Parent's Guide to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP/CSE):
- What is the Committee on Special Education (CSE)?
- What is my role?
- What is an IEP?
- Can I bring someone with me?
- What if I don't agree with the IEP?
- What is Least Restrictive Environment?
What is a CSE?The Committee on Special Education (CSE) is the committee which meets to determine the classification, needs and services for your child. The committee will have at least:
- The parents of the preschool child.
- Your child, if appropriate.
- At least one of your child's regular education teachers if your child is or may be participating in a regular education environment.
- At least one of your child's special education teachers or therapists.
- A school psychologist.
- A representative from the school district who will act as the Committee Chairperson. The school representative must be qualified and knowledgable in special education.
- A school physician if you or the school requests it in writing at least 72 hours before to the meeting.
- An additional parent who has a child in an existing special preschool program. You can request that this additional parent not be present.
- Someone who can explain evaluation results.
- Anyone with special knowledge or expertise regarding your child who the school district or you think should be at the meeting.
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What is my role?Consider yourself the most important person at The Committee on Special Education meeting. You are the one who will have ONLY your child's best interests in mind.
Quite often the school representative will try to dominate the meeting and try to bully you into accepting what he/she thinks is right for your child. They may try to intimidate you with their education and experience and try to ignore or dismiss your opinions. It is common for them to come to the meeting with your child's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) already completed and present it to you as the only possible alternative.
These tactics can be difficult for you to overcome. By preparing for the meeting well ahead of time, however, you can make your voice be heard. To prepare for the meeting, follow these steps:
- Review your child's past evaluations and plans.
- Make notes of what you think has worked, and what you think has not worked in the past.
- Make a list of services you think should be increased, decreased, dropped or added, and write out the reasons why.
- Speak with parents of children who are in, or have been in, the same programs your child may be going into. Make written notes of what they say is good and bad about each program, service or provider.
- Make notes of what evaluations you disagree with, and why, and what evaluations you think should be done and why they would show how your child would benefit from other or additional services or programs.
- Get copies of any articles that show how helpful services you think your child should have would be. The Internet is a great source for these types of articles and will help you to deal with a teacher's claim that they know something better than you.
- Make an outline of every point you want to cover at the meeting. This should include every service, placement or change you want for your child.
- Explain each point you want to make to as many people as possible before the day of the meeting. This will give you valuable practice in making your points clear. You will also find at the meeting that this will make you much more comfortable in expressing you thoughts.
- At the meeting itself, organize your papers so that you can get to each point easily. Always keep your outline directly in front of you and check off each point as it is finished. If you do not feel that the discussion on a point should be closed, do not check it off - just keep pushing the point. After you refer to other documents or notes, or the school covers some other point, go right back to your outline to make sure that every point is completely covered.
- If you have any concern about speaking up in the meeting, bring an advocate or lawyer with you.
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What is an IEP?An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a written statement of the classification, needs, services, goals and accountability for your child for the entire school year. It is essentially a legally required contract between the school district and you, regarding your child. It contains exactly what the school district is required to do and how their performance should be measured. Your child will not receive any accommodation or service that is not specifically listed in his/her's IEP!
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Can I bring someone with me?You can always bring someone to the meeting with you. This could be an expert who will explain some aspect of your child that the Committee needs to understand, an advocate who is more familiar with the process and will walk you through it or an Attorney if you think the school district has failed to provide your child with a free appropriate education (FAPE). If you plan on bringing an advocate (especially a Lawyer), alert the school district in advance as often they will want to bring their own Lawyer to the meeting.
What if I don't agree with the IEP?It is extremely important that you make sure that your child's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) properly takes care of your child's needs. If you disagree with the plan, you can try to get it modified in writing with the school district's agreement or you can demand a new Committee on Special Education (CSE). You may need to seek an independent evaluation or get your own expert to convince the Committee on Special Education to modify your child's Individualized Educational Plan.
If you can not come to an agreement with the school, then you can pursue a due process hearing.
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What is least restrictive environment?Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) means that your child should be placed in special classes, separate schools or other designated removall from the general educational environment only when his/her disability is such that even with the use of aids and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved. Any time services are not provided to your child in the general education setting, an explanation of the extent, if any, to which your child will not participate in general education programs must be provided in his/her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
The concept of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) supports the idea that special education is a service, not a place. Districts should have specific practices and procedures in place regarding Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), describing how responsibilities are carried out within the district.
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