The placement dilemma

When you know your child requires a different type of placement than she’s in currently, it’s usually a hard sell to the school team.  In my practice, as often as people seek outplacements, they also seek meaningful inclusion (usually with 1:1 paraprofessionals).  I work with many children with autism and Down Syndrome and the best advice I give is to remind parents and teams to “think outside of the box”.  Just because something has not been done in a district before, does not mean it can’t be tried.  Maybe they’ve never used an inclusion consultant, but agree to hire one to support their staff (and your child).

Maybe the school has gone above and beyond to meet the child’s needs in inclusion (what has been identified as their Least Restrictive Environment- LRE) and the student is not not accessing learning and has regressed.  No one’s fault,  but situations like this occur where simple “band-aids” can’t fix the problems with the program.

As a parent, what do you need to get an outplacement?  If you hire an advocate as your “home team” resource, she will be able to work with you, your child, their teachers and therapists, outside evaluators and therapists and put together the information needed to show the school district it’s reasonable and need that your child’s placement change.  Hiring an advocate should take stress away from the parent(s) and allow us to work with all parties in executing a plan to most appropriately serve your child.  A good advocate will want to meet your son or daughter, observe them in school (not as a report writer), review records, and speak to providers and parents.  It gives advocates the “big picture” and without those steps, it’s difficult to do my job.

The most important piece of a outplacement roadmap is a report (current) by a well respect independent evaluator in your child’s disability.  It could be a neuropsychologist, but it can also be an excellent BCBA, perhaps a professor of Special Education, an expert in the field of your child’s disability.  Without an independent observer on board, except if there are major safety issues for your child or others, or if there are severe medical complexities at play, outplacement truly is a long process.

What I’ve learned over the years is most districts want what your child needs; the team is filled with kind, smart, and compassionate members.  No one wants to acknowledge a child has regressed or is struggling mightily.  They may not know what to say in a team meeting.  Parents can get emotional.  It’s up to me as the advocate to keep the conversation moving and only about the student. (My biggest tip is bring a framed picture of your child to the table and put it up in front of you for all to see why the team is convened).  When they involve lawyers or hire an outside expert to come in and show their program is appropriate and your child is making progress commensurate with their abilities, you have to be patient and work with the team.

Careful planning (remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint) will contribute to best outcomes for kids.  Having experts evaluate your child as needed outside of school is also critically important.

In this “IEP Season” I hope you are able to achieve the goal you’ve set for your son or daughter, be it inclusion with support or a more specialized setting.  Spring brings many small miracles to many families who advocate for their kids because they love them.

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