Helping a Child With Special Needs

Often parents of special needs students contact The Center for Education Reform (CER) with their concerns about special education and their children, and although CER does not focus on these issues, we can offer a little advice and send you in the right direction.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

When you or your school suspect that your child is in need of special education services, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be designed, usually by teachers, parents and other experienced school personnel.

The IEP should provide a detailed picture of the services your child will receive, and this is usually decided at what is know as an IEP conference. IEPs differ from state to state, district to district and even sometimes school to school, so if you move or choose a new school, your child, no matter how severe and obvious the disability, will need to be tested again and a new IEP designed. Sometimes you can use your original IEP as a good starting point.

Both conventional public schools and charter schools must provide special education services. Districts usually only approve an IEP that fits the criteria of the services they have available through their district, but depending on your child's IEP, you might be eligible to receive services at another school, including private schools, with services that suit the IEP better.

If you find that you are not happy with the IEP, you as a parent are not obligated to sign an agreement, and your child will still receive the special education services that the school recommends. If you are not pleased with the IEP, you can appeal it to a higher board.

Tips for your IEP conference

  • Goals and objectives should be included in the IEP. Parents can have their children tested independently and can present the results at the IEP conference to help advocate for specific services the parents wish to request.

  • Get a copy of all of the paperwork reviewed at the IEP conference, including a list of all of the participants of the conference.

  • Always ask questions about the services being suggested.

  • It is recommended that a parent have someone with them during the IEP conference. Maybe another parent that has been through the same experience or an outside specialist that administered the independent testing.

Special Education Resources

Regardless of your child's disability, you need to remember that as a parent, you must not waiver from advocating for the best educational opportunities available. If you would like to learn more about getting active around education issues, contact The Center for Education Reform at 1-800-521-2118, or visit the award-winning website.