Summer 2021 In Brief  Newsletter

by Kevin McGrath, Esq., Chair, Special Education Practice

PARENTS GET READY! August is national “Back to School” month.

Does your child have Special Education Needs? Here are Some Tips to Start the School Year Off Right.

If your son or daughter has special education needs, you know that back-to-school preparations involve much more than purchasing pencils, notebooks, and a few new outfits. As a parent, you have the added responsibility of making sure your child’s special education program is being implemented properly and that the school district is providing all the services to which your child is entitled.

If your child has an individualized education program (IEP), I recommend that you take the following steps before sending them back to school:

  • Be sure to review the IEP and understand exactly what it provides. That way, you can make sure that the school district is implementing the IEP in its entirety throughout the school year. You can also identify any areas that might require revision.
  • Contact teachers to introduce yourself and ensure that they have a copy of your child’s current IEP. Though they may be aware that your child has special education needs, it is hardly a foregone conclusion that every teacher will take the time to review and understand their IEP. A simple introductory phone call or email can change that. It can also let teachers know that you are actively involved in your child’s education and are committed to their success.

If your child does not have an IEP, but you are concerned that they have unaddressed special education needs, you should determine whether they are eligible to receive services.

  • Federal law provides that all children are entitled to a free appropriate public education. What is “appropriate,” however, may vary from student to student – particularly for students with disabilities.
  • If a student’s disability has a substantial impact on learning or behavior, he or she may be entitled to free special education services, including the creation of a personalized IEP.
  • To be clear, not every child is entitled to receive special education services, and having a diagnosed disability does not guarantee eligibility. The inquiry is much more fact specific and requires the school district to perform a comprehensive evaluation.

The bottom line is this: the beginning of the school year presents a great opportunity to evaluate your child’s educational programming and ensure that he or she is set up for success in the months to come.  As an attorney and former public school teacher, I am in a unique position to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact me (215-661-0400 or kmcgrath@hrmml.com).