Top Ten Tips for Parents

1. Know Your Rights: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that guarantees a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. It is important for parents and educators to understand the rights and protections IDEA provides.

2. Understand the Evaluation Process: IDEA requires that schools evaluate a student’s special education needs before providing any services. Parents should be aware of the evaluation process, including the types of tests that might be conducted and who may be involved.

3. Be an Active Participant: Parents should be actively involved in the IEP process and in their child’s education. This includes attending IEP meetings, staying informed about their child’s progress, and advocating for their child’s needs.

4. Have Realistic Expectations: Parents should be realistic about the services that their child may receive. It is important to remember that an IEP should be tailored to meet the individual needs of the student and that it may take some time to determine the appropriate services for the student.

5. Know Your State’s Policies: Each state has its own policies and procedures for special education. Parents should familiarize themselves with their state’s policies prior to any IEP meetings.

6. Advocate for Appropriate Services: Parents should be prepared to advocate for appropriate services for their child. This includes understanding the types of services that are available, negotiating with the school if necessary, and ensuring that the IEP reflects the needs of the student.

7. Document Everything: Parents should keep detailed records of any communication with the school, including emails, phone calls, and IEP meetings.

8. Have a Plan: Parents should have a plan in place for how to handle any disagreements that arise during the IEP process. Always start with the local school district and see if there is a way to work this out. If that does not work, consider having an advocate present at IEP meetings, consulting with an attorney, or filing a complaint.

9. Use Appropriate Language: It is important to use respectful language when communicating with school personnel. Parents should avoid using words like “demand” or “threaten” when discussing their child’s needs.

10. Seek Legal Assistance: If parents have exhausted all other options and still feel like their child’s needs are not being met, they may consider consulting an attorney. An attorney can help parents understand their rights and ensure that the school is following applicable laws.

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