Schools Must Pay For Special Education Evaluations

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As a parent of who has had my share of battles with my school district’s Dept. of Special Education, I have come away with 3 take-home messages that I take with me every time an IEP meeting comes up:

1. The director of a Special Education Dept. is the person who has the least amount of knowledge of how my son thinks, acts, and is capable of achieving.  

2. Whenever possible and if left without opposition, school districts tend to follow the course that causes them to spend the least amount of money to properly educate my child.  

3. I am ultimately responsible for understanding my child’s IEP including the methods used by the district/teachers, and the state and federal laws that govern a child’s right to FAPE.  

So what does this mean? It means not only do I have to know my child, I have to know what the teachers are doing (right or wrong), I have to know what resources are currently available to me as a parent, what my child is legally entitled to under the law and finally, what options above and beyond the school’s purview are better for my child.  I need to know the whole ball of wax.  

To make a long story short, shortly after my son entered in-district Kindergarten from an ABA-based Pre-K, we knew the district’s methodology (TEACHH) was not a good fit for him.  Moreover, the district did not have a formal plan or experience teaching autistic children.  For many years, Mike wound up stuck in a system that not only undid all that he learned previously, but tried to teach him in an ineffective manner; behaviors naturally escalated.  We had to fight for formal BC/BA evaluations and were subjected to off-the-cuff comments suggesting psychiatric disorders as the underlying cause of behavioral outbursts.  We had to fight for, and sometimes provide, TouchMath books that helped him immensely.  We had to fight for a 1:1 aide during school.  It took years to get a psychologist trained in ASD to coordinate an educational plan and related services.  When we decided that Mike would thrive in an out-of-district placement that was ABA-based, we needed to bring an attorney to our CSE meeting to show how committed we were to that goal.  When the time came for his triennial evaluations, they were incomplete; the district still tried to make recommendations based on them, but we saw this as that avenue to have Mike assessed properly by properly trained clinicians.  When the district relented, and approved an evaluation by the Hofstra University Diagnostic and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, those clinicians eventually found in Mike was what we, as his parents always knew: that he had an intelligence that needed to be harnessed and focused in an appropriate setting.  

The rest, as they say, is history.  Sometimes you have to be a real pain in the ass, but it is sooo worth it.-Ed

SCHOOLS MUST PAY FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION EVALUATIONS, COURT RULES

School districts should reimburse parents for independent educational evaluations of students with disabilities, at least in some cases, a federal court is affirming.

Though the U.S. Department of Education has long indicated that parents have the right to an independent opinion at public expense under certain circumstance, the Jefferson County Board of Education in Alabama challenged the rule. The school district declined to reimburse parents named in court papers as Philip and Angie C. after they sought an outside evaluation when they disagreed with the district’s assessment of their child, A.C.

The Jefferson County Schools argued that paying for parent-solicited evaluations goes beyond the scope of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act because the long-standing federal law does not specifically mandate it.

But last week a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found “no merit” to the school district’s argument.

“The regulation at issue here is valid so long as public financing of a parent’s IEE is consistent with the intent of Congress in enacting the IDEA,” the judges wrote in their opinion.

The court ruling notes that federal lawmakers have reauthorized the IDEA numerous times without taking away the right to a taxpayer-financed independent evaluation, which the Education Department implemented in the early days of the IDEA.

http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/11/28/schools-sped-evals-court/16861/

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