Basic Rights in Special Education
Whether you've had a child on an IEP for a while or you're new to the IEP process, knowing your basic rights is an important element when developing an IEP. All school districts in Massachusetts are required to host a Basic Rights in Special Education workshop every school calendar year. CPS and CCRSD hosted their workshop in December but don't worry if you missed it. You can find a listing of workshops hosted by other school districts that you can attend. We've also posted the handouts from our workshop on our website. Another great way to get this information is through the Federation for Children with Special Needs. They have a webinar available in several languages. Even though we have attended many Basic Rights Workshops in the past, we've found that we learn something new every time we go. We encourage you to attend an upcoming workshop.
Online IEP Resources
While there are many online resources to inform you about creating an IEP, we have our favorites and ones we tend to go to first. Understood.org and Wrights Law are two of them. Understood is a fantastic resource for learning and attention issues and they have a wealth of information on creating a SMART IEP (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time-bound) for you child. They also have a checklist of questions to help you and the other members of your child's team to make sure your child’s goals provide the appropriate support. Wrights Law is a reliable source for special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities. On their website you will find links to books, training, a law library, and a plethora of topics from A-Z.
Looking for some IEP tips? ADDitudemag.com and the National Center for Learning Disabilities provide some great ones like requesting a draft version of the IEP prior to the team meeting for you to review and asking a friend or family member to come with you to act as a second set of ears and to take notes.
What About Special Education Advocates?
A Special Education Advocate can help you when you are looking for guidance, feeling confused, overwhelmed, or when you and your district don't agree. Advocates vary in their experience, training, and areas of expertise. Here are some basic guidelines from AANE for choosing an advocate for your child. AANE also offers Parent Coaching and IEP Review programs. The Federation for Children with Special Needs offers a guide to selecting an advocate. You can also contact them and ask to speak to an Information Specialist who can help you find an advocate in your area. Finally, Special Needs Advocacy Network (SPaN) advocates, educational consultants, and other professionals are available to work with families, schools, and individuals.