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How an IEP or 504 Advocate Can Help In and Out of Meetings

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Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program designed to guarantee that an elementary or secondary school student with a legally recognized disability receives customized teaching and related services.

 

“An Individualized Education Program” (IEP) describes the educational services that a student will receive as part of their special education plan at a school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IEPs are typically used for kids who have proven to have learning gaps above what would be expected based on a normal curve of development. Students receive evaluations, IEPs and services for free. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a team-developed learning plan that addresses these gaps. Parents are one of the most important participants in the meeting.

 

IEPs, can be used in situations where the gap is predicted, such as when a student will have trouble keeping up due to constant illness, absences, or when the child suffers from a specific learning disability, has a hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, a speech impediment or emotional disturbance that requires modifications and/or accommodations in the curriculum.  IEPs are protected under federal laws under IDEA and can not be changed or modified without the parents consent.



504 Plan

The 504 plan is designed to guarantee that students and adults with disabilities who have been legally diagnosed with a learning impediment will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and give students access to the same education their peers are getting in accommodations in their elementary and secondary schools institutions that would permit them to access and succeed in their educational environment. 

These plans are covered by Section  504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights statute that forbids discrimination against persons with disabilities in federally funded institutions like schools.

As a general rule, 504 plans target academic accommodations without changing the curriculum, but  can also be extended to non-academic areas (such as music) and extracurricular activities, allowing the student to fully participate in the school experience. 

In addition to college, the 504 plan may be used in the workplace. 504 plans are not as comprehensive and detailed as IEPs, and they do not cover all of the topics included in IEPs. A 504 plan can be designed without a parent present and should indicate who is responsible for it. The strategy should also contain dates for re-evaluation.

Special Education Advocate

The role of a special education advocate is to speak on behalf of a child and the family in order to get the special education services needed for the students specific needs. The advocate will go to battle with parents to ensure collaboration with district staff and parents are in action. The advocate assists parents in the designing of the students plan and can be an active IEP team member

Some advocates provide their services for free, while others charge a fee. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have various degrees of expertise and training.

The services of special education advocates can be particularly beneficial to families who are having difficulties comprehending special education laws and procedures or who are having difficulty receiving assistance for their child/children from the school and the district.

Parents of children with learning disabilities are assisted by a Special Education Advocate (SEA).

While some children’s needs are known through a medical diagnosis. their parents seek advocacy support for their child falling behind in their education or inability to stay still or focus and desire to uncover what may be hurting their child’s learning abilities. “Child Find”is when a student is having a learning impediment and the teacher or school staff is to express these concerns by offering parents an assessment plan for their child. The parents have a right to be notified when their child is evaluated or identified with a disability. They also have the right to see all of their child’s records. Parent’s can dispute the 504 or IEP plan. The 504 process has fewer protections than the special education process. But families can still plan an important role by staying involved and making sure kids with disabilities get the same education as kids who don’t. The advocate will assist you in every step of the way.

Some learning disabilities include autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), behavioral issues and emotional disorders (BDI), and physical disabilities (chronic diseases). The IEP plan can offer an Individualized Health Plan, a Behavior Intervention Plan and much more accommodations. The IEP plans include measurable goals for students and are constantly monitored and date is collected for accountability purposes. The 504 plan does not include these details and is helpful for students with less needs.

Responsibilities of Advocates in IEP meetings

Every child needs an adequate and excellent education that qualifies them for gainful work, further education, and life-long learning, in addition to being fully integrated into their local communities.

 

Effective educational programs for children with disabilities rely on parents and educators working together on an equal basis to achieve success. 

 

To guarantee that they have the chance to effectively engage in their child’s education, many parents seek the aid of someone with experience and expertise in special education procedures and is knowledgeable with disabilities and learning needs. This may be a stressful scenario for parents to deal with on their own.  The advocate will provide these services, accompany you in meetings, offer writing tools and train parents. 

#1 Help Parents

Advocates for special education work with parents to help them understand their rights and participate in the process.

#2 Review reports

The advocate, with your authorization, will review your students educational records.  In addition to reviewing and explaining the educational records, an advocate will provide you with details on an assessment plan, assessment reports, goals, individualized education plans (IEPs) and progress reports for your child.

The advocate will review records prior to and after IEP and 504 sessions, and will verify the correctness and completeness of special education documentation.

#3 Give suggestions

An advocate will provide information throughout the process of an IEP and 504 plan.

#4 Help in writing objectives

When it comes to writing IEP goals and objectives, a special education advocate may assist parents by suggesting suitable supports and accommodations.

#5 Ask questions

Even if you’ve attended IEP meetings in the past, they can be stressful and perplexing at certain points in the process. When it comes to advocating on behalf of your child, asking questions is crucial.

At this time advocates ask why, when, and how questions on behalf of parents.

#6 Discuss child’s performance

The IEP team meets to discuss the child’s current performance in several areas. This involves a thorough examination of all reports and evaluations.

A discussion between the child’s instructors and service providers takes place on what they’ve seen about his or her performance.

At this time the advocate considers discussing the child’s qualities and weaknesses, as well as any worries he has about them.

#7 Teach Advocacy

One of the most important things that a special education advocate can do for you is to educate you on how to be a better and more successful advocate on behalf of your child.

#8 Solve disputes

The district and parent may not always agree.  Advocates for special education help parents to comprehend the dispute resolution process and can assist in determining whether or not a case has merit. Upon request, they can also connect parents to a special education attorney.

Benefits for having an advocate

Following are the benefits of having an advocate for IEP and 504 plan:

#1 Review IEP

There are a few things to keep in mind while receiving your child’s Individualized Education Plan following the initial consultation.

A child advocate comes in handy when this isn’t the case. They can assist you in revising the IEP and presenting any modifications to the school or district for further consideration.

#2 Teach new terms

For those who don’t know the special education terminology or how to speak  the language, they may find themselves drowning in a sea of acronyms. 

 

If parents don’t have the necessary training on acronyms such as IEP, FAPE, OD, SLD, or IFSP, it might become complicated. Children’s rights advocates can assist them to decipher these words, giving them more influence in the long run.

#3 Emotional support

Talking about a child’s special needs can be emotionally draining. An initial IEP meeting with a child advocate can ease the tension while discussing the best course of action for the kid’s schooling.

Parents may not be able to obtain an impartial perspective on schooling, and they will only address the child’s ongoing requirements without letting emotions get in the way of the issue. An Advocate will assist you and provide you the support you need.

#4 Helps in testing

It is common for parents to be provided with the results and diagnosis reports of multiple trained specialists during the initial IEP meeting, but they may not always be able to comprehend these findings. 

To be able to grasp the language of those who administer the tests, they must have studied for a long time. 

It is possible to work with a special education child advocate to understand the test findings in a way that eliminates any uncertainty moving ahead in the process.

#5 Reduce parents burden

During an IEP meeting, parents must wear several hats, just as they do throughout the day. As a parent they have to be creative thinkers, child advocates, listeners, and much more. To perform all of these things properly might seem difficult, which can add to their irritation throughout the meeting.

 

There’s no better way to relieve the pressure of juggling all of the responsibilities than to have a special education child advocate with you at the meeting. Advocacy is the act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person.

Stay empowerED,
Nicole

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