This week's tutorial is for any of you parents who have a child with an IEP, It will show you how to navigate an IEP and if you have a dispute, how to do so properly and to your child's advantage.
IEP in place with the public school system and at the review and renew this year I found a few discrepancies(that's the start of the saga). The saga has continued into the summer, yay </sarcasm>. In addition to filing a claim of insurance fraud with the Attorney General's office I've had to file a complaint with the PA Dept. of Education as well.
What we were up against was this:
A therapist that...
- was not competent.
- refused to communicate with us about the speech sessions.
- was fraudulently billing medicaid.
- thought it was therapy as long as she was in the room.
- was cheating a child out of 10 minutes of therapy in each session.
- was using a verbal child as a tool to give therapy to 4 other non-verbal autistic boys.
A Director of Special Education that:
- thinks it's ok to break the law as long as you don't mean it (or get caught).
- refused outright to tell any of the other parents that were involved in the fraudulent billings (20+ therapists in the end, or so we were told, no idea the number of students)
- refused to switch the therapist for another one.
- thought what the therapist was doing was ok, she just used poor language choices to 'splain it to me
- thought we would go away if she delayed and denied enough things.
- sends out legal documents she wants us to sign with incorrect names on them, essentially voiding the document and ending a dispute.
First things first. When your child has an IEP never go to an IEP meeting alone. Don't put yourself at a disadvantage, especially if you're new to the process. You are allowed to dictate who attends these meetings, if you want an advocate there, bring one. Bring ten if you want, it's your call. They can be anyone, from your BFF to your family doc. And by the love of all things holy, get EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING in writing.
If you do not agree with any part of the IEP sign nothing other than the paper stating you were there. No matter what anyone tells you, you don't have to do squat at the meeting other than say you were there.
Be very specific about your disagreements. If you don't feel that the services they are offering are enough, or are enough time to be helpful, say so. If they refuse anything additional tell them you will dispute it and have your child independently evaluated for whatever service it is. If that evaluation doesn't match theirs you will take it to mediation.
If they are offering a service you don't think your child needs, hear them out. But, you know your child best. Most of these people only see your child once, for 20 minutes and that is what they are basing their evaluation on.
At the end of the IEP meeting you should either be okay with what they are offering, or have a plan in place with the IEP team to rewrite certain sections as per your child's needs. Again, do not sign off on the IEP until it reads the way you want it to.
Once that IEP is signed you, your child and the school district are obligated to follow it, to the letter. I'd like to believe that the world is an ideal place, but it isn't. You should check on the IEP at least twice a year. Drop by for a session with the therapists, if your child has an aide, observe them. Be involved, know what is going on. Speak with their classroom teachers. Generally if something hinky is going on, they'll find a way to tell you.
If you get to the point of having to do what we did. It's actually pretty easy. In PA you report insurance fraud, or suspected cases of it to the Attorney General's Office. You should have everything you can documented. I can't state that enough here. I do most of my talking with the school via email, so I have all of it, or I take copious notes while I'm on speaker phone with another person there. Then you just submit all your documentation to the agent.
Should you have to go to mediation, or file a complaint that the IEP was not followed, here is what you do:
Get your Procedural Safeguards notice. The school has to provide you one at the IEP by law. In there it will tell you who to contact. In PA it's the Department of Education. They have a nifty form, you fill it out and send it in. Their agents then call you and take it from there.
If you have any questions, or not sure what you're allowed under the laws and just want someone to answer a few legal questions for you there are advocacy agencies in each state to do just that. In PA it's the Disability Rights Network They will also help you out with finding an advocate for IEP's if you need one.
Do not feel as though you are all alone when navigating IEP's and the school system. You're not. You just need to know who to ask for help.
To quote Dumbledore “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”