The Special Education Continuum Explained: How to Determine the Best Placement for your Child-Part 2

(Please read background post here)

What is the best class for my child?

This is the most common question that I hear from parents who are getting ready to have a Turning 3* or a Turning 5** IEP meeting.  It is also a common concern for parents whose children have been recently diagnosed and will be in a similar situation.  The truth is, the right placement depends on your child’s needs, and your child’s needs should be at the heart of every IEP meeting that will result in a recommendation for placement for any student.

“But, wait”!  You may say.  “My child has just been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome.  Doesn’t that mean that he will need a much more restrictive environment, like perhaps a 12.1.4 self-contained class”?  Not necessarily.  Having a diagnosis does not necessarily mean that the student will AUTOMATICALLY be placed in a certain type of setting.  The diagnosis, or educational label, may inform the team and the providers as to what methods, strategies, and techniques may be useful for your child to learn optimally, but labels do not determine specific needs for every child. Neither can a diagnosis determine how much contact your child will have with his/her typically developing peers. 

Ideally, the IEP team at your child’s school (or at the regional Committee of Special Education) will have conducted an evaluation that covers every area of your child’s development.  This evaluation will help determine specific needs in the different domains, such as the cognitive, social, affective, and language domains.  You should make sure that the team that evaluated your child explains what was observed and what this would mean for assessing your child’s recommendation.  Please remember that you are also an integral part of the IEP team, and your feedback will provide invaluable input and will help the team determine what is best in your child’s case.

What happens if members of the team disagree on what recommendation to make?  Of course, in an unrealistic world all members of all teams agree on everything.  Of course, this is not a good way to grow.  We do well when we reveal our ideas and share them.  We may come up with better scenarios.  As a parent, do not be hesitant to share what you think and feel!  It is important! 

What happens if no matter what is said, the team does not agree with the parent?  There are certain resources to pursue in this case.  We will explore these and more in Part 3.  Stay tuned!

As always, if you have questions, drop me a note.

Best Placement Options
We all benefit when our special loved ones experience the best educational placement!
  • Turning 3 refers to an IEP meeting carried out when the child ages out of the Early Intervention Program and is ready to join preschoolers.
  • Turning 5 refers to an IEP meeting carried out when the child ages out of preschool and is ready to join elementary school peers.

I referred my child for an IEP, now what?

You have just made a very difficult decision: You have decided that your child may do better in school, and perhaps in other areas of life, if a special plan is put into place to help him/her achieve academically. Now that this decision has been made, and you are done writing the letter that will determine your child’s future, what do you do?
For starters, give yourself a pat on the back. There will be many decisions that you will be faced with in the future, many difficult decisions, and this is just one of them. Once you have taken some time to do this, realize that you need to vigilantly keep track of how the evaluation proceeds. The time that elapses between referral and IEP should not be more than sixty days.
The evaluation process will consist of a few steps, but most importantly, this is a time for the team (more on the “team” later) to start assessment planning to figure out what is needed in terms of assessment. Typically, this assessment will include a social history report (generally done by a social worker interviewing the parent), a Psychosocial assessment (typically performed by a school psychologist during school hours), and classroom observations. These evaluations will determine “eligibility,” which means whether a student qualifies for special education services, or not. What determines this? Three criteria are used: 1) The student must have a disability, 2) The disability must have an impact in the student’s learning, 3) This disability/impact cannot be addressed in the general education classroom.
As a parent, this process can be overwhelming. It can also be nerve-wrecking. It is difficult to stay calm and collected when you don’t know what decision will be made, and worse yet, wonder whether the decision that is made is the best for your child. As a parent though, you have the right to ask questions, follow up, express your opinion, and be a very active member of this evaluation. You can approach the social worker, the school psychologist, and even the teacher/s and school administrators with your questions or concerns. The purpose of the evaluation is to come up with the strongest plan possible, and careful planning is very important. Your role is important!
As always, if you have any questions or you just want to share your experience, do not hesitate to write me a note!

Love,
Dr. Klimek