I can go into that more. Or they might just need. Maybe they need a fire professional. So the IEP is way more comprehensive. It has a complete list of the child present levels of performance and functioning, management needs, the program. They need goals, annual goals that the student is expected to achieve based on their level at the time when the IEP is developed. And then each year, there is a meeting, an annual review, where that IEP is reviewed and updated, and you determine, does the student still need these supports and services? Is there anything that needs to change? So IEP is way more comprehensive than a 504 plan, if that makes sense. [00:07:49] Speaker F: So there are two plans you can. [00:07:50] Speaker G: Get in schools to address if your child has special needs or disabilities. One is a 504 plan, which is based on a federal law. Section 504 in section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in any programs or activities that receive federal funding. [00:08:07] Speaker F: An IEP, an individualized education plan is. [00:08:11] Speaker G: A school based plan that is mandated. [00:08:15] Speaker H: For local education agencies to use through. [00:08:18] Speaker G: The law idea individuals disabilities education. Okay. [00:08:23] Speaker A: All right, now, just to put a finer point on that, when we last spoke, you said that there is a difference in how these plans are implemented whether you're in public school versus private school. Can you explain that a little bit more? [00:08:38] Speaker F: So, public schools. [00:08:39] Speaker G: They're part of the local education authority and they are legally required to provide services under the Individual Disabilities Education act. [00:08:47] Speaker F: The private schools can provide special education. [00:08:51] Speaker G: Services and an IEP, but they are not required to. If you're in a public school, your local education authority is required to provide idea and 504 services. Idea because it's an education. It's an educational institution in 504 because it receives federal funding. Your private school does not have to provide services under idea. They may, but they are not required to. [00:09:17] Speaker F: If you are in a private school situation, you can ask your school kind of what their process is for understanding. [00:09:26] Speaker G: If your child has learning needs or other disabilities that interrupt their ability to take advantage of the curriculum. And they can tell you if they have those. But you are always anybody, whether your child's in private school or public school, has the right to access special education services via. [00:09:44] Speaker F: And when we talk about special education. [00:09:45] Speaker G: Services via idea, we talk about the first step, which is an evaluation. [00:09:50] Speaker F: The local education authority has to provide. [00:09:52] Speaker G: An evaluation for every child, even if your child doesn't attend the local education authority school. [00:10:00] Speaker A: Okay. The education authority school, is that the school that you're zoned to. [00:10:06] Speaker G: So we have a city based school system. [00:10:08] Speaker F: Cities and towns. Some of the towns are so small. [00:10:11] Speaker G: That they have a cooperative and that's their local education authority. So it just depends on. [00:10:17] Speaker A: Okay, so it can vary from state to state? [00:10:19] Speaker G: Yes. [00:10:20] Speaker A: Okay. [00:10:20] Speaker G: Necessarily your school, but it's the person who administers your school, usually a school district, not a school. [00:10:27] Speaker H: A. [00:10:27] Speaker G: It's typically a school district. [00:10:29] Speaker A: So if you're in a particular county, it's your county school district. [00:10:34] Speaker G: Yes. [00:10:34] Speaker A: Okay. [00:10:34] Speaker F: So I'm in Boston and I go. [00:10:36] Speaker G: To a private school. [00:10:37] Speaker F: I can ask my private school, what do you do? And they can say, we have services. [00:10:40] Speaker G: And I can follow that route. [00:10:41] Speaker F: They can say, we don't have services. [00:10:43] Speaker G: And I have to go to Boston public schools, and they have to provide me with the evaluation and anything they would do with a child enrolled. [00:10:50] Speaker F: Here's the thing. If the private school offers services, you can still access. [00:10:56] Speaker G: Even if your private school says, we're going to do an evaluation, they can. [00:10:59] Speaker F: Access funding to do it. [00:11:01] Speaker G: If they do it on their own, you can get the public school to do it as well. There are ways in which the funding can be transferred, but the best result is if your private school doesn't do it as a matter of course to go to the local education authority, because once your child's needs are assessed and once you begin engaging with the local education authority, then your rights are triggered. [00:11:23] Speaker A: Okay. So it can vary from state to state? [00:11:26] Speaker G: Yes. [00:11:27] Speaker A: Okay. [00:11:28] Speaker D: All right. [00:11:28] Speaker A: So, still laying the groundwork for what an IEP is and what this process is. You mentioned something about there being a distinction between behavioral based challenges versus learning based challenges. [00:11:46] Speaker F: Really high level. The 504 plan is an option for a child. There is no need for specialized instruction, but there is a need for adaptations. [00:11:56] Speaker G: Or modifications for them to engage and participate in the general education setting. [00:12:03] Speaker F: An IEP is for children who need. [00:12:07] Speaker G: Specific instructional guidance and modifications to achieve learning outcomes. [00:12:12] Speaker A: Okay? [00:12:12] Speaker F: Yep. [00:12:13] Speaker D: So, yes, I agree. The only thing that I would add is that sometimes, at least in New York state, I think it differs in some other states. But at least in New York state, students can also have just related services. They may not have a specially designed instruction or special education program in particular. They might just have something like counseling if they have adhd or they have autism or they have any kind of social skills difficulties or anxiety and depression, other things. They may not actually have a special education program where there's modifications in the classroom, but they might qualify for other types of services and support, speech, language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, et cetera. That's been outside of the classroom environment with an IEP. [00:12:56] Speaker A: So let's get into the process. I know that there were folks in the group that talked about the early intervention, like with the two year olds and the three year olds, and how that might show up. And the way that presents comes up. [00:13:11] Speaker C: Through the milestones that your child is. [00:13:14] Speaker A: Supposed to hit developmentally through your pediatrician visits. So you're meeting with your pediatrician on a regular basis, they go through the milestone chat, and then they find that, okay, there is a developmental area that they are concerned about, and then what happens with that? [00:13:32] Speaker F: So that's a yes. And you can certainly access early intervention. [00:13:36] Speaker G: Services because your child is missing milestones. [00:13:39] Speaker F: The interesting thing is, early intervention services. [00:13:42] Speaker G: Used to be a separate law from idea. They did get integrated into idea. And the interesting thing is, while idea Individual Disabilities Education act is a federal act, the implementation of part c, which is early intervention now, is up to, some of the aspects are up to each state. So one of the things you'd want to know is the law requires services for children up through two years. Some states, like Massachusetts, go up to two years, eleven months, 29 days, and then some states say, we serve up to two year olds. Also, the eligibility requirements, they do have to serve just to children who have developmental delays, but states can have expanded eligibility requirements. So there are some requirements that are broad. And many states have a range of these. Not all of them, but one of them is your child is born with a condition that is disabling or born with a condition that is known to prevent typical growth and development. If your child is born with cerebral palsy and they have mobility limitations, they will most likely be eligible for early intervention. If your child has down syndrome, even if they are hitting milestones, most cases they will be eligible for early intervention. The other thing is some states have at risk category de nose vary from state to state. And usually they have a mix of risk things that have to occur anywhere from parents has a substance use disorder or homelessness, or even a parent is age 20 and has more than two children under whatever. These things vary widely. And the other thing about early intervention is certainly your pediatrician can refer you. [00:15:29] Speaker F: But early intervention. [00:15:33] Speaker G: You can go directly to the early intervention service provider, which varies in states. Could be at the school system, could be a state, could be the public health system. You yourself can call and say, I. [00:15:42] Speaker A: Want an evaluation, and Sudani, anything that you want to add there? [00:15:47] Speaker D: The only thing that I would add is just know if children are in daycare, sometimes the provider might notice some developmental delays and they might point that out to a parent as well. So it could come from the pediatrician. But anyone else who is caring for the child might also notice that they need additional support or an evaluation. [00:16:05] Speaker A: Okay, now we're in the school system. We've entered kindergarten. And now what happens when you discover or you have an inkling that something is going on when you're in the school system? [00:16:19] Speaker D: Can I just add something before we transition into that? So I just wanted to indicate that even if a student or child is eligible for early intervention services, that doesn't automatically mean that that's going to transfer to k to twelve. So they have, at least in New York today, what we call it is the turning five process. And so children are usually, they usually have to undergo an additional evaluation to determine whether they will still be eligible for services once they enter kindergarten. But it's not automatic that if they have services prior to turning five and before entering k to twelve, that they are also going to have an IEP once they go. Like preschool doesn't transfer to, I guess, kindergarten automatically. So that's just something that parents will be aware of. [00:17:01] Speaker F: You're absolutely right. [00:17:02] Speaker G: And I think the issue is no early intervention program automatically mandates or turns over to an IEP. Okay. [00:17:11] Speaker A: Having gone through and passed the pandemic, I started noticing some delays now, what ended up happening was that after going through the school system, I started getting feedback about behavior. And the more I got feedback about behavior, I was also expecting to get feedback about challenges with some aspect of her education. And if the two had come to me together, I would have been like, yeah, sure, I see this. And, okay, you're saying the behavior as well. But because I did not get that paired feedback about behavior along with the education challenges that I was seeing, it raised flags for me. And so it led me to thinking, okay, there might be some bias built in, but we'll come back to bias. So at the point that I finally pushed through the noise and got the school to have the conversation about education challenges, that's when we started firing on all cylinders. I think part of it was to just shut me up. They gave me the form, and they were like, we believe that it's behavior based. So take this form and have your pediatrician do this evaluation. I thought it was learning based. And so it's like, yeah, I'm going to take that form and I'm going. [00:18:34] Speaker C: To go to my pediatrician. [00:18:36] Speaker A: So let's go from there. I've engaged the school. I have this concern, and I now have this form to take to my pediatrician. So now where does the process pick up? [00:18:47] Speaker F: For me, the process starts with the school. Just like signing a paper, if you are going to ask somebody to fill. [00:18:53] Speaker G: Out something or to comment or give any feedback or response on your child, know what it is that they are asking for. So they gave you the form and. [00:19:02] Speaker F: They know you were concerned about something. [00:19:03] Speaker G: Going on in the classroom, and maybe you guys hadn't come to this shared vision that, oh, we're talking about some learning challenges. Intentional or not intentional, you weren't looking at behavioral issues. You were looking at how my child's accessing the curriculum. [00:19:17] Speaker F: Why would the school be asking your. [00:19:19] Speaker G: Daughter'S pediatrician to comment on her learning? [00:19:24] Speaker A: Right. So they were saying they believe that it's behavioral. And I said, no, that's not what I'm seeing. I'm seeing more learning challenges. But on the off chance that they were right and I was wrong, I took the form to the pediatrician, and it came back inconclusive. So now it cleared the noise for me to say, here is what I'm seeing at home. And so now that got us to the point where let's go through the evaluation process. [00:19:56] Speaker F: Okay, so at that point, once a parent has decided that they're concerned about their child's ability to benefit from the. [00:20:04] Speaker G: School environment, whether they think it's the curriculum, whether they think it's illness or. [00:20:10] Speaker H: Some kids have severe asthma in their. [00:20:11] Speaker G: Out a lot, whether they think the child is inattentive or active, or they have a condition that they get very tired. [00:20:18] Speaker F: At that point, you don't need to determine whether you want your child to. [00:20:22] Speaker H: Have a 504 and IEP. [00:20:24] Speaker F: You need to determine that the school needs to provide you with an evaluation. They need to provide you with a comprehensive look at how your child is performing. And then in the context of that, think about what's going on. [00:20:39] Speaker E: I agree. [00:20:40] Speaker D: It's interesting because if you're concerned about learning challenges, you don't necessarily have to take a form that's given to you by the school and take it to a doctor at any point. You have the right to an evaluation. So you could even skip over that part. If you tell them, I'm really concerned about my child's academic performance, and I think that they will benefit from an evaluation. All you have to do is write a letter, present it to your school, and they have to follow through in it. As a parent, you have the right to do that regardless of what their. [00:21:08] Speaker F: Opinion is, even if there might be a behavioral thing. And you have that in your mind. [00:21:12] Speaker G: And you're like, oh, it could be something. [00:21:13] Speaker F: But that doesn't stop you from enabling your access to an evaluation. And the reason I say that, that shouldn't stop you, because getting an evaluation isn't going to hurt anybody, but delaying it will delay your services. And people might say, well, it's only. [00:21:28] Speaker G: Going to be a week delay, but. [00:21:30] Speaker F: Because of the way these systems work, a week delay in getting the request in could put you behind 40 other kids. Right. [00:21:38] Speaker G: And that's not a week delay in getting the service. [00:21:40] Speaker A: Okay, so step zero, we made the request. As the parent, I've made the request, and it should come from the parent that I make the request to do an evaluation. [00:21:51] Speaker F: Yes, you make the request. You can write a letter that can be nice and formal. I've even printed up a form that. [00:21:57] Speaker G: Says the name of the child, what. [00:21:59] Speaker F: The parent's concern is, what things they want. Here's my child's name. I am the parent. I would like an evaluation. You don't even have to say what your concerns are. You can say, I would like an. [00:22:08] Speaker G: Evaluation of my child in these areas. [00:22:11] Speaker F: And you can say a comprehensive evaluation in a lot of cases, and many. [00:22:14] Speaker G: Schools will do it. [00:22:14] Speaker A: But, yeah, okay. And then to Donnie, what now comes next. We've got in the request. Let's start going through the meetings that are involved in the evaluation. [00:22:25] Speaker D: So typically what would happen next is that someone from the team that would be responsible for conducting the evaluation will reach out to the parent to schedule a meeting to obtain consent to proceed with the evaluation process. Where I work, what typically happens is that the school social worker would reach out to the parent to set up a meeting. And also during that meeting, with the parent's consent, the social worker would then proceed to do a social history evaluation. So collecting background information that will be relevant to the case to determine next steps and what's best for the child. So it's very important to have the information, developmental history, anything about the child's educational background, their development, family history. So just really getting a comprehensive overview of the child's development and experience growing up, because a lot of that information will be relevant. [00:23:17] Speaker E: Because when we're doing an evaluation, we. [00:23:19] Speaker D: Don'T want to strictly base our evaluation on test scores. We want to look at the whole child. [00:23:23] Speaker F: Just want to add there are some safeguards and timelines that are in place for the parents and child, and this. [00:23:29] Speaker G: Is where knowing your state or local law is important. [00:23:32] Speaker F: So idea says that they have to. [00:23:34] Speaker G: Evaluate your child within 60 days of receiving the request for evaluation. [00:23:41] Speaker F: Some states have lowered that to 45 or 30. [00:23:44] Speaker G: Not most, but many have. And if they don't, then you have legal recourse and you can leverage your knowledge of that requirement to move it forward. [00:23:54] Speaker F: They do have to respond to your request to tell you if your request. [00:23:58] Speaker G: Is satisfactory or not. [00:24:00] Speaker F: For example, they can say the request. [00:24:01] Speaker G: Is missing some documents or evidence, and they won't start your clock then. [00:24:06] Speaker F: So you want to make sure you. [00:24:07] Speaker G: Have everything that they say is needed to start your time. [00:24:12] Speaker A: Okay. [00:24:12] Speaker G: And that could vary by jurisdiction. [00:24:14] Speaker D: Okay. [00:24:15] Speaker A: So when I did the social history evaluation, it was just myself and the school social worker or psychologist, and that was the last parental meeting. And then they would meet with my daughter to do her learning evaluation. Does that sound about right? [00:24:33] Speaker G: Yes. [00:24:33] Speaker F: And the school has to tell you what evaluations they're going to give, and. [00:24:36] Speaker G: You need to give permission for those. So those have to be consented, and. [00:24:39] Speaker F: They have to give you a description. [00:24:41] Speaker G: Of what the process is so you can take off ones you think are not in your best interest. But this process, even though it's driven by the school, its approval, what will proceed is decided on by the parent. [00:24:53] Speaker E: Okay. [00:24:54] Speaker A: And then anything to add? [00:24:57] Speaker D: No, that's it. And just your quote, there's a possibility that you met with the school psychologist or the school social worker, like a psychologist could also do a social evaluation necessary. [00:25:08] Speaker A: Okay. After they do those two evaluations, we came back together and convened a decision meeting to kind of give me the results of everything and then decide whether or not we were moving on to the next steps. Does that sound about correct? [00:25:30] Speaker D: Yes, that is correct. Then you would come to the meeting. The parent is supposed to receive the evaluations prior to the meeting so that they can review them in advance and that meeting forward. [00:25:41] Speaker A: All right. And so then after that, the IEP team comes up with their decision to either you qualify or don't qualify, and then we move toward putting together an IEP plan. [00:25:56] Speaker F: That's absolutely correct. But one of the things I want. [00:25:58] Speaker G: To let people know is there is an appeal process if they don't decide to move forward. Okay. [00:26:06] Speaker D: All right, Sunday. [00:26:07] Speaker A: So in the people article that I read, they said, the people that can attend the meeting with you. So in my case, I'm a single mother by choice. If I did not want to go to this meeting by myself, I could bring an advocate with me. So can you talk a little bit about advocacy? Is it a paid advocate? Is it an advocate that's provided if I request one? And then what's the role of the advocate in the meeting? [00:26:31] Speaker F: So federally, they're not required to provide. [00:26:34] Speaker G: You with an advocate to pay for. [00:26:36] Speaker F: An advocate, you are able to bring an advocate or whomever you would like. [00:26:41] Speaker G: To the meeting with you. [00:26:43] Speaker F: They don't have to be a professional. [00:26:45] Speaker G: It could be your grandmother. You have the right to bring somebody with you. [00:26:47] Speaker F: You also have a right to know who is going to be at your IEP meeting. They need to tell you ahead of. [00:26:55] Speaker G: Time who's going to be there. Speech therapist, the gym teacher, the math teacher, the Englishman, somebody else. [00:27:02] Speaker F: And you don't have the right to say they can't be there, but you do have the right to question and. [00:27:06] Speaker G: Vet out why they're there. [00:27:08] Speaker A: Okay. All right. So let's say I wanted to take an education advocate with me. Is that something that I can request from the school district or not? [00:27:16] Speaker F: There's no federal legislation requiring them to. [00:27:19] Speaker G: Offer an advocate, and I don't know many schools that do. [00:27:22] Speaker F: If they do, I would want to look at why are they providing the advocates? [00:27:27] Speaker G: Is it because the advocates are going. [00:27:29] Speaker H: To support their mission versus yours? [00:27:31] Speaker G: Parents of children with special education needs and special education departments and administrators have good hearts and they both want good things. They don't want the same thing. [00:27:41] Speaker F: Okay, so if the school offers it. [00:27:43] Speaker G: I would want you to consider and think about that and maybe meet with the advocate. [00:27:47] Speaker F: I do know that most states, if not smaller localities, have organizations that serve. [00:27:54] Speaker G: Children with special needs or learning disabilities. And if there are free or low cost advocacy programs, they will typically know how to help you access one. [00:28:05] Speaker A: And then Sudani, you've conducted quite a few of these meetings, so how have they typically gone? Who have people brought with them? Some say that the process can be contentious. That wasn't my experience. So could you give us a bit more insight as to what happens in that room at the table? [00:28:27] Speaker D: So typically you have someone who's chairing the meeting. Frequently I get to share the meetings as a school psychologist, and ideally it is a team effort. And the members of the team also include that the parent is considered to be a member of the team, so their voice is equally as valuable. So I just hope that parents understand that and recognize that they have opportunity to speak up in a meeting and share their views about their child's performance as well as their child's needs. And then, yeah, the meetings can go very smoothly or they can be contentious. And so it really just depends on each person's agenda or perspective or understanding of special education in general. So typically you start with your introductions in the IEP meeting, so everyone knows each person's role in the meeting, and then you kind of transition into having different members of the meeting discuss. [00:29:15] Speaker E: What is the referral concern, the initial reason why they requested this evaluation, and determine if that is still the primary concern that the parent has. Has anything changed since the evaluation process started? Then from there you talk to the parent about anything that they think is important to be discussed during the meeting, just to make sure that we address the parent's questions. And then from there we begin the process of reviewing all of the assessment data that has been collected and at the end determine if this child is eligible for special education services and if they are, then talk about how to develop that program, like what would be the most appropriate classroom for the child? Do they need any kind of related services, support? What was their annual goals? Do they need any testing accommodations? There's more to it, but you basically want to begin during that meeting developing the IEP and also confirming with the parent and the entire team what is best for the child. And sometimes everyone agrees on what that looks like and what the plan looks like. And sometimes people don't agree on what that looks like for the child. And also, to Dr. Sunday's point, there's also the issue of eligibility, like sometimes there are people who say everyone is in agreement that this child is eligible for special education services. And sometimes there might be a different view just depending on how the evaluating data is interpreted. So that's where things could also get contentious. So from there, after the IEP is developed, if everyone is in agreement, then what happens is that if you conclude the meeting, the IEP is written up and it's supposed to be delivered to the parents within ten days of the meeting. So that's typically the basic process of how it works. [00:31:01] Speaker A: All right, thank you. [00:31:02] Speaker C: And Dr. Sunday, you had a comment to add. [00:31:06] Speaker H: Yes, I did. Thank you. I think what Dudani shared was quite typical of what I've observed. I know on a couple of occasions I've walked in as an advocate in, actually, after parents have gotten the assessment results and we've walked in the room. [00:31:18] Speaker G: And there's been an IEP already developed. [00:31:20] Speaker H: When that happens, I just want to. [00:31:22] Speaker G: Say, do not sign at the meeting table, even if you think you like. [00:31:27] Speaker H: What you got there, don't sign at the meeting table. [00:31:30] Speaker C: Okay. And if we don't sign, we just. [00:31:33] Speaker H: You can sign later. [00:31:35] Speaker C: Okay. So I'm going to take it home and look it over. [00:31:39] Speaker A: Okay. [00:31:40] Speaker E: So that's something that I should have mentioned. It's just been different since we're working remotely. Oftentimes now, I type it in like, who participated in the meeting? But also, if meeting is in person, everyone has to sign indicating that they were present for that meeting and they participated in the, you know, to Dr. Sunday's point, if a parent is walking into this meeting and IEP has already been developed for their child, then how is that equal participation in this meeting? So it would be OD for the parent to sign off saying that they participated in this meeting, because by signing off, they're basically indicating that they were contributing to this process. They were present for the entire time. You ideally want everyone there for the entire time discussing the IEP and coming up together to develop this IEP for reevaluation versus an initial. There's a difference. Right before the special education services can even begin, once the parent receives that IEP, they also receive a consent form. They have to provide consent to even have the special education services begin. So if the parent is not in agreement with what's on the IEP or the services that are going to be provided, then they don't have to sign consent for that, and they could potentially request an additional meeting or review. They feel like they're not satisfied with what they received. Okay. [00:32:51] Speaker C: So since we started veering into that area, what are some red flags we should be on the lookout for as a parent? [00:33:00] Speaker H: The first one is if you walk. [00:33:02] Speaker F: In there, if you walk in the. [00:33:04] Speaker H: Meeting, at the end of the meeting, they have an IEP finish or nearly finish. Okay. [00:33:10] Speaker E: Yeah. Then I also have a few, even just beginning, like before your child begins to be evaluated. Ideally, the school is looking at evidence based interventions and providing the child or your child with an evidence based intervention and monitoring your child's progress with that intervention prior to referring them for an evaluation. Because sometimes people think that the evaluation is an automatic fix and that might not even be necessary for your child. Like, there could have been something else simpler, like simpler fix in the classroom that would have benefited your child if that was tried first. And the reason why that's a primary concern for me in my role, or just being a black woman or woman of color, is the fact that there is portionality in referrals for special education services, placements and special education types of programs that are selected and services for children of color, especially black boys. So this is something that people have to keep in mind. So when I am doing my work, I always think about this and think about the weight of the decisions that I'm making, not just like, oh, this kid needs extra help. Yeah, they'll get extra help, but people need to look at the broader picture and whether or not that's really something that that child needs, because sometimes there are other ways that the child could have been helped and they don't necessarily need an IEP. So that's just something to keep in mind, and we can talk about that more later in the conversation. [00:34:24] Speaker H: I do think one of the things you want to look at is when you're presented with an IEP, and if all of the goals and the interventions are focused on what your child will do differently, and there's none about how the environment will be modified or changed, that's not a good sign. [00:34:43] Speaker C: All right, can we talk about resources for developmentally appropriate behavior, assessing out for things that show up in the academic environment? Specifically, what are some ways or some tools or resources that parents can use to say, okay, this is where they are. Yeah, they're going to have trouble sitting still. They're going to have trouble focusing. [00:35:04] Speaker H: There are a wide range of resources, particularly for early childhood and young children, where there's a range of checklists or guidance lists, and I think one of them is bright futures out of Georgetown University. Also, the CDC has many documents of guidance around physical health. I think your local public health agency might have some information about that. The other thing is there are a range of checklists and tools that either your school department will have, or you can look up skills that my child should be learning or have learned by this grade or that grade. You want to make sure that it's from a a or a gov or a would be great, but there are a plethora of resources. [00:35:48] Speaker C: All right, so one of the things I'm glad to see is that we seem to be making this shift from stigma toward advocacy. We're starting to see more and more parents and families talk openly about having ieps, the IEP process. Are you all seeing that same trend, and what are you thinking is contributing to the trend? [00:36:13] Speaker E: I think it depends on the school environment. Like a school culture would make a huge difference. Also, I think since the pandemic, there is more of an emphasis on social emotional learning for all students, not just students that have special needs. And so I think that that also is beneficial in just having people be more aware and more accepting of people who are different from themselves. I still see the stigma. I work in a community that's predominantly black and brown in terms of the schools that I support and serve. And so I don't know if it's just for that reason where there's traditionally just been a stigma in public school systems and the environments that I've come from, in terms of students being made fun of for having special needs. But I think really it depends on the way that people are expressing themselves or the way that people talk about things in that particular environment. Because if I'm thinking about a different type of environment, like the graduate school programs in which I teach, the difference there, too is that maybe it's because the school psychology program. So maybe the students there feel a little bit more comfortable sharing that they have a disability. But students have spoken openly about having their disabilities and the services that are needed for them, and there's no stigma, like when they have the conversations or older students. Of course, there are still some students that will keep it to themselves. Maybe they want privacy for various reasons, but I definitely think the more that parents are open with their children to have conversations with them about their disability classification, any support and services they're receiving, the more empowered the children are going to be to advocate for themselves. Typically, a student at 14 years old or older is allowed to participate in the advice of their own meetings. And I find that oftentimes when I'm ready to evaluate a student, no matter the age, oftentimes students are not even aware that they have a disability classification. They don't know what an IEP is or what it's for, which is for the long term not really benefiting them because there's going to be a point when they graduate from the twelveth grade and they go on to college and maybe they won't have an IEP anymore, but maybe they need to advocate for themselves having different supports in college or in the workforce, because if they're someone with a disability, they still are entitled to certain types of support regardless of the setting. So it's really helpful for children to know what they need to be able to advocate for themselves in the classroom, to say what they need, to know what their id looks like and what they're supposed to be receiving. It can't always just come from the parent. It would be really beneficial for the child themselves to know what it is. [00:38:42] Speaker D: That they need and to be able. [00:38:43] Speaker E: To speak up for themselves. At least that's how I see. [00:38:45] Speaker A: Oh no, I love that. [00:38:47] Speaker C: I love that. So thank you for that. And Sunday, what are you seeing in terms of trends and what do you think is feeding into the trend? [00:38:55] Speaker F: I see a slow trend, a delay. [00:38:58] Speaker H: Of decades in a trend that affluent and more privileged white people have embraced this. Not only have they embraced it for their children with special needs, but they've embraced it as a way to advantage their children. And I see that brown and black parents slowly beginning to take advantage of a system. Historically, Brown and black children have been overrepresented in special education. And that was a system where our children were placed in special education as a way of containing and controlling them. So that history has impacted us in what we think as individuals, as families and communities about special education. [00:39:41] Speaker G: However, if you move from having your. [00:39:45] Speaker H: Child who has educational needs that can be serviced through these laws or regulations, and I say that because all children have different needs and some of them need to be serviced through these policies and processes. [00:40:00] Speaker F: So getting us to the point where. [00:40:02] Speaker H: We are able to take the reins of these systems and not be stigmatized by them, but control them and use them to advantage ourselves. So I've seen a slow uptick where I've had more and more families be out and out loud about their needs, their struggles, their wins. But I think a lot of things are behind our unwillingness to let our children be labeled again. Our children have been labeled a lot from birth. It's a brown child, it's a black child. We don't want these labels because these labels can hang around their necks by albatrosses. But let's try to deconstruct that. One of the things I want families and parents to remember, the day your child is diagnosed or found eligible for special education, they are not a different child that day than they were two days before. It is the same child. A diagnosis, ineligibility for a service. We need to start looking at this as a key to unlock access to things we need. [00:40:57] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:40:58] Speaker E: To Dr. Sunday's point, there does seem to be a difference in terms of comfort level with disclosing that one has a disability based on race. Because of the historical issues. In the past, black and brown people, especially black people, have been considered to be inferior intellectually. And so these kinds of tests, sometimes parents think they're biased as a form of oppression. So I think it's going to take time for parents and certain communities to feel like they can trust certain entities and institutions that are responsible for making decisions for their children, and also to feel comfortable sharing information about their child's disability classification just because of these historical issues. The only other thing I would add is that, yes, special education can be really beneficial and necessary at the same time, I also do want to caution parents that sometimes more supports or smaller settings or more restrictive settings doesn't necessarily always equal better, because we're talking about the kind of pretentious meetings that I might have. Sometimes parents are informed and my people that their child needs to be in a special class. Their child needs to be in a school that's just for students with special education. Their child needs a parent professional, and these are all more restrictive services and programs and support. And ideally, as much as possible, we want the children to be in more inclusive environments where they are able to be in environments with their general education peers. Because general education peers can learn from students that are receiving special education services and vice versa. All the students can learn and grow from each other. There's a benefit both ways. And ideally, you don't want to necessarily be segregating students and putting them into more restrictive settings. So obviously, if a student really needs that, then absolutely give that to them. But if there's a way for a child to be successful without having to be in the most restrictive environment and in the smallest setting away from students that are receiving general education, I just want parents to know that, just to keep that in mind, that just because a class is smaller doesn't mean that it's better. [00:42:53] Speaker D: Okay? [00:42:54] Speaker C: And then, while I still have you, what are some things that parents can do? Or what are some things that we could request from the school or the district to help make the process easier. [00:43:05] Speaker D: I was just going to say, I. [00:43:06] Speaker E: Think it would be really helpful for parents to just share whatever kind of background information they have that they think is relevant to the evaluation. They have the information from the child's pediatrician that's helpful to share. Sometimes children transfer schools or from different types of schools, different countries. Like, if parents are able to bring any of that data, like the child's grades or test records from their other schools or the other countries, just like as much data as possible or as much background information as possible is helpful to have. And then I also think just the parent just knowing that it's okay for them to speak up and share their opinion. Like, sometimes parents come into a meeting and they think, okay, these people are the experts. They know better than I do. But parents sometimes have had, like, let's say the child is eleven. You've had these eleven years of experience that these other people don't necessarily have with your child. So the parent's voice is very important, what you're seeing at home, just like with you, Aisha, just mentioning, is this a behavioral issue or is this an academic issue? And so you felt comfortable being able to advocate for your child and to speak up on behalf of your child. But there are some parents that might feel intimidated. So just having parents understand that their voice is important and it is valuable in the meetings and they should feel comfortable speaking up for their child Sunday. [00:44:15] Speaker F: So I would definitely agree with that. [00:44:17] Speaker H: And I think one of the things Sudani said that I want to pick up on and go from there is the idea that we are experts on our children and we are experts on our children. We are also the person who has the primary responsibility for that child's well being. And as such, we're experts and we have information to share that adds to and contributes to what people are seeing or wanting to do. And we also have the right, the absolute right to understand in plain language what other people are saying, thinking and have decided about our child. So when you're in an IEP meeting or any other meeting and they mention something, they could mention a test, they could mention, oh, well, occupational therapy skills. If you don't understand that, you ask. And if the answer isn't suitable, you ask again, yes, this is no place for embarrassment or shame. [00:45:17] Speaker F: If you are not super confident when you walk in that room, bring someone with you. If you can get an advocate paid. [00:45:23] Speaker H: Or from one of these organizations, that's great. If you can't have you ever worked with a counselor or social worker, called them and asked them, do they know somebody who can go with you? Many people in the helping fields know somebody who can, even if they're not an expert, can sit with you, have somebody beside you that you've shared your needs and desire with. It's important to share ahead of time because when you get in that meeting, things can go smoothly, but still things can move pretty fast. So make sure you understand that this is not meant to be easy. And I want to talk a little bit about why it's not meant to be easy. Special education administrators and special education educators want all children in their district who have special education needs to have their needs met. You, as a parent of a child with a specific education need, want your child to have every single need of theirs met. They need to provide for the needs of the whole population that they're responsible for and their goal and their role is to try to have that happen. Your goal in your role is to get as much service and support that can benefit your child that you can. They are not the same goal. Does it make them bad? Doesn't make you bad, but you have a little bit of overlap in the goal, but your end goal isn't the same thing and therefore it's a fight. Maybe it's not a fight against people, but it's a fight against the way it's set up. [00:46:50] Speaker G: So it's not easy. [00:46:51] Speaker D: You're going to want to have someone. [00:46:52] Speaker H: To talk to, talk to your family, friends. Sometimes if you are in a class that's separate or anything like that, or if you know of any other parents. [00:47:02] Speaker F: Just say, look, can I give you. [00:47:03] Speaker H: A call at this time? Many states have parent advisory councils for disabilities. Most of them will have a parent. [00:47:10] Speaker G: Warm line or something like that that. [00:47:12] Speaker H: You can call and just talk to somebody who's got a similar experience. [00:47:15] Speaker E: So since we've talked about the IEP process and the development of the IEP, just wanted to talk a little bit about after that's done, like you have the IEP, it's in place. I would just recommend to parents that once the student has an IEP in place, it's supposed to be updated annually. So I just recommend that parents keep track of all the ieps that they're receiving each year and compare and contrast review the IEP prior to each annual meeting and then just make sure that they're aware of the annual goals or the types of services that their child is meant to be receiving and make sure that the goals are being monitored, right? What kind of measures are being used to see whether or not my child is achieving these goals? And then do the goals need to be repeated? Why do they need to be repeated? But just really make sure that you as a parent, are very familiar with the IEP each year and what is changing, what's staying the same? Because what you don't want to find is that years go by and maybe your child is not progressing at a rate that you think is suitable for them to be successful. And then all this time has been lost. So we're talking about, like, time being lost before getting an IEP, but there can also be time lost once a child does have an IEP. So as a parent, just make sure that you stay on top of that and that your child is actually meeting their IEP goals. And if they're not, does the child need a reevaluation? Does something else in the environment need to be changed? But just really keep track of that? That would be my advice. [00:48:45] Speaker C: So I do have a question. Do you eventually age out or does the IEP go away at some point. [00:48:54] Speaker H: At a certain grade level? The IEP needs to be updated annually. [00:48:58] Speaker E: Okay. [00:48:59] Speaker H: The evaluation doesn't. [00:49:01] Speaker E: Okay. [00:49:01] Speaker H: So they update the IEP based on progress towards goals and how they assess that. You really want to ask, how are you assessing this? If you're not in an evaluation year of a three year cycle, how are you assessing whether this has been achieved or not? And if it satisfies you, great. If it doesn't, I want a new evaluation. You are entitled to a yearly evaluation no matter what grade your child is. They are required to provide one every three years. [00:49:26] Speaker E: Yes, that's accurate. Most states do it. There might be some that don't. But at least in New York they call it a triennial. And so every three years, or three year, mandate reevaluation. Every three years, a child has to have a review by the school psychologist to see if they need anything changed or updated. So, Aisha, going back to your question. [00:49:44] Speaker D: Yes. [00:49:44] Speaker E: Typically, children will age out by age 21, like they can receive services up to age 21, and after that they're no longer eligible for special education services if they're still in k to twelve. And also, students do not receive ieps at college, but they can receive other types of accommodations, like classifications or classroom types of accommodations, if they self disclose to the Office of Disability Services in college, and then also if they're still in k to twelve and they're finding that they met their IEP goals, they have different interventions that have been highly effective for them. If you feel like the child no longer needs special education services, or if someone in the school, like the teacher, indicates they no longer think the child needs special education services, they can be reevaluated to determine whether they need to be disclassified. The parent also, no matter what, has the right, if they feel like they no longer want services, a parent can also revoke services for special education. At any point, even if the school disagrees and the school still thinks, oh, this child still needs to have special education, as a parent, it's really up to you. You can decide, yes, I want to continue with these services. No, I don't. At any time, no matter what school says, for amendments to the IEP. So parent also, even though a child is entitled to have an annual review, the parent can also request meetings in between at any point if they want to make changes to the IEP, make any kinds of amendments to the IEP. The amendment is going to be significant, for example, to the special education program. Then that amendment needs to be done at a meeting in person. There is also an option to make minor changes to an IEP with a waiver process where the school could write, okay, this is what the current IEP looks like, and this is what we're changing. And the parent can sign off on that and say, okay, I'm okay with that. But again, if there's anything significant, like any kind of service or program is being changed in a significant way, then there needs to be a meeting for everyone to discuss that before that amendment can be made and the parent has to be involved in that process. [00:51:41] Speaker F: Okay, I just want to go back. [00:51:42] Speaker H: When part of the law and part of the process of accessing services is the school is required to disclose to you your rights and give you specific lay language education on those. That's in the law. [00:51:58] Speaker E: That's true. So a parent should get a document that indicates the right as a parent that potentially has a child with a disability and what they're entitled to. [00:52:09] Speaker G: Yes. [00:52:09] Speaker D: All right. [00:52:10] Speaker C: And so as we wrap up, are there any resources that you would recommend for our listeners, or where can they find you, or both? [00:52:19] Speaker H: I'm going to share a resource. One of my favorite resources is the National center for learning disabilities. They have resources for professionals, parents, and policymakers. Very, very good organization. I know they have some really very basic assessments you can do with your child online just to see where they are with regards to literacy in autism. [00:52:43] Speaker G: And things like that. [00:52:44] Speaker H: So they're very good, credible, research backed resource I often love to talk about these topics. So I do have a Facebook page called 21st century childhood where I share mostly research and evidence based information about child development. [00:52:59] Speaker C: All right, well, thank you. [00:53:01] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:53:02] Speaker E: And then I like understood.org for parents. And, I mean, I even like to look at it sometimes. It definitely has the lay language that's appropriate for parents and what they should be looking for, just in terms of their child's behavior or IEP development, in terms of strength based ids or different types of interventions or things that a parent can do at home with their child. So that's a resource that I think is really helpful. I can be found on LinkedIn. I'm Sudani Delvaye. That's where you can find me. [00:53:30] Speaker C: All right, well, thank you. Thank you both. So now, being on the other side, I can say a few things. Entering the room for that first IEP meeting can be intimidating. [00:53:42] Speaker A: And I think I actually said that. [00:53:44] Speaker C: When I walked in, I was like. [00:53:45] Speaker A: Boy, it feels like I'm going back. [00:53:47] Speaker C: To school and I'm entering a classroom. [00:53:49] Speaker A: For the first time. Because you go into that room and there are about six or seven other. [00:53:54] Speaker C: Adults in there who you're partnering with, feel free to pause the conversation, do not leave that room with any questions left unasked. And feel free to email whoever the person is that's coordinating the meetings with any follow up questions that you have. But it is your job to be the best advocate for your kid, and so ask the questions that need to be asked so that you are fully informed. I stated what my expectations were for my child, and one key expectation that I had for my child during the IEP meeting was that whatever we come up with as a plan, that we act quickly, because I did not want my child to struggle and lose her joy of learning. That is hugely important to me, that she continues to enjoy the learning and education process. Private evaluations are expensive. I'm here in the DMV area, and I was quoted for a private evaluation somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000 out of pocket because insurance was not going to cover. And then when I was going to, you could also get assessments at the local children's hospital. The waitlist for that was anywhere from six months to over a year. And when you are talking about intervention, you want to get it as quickly as possible before your kid hits certain grade levels. Kids start to notice who's good at math, who's good at science and things like that. And I wanted to make sure that you get the evaluation done so that you can even start the process. So the sooner the better. Keep in mind there are numerous meetings that happen as part of the IEP process, the evaluation process leading into even requesting an evaluation. There are going to be quite a few meetings, and these meetings will last anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. That is a huge chunk of time to take out of your workday. And I say that to speak to the people that are just like, oh, if your child needs an IEP, go get your child an IEP. And it's not always that easy, especially if you are a working parent, to get that time off. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive work environment where I could attend these meetings. Now, back in the day, the IEP meetings used to be in person. Now they are done. Virtual hybrid. So I've participated in both virtual parts of the IEP process, and I've also gone to the school and had in person meetings, so know that that's an available option as well. Another tip that I had is to keep all of the report cards and any assessment that your school or your school district does on your kid because that's also added information to help you pinpoint any academic or learning challenges that might exist. So for me, I was able to say this is an issue that's not an issue. And here are the three years worth of testing and evaluations and diagnostics that y'all done that leads me to say XYZ. And there you have it. Make sure that you're following the YouTube channel and that you're also following me on Instagram. [00:57:31] Speaker B: Thanks for listening to start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow start to finish motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected] if you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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