Providing advocate services for children
              with special needs.
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Is your child in need of special services in school? Is he/she struggling? Has he/she dropped in grades? Is she/he withdrawing from others? Are they just not going to school due to not getting up? Has your child been suspended from school for over 10 days during a school year? Has your child been expelled from a school? Perhaps you need help.

Do you know your Child's rights?
There are many laws and regulations that protect your children's rights. A Referral from our staff can be invaluable to your child.

Who Can Refer A Child For Help?
It can be the parents, caregiver, teacher, social worker, physician - any one who has concerns about a child.

As the Referral's parents you ask for the evaluation, or a teacher can request a referral, but not without your consent. You must give consent first for the evaluations to be done. The school has to respond within 10 days and the evaluation is to be completed and a team meeting within 45 school days from the written consent or request for and evaluation. For emergency evaluations it's 15 days. If the parents are not happy with the evaluation or its conclusions they can ask for independent evaluation.

Who pays for Independent evaluations?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) the parent pays for the evaluation unless the school has approved the evaluation and stated they would pay. It depends on the state you are from and their State Law. Example: in Massachusetts under 766 State Laws the school district pays for the evaluation. In NH the parent pays for the evaluation. Sometime you can get your insurance company to pay if the testing is done by an approved insurance person. In most cases the insurance company will not pay unless it is done by a hospital such as Mass General, Children and so on. They know how to bill the insurance companies.

What is next?
A team meeting with school personnel is done after all evaluations are in. You, the parents, may invite anyone to attend. Present should be a special education person, teacher(s) and the evaluators, as well as other school staff. You are a Team and you must work as a Team. At times it may be difficult, because by this time, often your child has been skipped over and big problems/issues have arisen. Remain calm. An Advocate can usually help. Find someone who will go in and work as a Team member on your behalf.

Who gets special services?
Almost all children with behavioral, emotional, physical, or learning disabilities qualify for extra assistance. Also, children who are struggling academically or socially or drop in grades, withdrawing from others and acting out, are typically eligible for special services.

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
Acting upon evaluations, the Team meets to develop a unique Education Program for your child. You are the key team member, so make a list of all your child's goals and objectives. Examples: what does your child struggle with? What help would you like to see provided for your child? Be involved. Express your concerns; don't let the team do the Individualized Education Program without you. If they do and they use this as a working document then go over it and request changes it if it does not meet your child's needs. No one knows your child better than you.

Will I have time to digest the document?
Sure. Take the IEP home and go over it and, decide if all of your issues are addressed. Have they left things out? You can accept or reject plan components individually, then you must sign the IEP and return it. The final decision is yours, the parent.

Is the program a team effort?
Yes so work together. You, the parent, are always a key player on this team. If you are not happy make sure you let the team know in a positive way, not a negative way. Putting up a wall is typically counterproductive. Try to work as a team.

Can the IEP be changed or reviewed as time goes forward?
The plan is reviewed annually, and new evaluations are done every 3 years while the child is receiving services through IEP or 504 plan at school. You, the parent, can request it be done sooner if the child is struggling. It is a demanding job to monitor and insure the progress of your child, but one that is well worth the effort.

What if I am not satisfied?
If the parents are not happy with what is going on and you have met with the school and the school does not agree with you, then you can take your concerns to mediation. This is voluntary. Work to try to get this problem resolved before the hearing. If that does not work you take it to a higher level.

Is there an appeals process?
If you, the parent, don't agree with the school's finding, you can appeal to the Bureau of Special Education (BSEA). You may make this request at any time.

How should I prepare for the Hearing?
You can go to the hearing but we strongly recommended that you have an Attorney or Advocate present with you. Some advocates do hearings and some don't. I, as an advocate, try to be there to support you, but we can't be attorneys. It truly depends on each and every advocate and how they feel.

Are there deadlines?
There are deadlines for all facets of the appeals process. Each state is different and you will need to check with your state. The federal law, IDEA is set with time lines as well. If your state law precedes the IDEA law then you must adhere to the state law. Example, if your state law says you have 30 days to review the IEP and IDEA says only 15 days you go with the best law that helps you. Check the Links page for more information.

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