The Law Office of PATRICIA S. PHELAN

SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW

What Should You Do Once You Receive A Progress Report About Your Child’s IEP Goals?

     Periodically during the school year, you will receive a report about your child’s progress towards meeting his IEP goals.  How often you get one of these reports depends upon what is written in your child’s IEP.  Under the law, you must receive a report of your child’s progress at least as often as every grading period for the general education population.  What should you do once you receive this feedback as to your child’s progress on IEP goals?  ASK YOURSELF:

Do I agree with the report of my child’s progress?

     First, review the progress report and decide if you agree with how the school says your child is progressing on his IEP goals.  If you do NOT agree, document your concerns.  Write a polite letter to your child’s teacher and/or the person responsible for reporting your child’s progress.  Request an informal meeting with a particular teacher or if necessary, your child’s educational team.  Discuss your concerns and try to resolve any inconsistency between how you versus the school feel your child is progressing.  Keep in mind that any inconsistency might not necessarily be a sign of an inaccuracy, but rather, a sign that your child performs differently at school than at home. If necessary, request a formal IEP meeting [either a CSE or CPSE meeting, depending upon your child’s age] to address your concerns.

Is my child not making enough progress?

     Second, look at your child’s progress on his IEP goals.  According to the report, is your child progressing satisfactorily or appropriately on the IEP goals?  If your child has NOT made adequate progress on his goals up to this point, this could be a signal that he needs MORE support than is currently built into his IEP.  Do not wait until the end of the school year to conclude your child needed more support than the CSE initially recommended.  This is a waste of your child’s precious time to learn.  Re-examine your child’s IEP with his teachers.  If necessary, request a formal IEP meeting for this purpose.

Is my child making “too much” progress?

     If your child is having a strong year and progressing well on his goals, that is wonderful.  However, you need to keep an eye out if the progress report says your child already achieved IEP goals, that the IEP team recommended he work on throughout the entire school year.  This could be an indication that the IEP goals originally set were too easy for your child – – in effect, that the IEP team did not set the bar high enough.  

     Indeed, your child’s IEP goals are required under the law to be measurable annual goals.  Recent changes in the law no longer requirethe IEP to contain short-term objectives and benchmarks, unless your child is either a preschool child with a disability, or, your child needs to take a NYS alternative assessment. 

     Keep in mind, however, that the IEP team still can include short-term objectives and benchmarks to measure a child’s progress throughthe school year – – before the year’s end.  If, for instance, by the end of the first quarter of school, your child has achieved a benchmark set for the first quarter, then your child is right on target.  However, my concern is, for example, has your child achieved a goal by the first quarter of the school year that the IEP team thought would take all school year to achieve?  If this is a pattern, it is likely a sign that the goals set on the IEP should be revised.   Indeed, under the new “findings” in the law [Section 1400(c) of the IDEA 2004] we know through research that we can be more effective at educating children with disabilities if, among other things, we set “challenging expectations” for them.  It is therefore important to make sure your child’s annual goals are sufficiently challenging to measure progress your child should make over the entire school year.

Communicate your concerns.  Request an IEP meeting, if necessary.

     In general, speak with your child’s educational team regarding any concerns you have about his IEP goals or the level of services in his IEP.  Always document your concerns in a letter.  If necessary, request an IEP meeting to discuss your concerns and possibly modify your child’s IEP.

Contact us!

     Do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan for assistance including:     

          Support in understanding your child’s IEP;
          Direction in drafting measurable and appropriate annual IEP goals;
          Assistance in effective letter writing to your school district;
          Preparation for your child’s IEP meeting; and 
          Negotiation with your school district for free and appropriate educational services for your child.

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February 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Do You Need A Special Education Attorney?

     As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate.  However, there are times when despite your best efforts, you may need the help of an experienced and educated legal professional to obtain appropriate special educational services for your child.  Located in Rockland County, New York, in close proximity to Westchester, Orange, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, as well as all five boroughs of New York City, The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan is here to provide you this necessary legal guidance.  

     I am an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  This professional and personal experience enable me to understand what you are going through, as well as what is legally and practically necessary to help your child.  Accordingly, rest assured I will relentlessly represent your family’s special needs interests with compassion and zeal. 

     Of course, the most common time people feel the need to contact a special education attorney such as myself is when they disagree with their school district (or depending on the age of their child, the county).  Indeed, I encourage you to contact me as soon as possible if you disagree with the recommendations made by the CPSE [Committee on Preschool Special Education] or CSE [Committee on Special Education] at your child’s IEP [Individualized Education Program] meeting.  Also do not hesitate to contact me if your child is less than 3 years old, and you disagree with the recommendations made by the county at your child’s IFSP [Individualized Family Service Plan] meeting.  I can evaluate and explain  to you your options under the law, and help you to determine the best course of action for your child. 

     While many cases can be resolved without formal litigation, there are those situations where litigation is unavoidable.  If it is appropriate, rest assured I will professionally and diligently represent you and your child throughout all aspects of an impartial due process hearing, and or mediation. 

     However, I do encourage you to be as proactive, organized and collaborative as possible in an effort to avoid litigation.  If at all possible, do not wait until you and your school district/county have come to an impasse, before you seek legal guidance.  Indeed, I recommend you contact me early in the process, to learn, understand and weigh your options under the law. 

     By contacting The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, you will be taking an important step in empowering yourself to become the best advocate you can be for your child.  I can help you understand the special education process, and your basic legal rights.  I can also assist you in writing letters to your school district, when necessary.  In addition to strategic letter writing, I can also teach you other helpful  strategies to enable you to become a more successful advocate for your child. I can help you interpret your child’s evaluations.  If appropriate under the law, I can assist you to seek a free, independent evaluation.  I can help you determine if you should obtain any private evaluations, to better understand your child’s strengths and needs.  I can guide you to work with medical and educational professionals to better understand your child’s present levels of performance, and determine appropriate recommendations for your child’s IEP.  These recommendations might include learning strategies, accommodations, modifications to the general education curriculum and environment, and IEP goals.  I can help you to prepare for IEP meetings, and if appropriate, accompany you to these meetings.

     Please contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan so that I may help you and your school district (or county) work together to find an appropriate educational program for your child.  In my experience, the best outcomes for children come when parents and school districts (or the county) work as cooperatively and collaboratively with one another as possible.     

    Keep in mind that there is no single solution or right course of action to navigating all cases within the special education system.  Just like our children’s individual educational needs, every advocacy case is unique.  Please contact me if you seek the customized, professional , experienced and relentless advocacy that is appropriate for your child’s individual, special educational needs. 

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments