Now that your child’s IEP is complete, what happens next?
Your child now attends a public pre-school, kindergarten, or elementary school. The school knows you child has an IEP. Now, you need to be sure that your child is receiving his or her services since those services will no longer take place in your home (where you know they’re happening). You need to make sure the school is following ALL of the requirements of your child’s IEP.
What can you do? How can you check up on your child’s services?
We asked to observe a class or two as well as the school’s in-house speech therapy.
Let me mention some possibly disturbing information… This didn’t happen to us, but I have heard from other parents that their school fought to keep the parents from visiting and observing their child’s classroom and speech therapy. I found this upsetting. I have said to these parents, “Push the issue!” You can call an IEP and demand it. I believe it is your right to observe your child in school.
As a parent of a special needs child, I feel it is absurd that a parent has been denied access to observe their own child at school. You have that right! You have the right to make sure the details of your child’s IEP are being carried out on a daily basis. If the school continues to balk, talk to an advocate and ask them to ask the school. Or, call an IEP or mention to the school that you’re considering talking a lawyer. They might change their minds.
We visited the school to observe two classes as well as the in-house speech. After the IEP, we knew we had accepted a decrease in the number of hours for speech therapy but a few other things surprised me.
First, we did notice a drop in the quality of services provided by the school district. I’m not trying to slam school districts, however, it is my opinion that their specialists are not always on an equal professional level with the therapists we had experienced from outside facilities. I have brought up this issue with other parents who agree with my opinion. I’m not one hundred percent sure how to explain this but my best guess is that school districts simply cannot offer salaries as high as private facilities. This is common in other fields as well. Attorneys, for example, typically earn more in private practice as opposed to working for a government agency.
Speech therapy for our child went from two 1 hour sessions per week to two 1/2 hour sessions per week. With that in mind, I observed our child’s assigned speech therapist. I immediately noticed that it took her three minutes to pick up our child from his classroom and then she left four minutes before the end of his scheduled session to return him to the classroom.
I questioned the loss of seven minutes. In a 30 minute session, the loss of seven minutes is significant to me.
Additionally, I felt this speech therapist simply wasn’t connecting well with our child. I had observed two sessions and was experienced enough by this time to realize that this match just wasn’t working. I suggested a change to the school person in charge of my child’s IEP.
The following year we lucked out when the school district sent our child to his home elementary school to have his speech sessions with their speech therapist. Perhaps this happened because I had diligently watched over his speech therapy sessions at the pre-school. I never knew how it happened but it was a stroke of luck because the elementary school speech therapist is excellent (our child still has two weekly sessions with her).
The second thing I discovered while visiting to observe my child’s services was even more of a problem. In our area, there are large numbers of Caucasians, Asians, and Armenians. Our child’s teacher was Armenian. This wouldn’t have been a problem except I couldn’t even understand her. I had trouble. I asked myself, if I have trouble, how was my special needs-challenged child expected to work around such a language barrier?
When our child’s second full year came, the school district did not have an inclusion spot in the age-appropriate class available for our child and they wanted to hold him back in the class with the Armenian teacher. We balked immediately. We had allowed him to attend for one and a half years, but now he was going to be bored (he was way ahead of the work in that class) and he was still not going to be taught by a teacher he could understand. He had had a tough time relating to her and only succeeded in that class, in our opinion, because of his behavioral aide.
What did I learn?
I learned we never would have known about these issues if I didn’t go to the school and observe what was really happening. I had to make sure the school was providing my child’s IEP requirements and to do that, I had to physically go and see for myself. On a side note, we did receive reports from the behavioral aide during this time, but she wasn’t always at the school (she was only contracted for three of the five hours a day).
I had also learned the differences between services provided by private entities verses school-provided services and was able to witness a therapist that was not a good match for my child as well as a teacher that created a language barrier.
My advice is to do anything you can to visit your child’s school and see for yourself. It is your responsibility to see if your child’s IEP is being carried out to your satisfaction. If it’s not, talk to the school officials, and don’t forget you can always call an IEP to settle issues.
Another suggestion is if your child has an aide, see if that person will communicate with you through a communication log. I suggest you make this log with the aide. If made together, the aide can then confirm that your child attends his IEP-mandated speech on Wednesdays or OT on Thursdays. They can also tell you if your child is getting enough regulation breaks during the day. You can put in the log whatever you want.
This is your child’s IEP and your child has the right to have all of the requirements of that IEP fulfilled on a daily basis. This is not only important for your child, it should be important to you as well. If a school district is not fulfilling their legal responsibility, since an IEP is a legal document, it is only hurting your family.
In my next blog “Our First School District Fight,” I will elaborate more on how and why we fought to NOT have our four-year-old child held back in a classroom of three-year-olds being taught by a teacher with a language barrier.