Predetermination in Special Education – What Can You Do About It?

Are you the parent of a child with autism, learning disability, or a physical disability that has been struggling to get your child an appropriate special education? Do you think that special education personnel come to Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings already decided about your child’s placement or needed services? This article will be discussing predetermination, special education, and ways to overcome this.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that a child has the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Parents have the right to be involved in all decisions made for their child’s education. Special education personnel may bring a draft IEP to the meeting, but only if they are willing to change the IEP to allow parental input.

Predetermination is defined as school personnel making unilateral decisions about a child before the IEP meeting, without parental input, and refusing to listen to parental input during the meeting. Or school district personnel presenting a take it or leave it IEP. If a parent brings information that a child needs a particular related or special education service and evidence that the child needs it, school district personnel are required to at least “consider” the input. The problem is that many special education personnel have already decided or predetermined what placement or services will be offered.

In a well know predetermination case the court found that a school district had an unofficial policy of denying all requests for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) programs; despite evidence that a child required it. In this case the parents paid for a private ABA program in which the child made tremendous progress. The school district was excited about the child’s progress until the parents asked for reimbursement; then they refused to pay. The court found that the school district would not listen to the parents or their experts, about the child’s need for ABA. This was predetermination and the courts ruled that the parents had the right to reimbursement for the private ABA program.

In another predetermination case the court found that despite evidence that a child was making great progress at a private school, and continued to need the services that the private school offered, the school district only placed the child in the private school because they were working on a plan to transition him to a district based placement. They refused to listen to the parent or the parents experts, that the child needed to continue to attend the private school to receive FAPE. The court determined that this was predetermination; and the child was able to continue at the private school at public expense.

It is my opinion that predetermination occurs when a school district makes unilateral decisions about a child’s education despite evidence to the contrary, and refuses meaningful parental input. Also when a take it or leave it IEP is presented to parents.

How to overcome predetermination:

1. Bring documentation of your child’s educational needs to the IEP meeting and share with special education personnel; schools must consider all information brought by parents.

2. Parents must be meaningful participants in the IEP process. Relay the court rulings to special education personnel that if a parent is not allowed meaningful participation in the development of their child’s IEP, predetermination and denial of FAPE may be found.

3. If special education personnel still refuse to allow you input or only give one option for services or placement, consider a state complaint for violation of IDEA.

4. Have an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) performed on your child to determine what related and special education services your child needs. Make sure that the evaluator you pick is not only willing to test your child but to write a comprehensive and concise report that includes recommendations for needed related and special education services.

Predetermination is harmful for children with disabilities because it denies children the services that they need to benefit from their education. Keep advocating-your child is worth it!

3 Lies Told by Some Special Education Personnel About Autism and How You Can Fight Back!

Are you concerned that your young child may have autism even though you have you been told by special education personnel that he or she doesn’t? Would you like to know 3 of the lies told by many special education personnel about this disorder? Would you also like to learn advocacy strategies to overcome these lies? This article will address 3 of the most common lies told to parents about autism!

Lie 1: Your child does not have autism, they are emotionally disturbed! This is the most common lie that I see as an educational advocate. Most children with autism do have emotional and behavioral difficulty, but this is caused by the disorder. To truly be emotionally disturbed, the child cannot have any other disability causing the behavioral difficulty; which of course is not true in this case.

The reason that this is important is because if a child has autism, they will probably need extensive related and special education services, to benefit from their education. If the school district can convince you that your child does not have autism but is emotionally disturbed, they can try and deny all of the educational, services that your child needs.

You can advocate for your child by having them tested privately, with a psychologist specifically trained in this area. Bring these results to the school district and ask that your child be found eligible for special education under the category of autism; not emotionally disturbed (if the evaluation shows that this is true).

Lie 2: Your child does not have autism because they do not have the repetitive behavior that is a symptom of autism. I hear this a lot too, especially for children that have been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or Aspergers Syndrome. Many of these children do not have the typical features associated with this disorder. Over the years I have had many special education personnel tell me that a certain child did not have a certain disability; without testing them. The child needs to be given an autism rating scale by a qualified professional.

The one that I recommend is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). It is easy to fill out and to come up with a score. The higher the score is the greater chance that the child has the disorder.

There is also an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) that can be given again by a qualified trained professional. Insist that your child receive an Autism Rating Scale (CARS), or the ADOS.

Lie 3: Okay so your child has autism; but they are not eligible for special education services because the autism does not affect their education.

The federal law governing special education is IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). In 2004 the act was reauthorized, and the language stating that the child’s disability must negatively affect the child’s education, was taken out. It now states that for a child to be eligible for special education services, they must have a disability and have educational needs. No mention of disability negatively affecting the child’s education.

You should ask the special education personnel, to please show you in Federal Law where it states that special education eligibility, depends on the child’s disability negatively affecting their education. It does not exist and they will not be able to show you. As an advocacy technique keep repeating that it is your opinion that your child has autism and has educational needs. This is all that is required for a child to be found eligible.

You are the advocate for your child; stand up to special education personnel because your child is depending on you!

4 Parenting Tips – How to Overcome Blame, From Special Education Personnel

Are you the parent of a child with autism that has been blamed for your child’s behavioral difficulties? Have you been told by special education personnel that your child’s learning disability or difficulty is your fault? This article will discuss a study of school psychologists about blame for children’s learning difficulties. And also, give you tips,on how to overcome the blame, placed by some disability educators.

Several years ago, I heard about a study where school psychologists were asked who they blamed, when a child had learning difficulties. The basic outcome of the study showed that 100% of the psychologists that were surveyed, placed the blame on the child or the parents. Not one school psychologist blamed the school district, teacher, inappropriate curriculum, lack of resources, or inadequate instruction, for children’s learning difficulties. Years ago, I heard a school psychologist blame a mother for her daughter’s learning disability, since then I have heard it several times.

While the study did not include blame for behavioral difficulties, it has been my experience that school personnel often blame parents for children’s school behavioral issues. Parents must overcome both types of blame, so that they can advocate for an appropriate education, for their child.

Tip 1: If a school person tells you that your child’s behavior, is because of something that is going on at home, stand up to them. Tell the person that you do not believe that this is true. If your child has autism, they may have a lot of behavioral difficulties due to their disability. Most families are not perfect, but most times do not cause a child’s behavioral difficulty; especially if the child’s behavioral difficulty is at school.

Tip 2: Try and figure out what your child is telling you by their behavior; perhaps the work is too hard, they are not receiving appropriate instruction. Try and figure out the ABC’s of Behavior; A stands for antecedent (what was happening before the behavior), B stands for Behavior (what was the specific behavior), and C stands for the Consequence (what did the child get out of the behavior). By focusing on the behavior, and not the blame you will help your child.

Tip 3: If your child is struggling with academics due to a learning disability; make sure that they are receiving research based instruction, which is required by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Children with learning disabilities need a reading program with five principles: Simultaneous multi sensory, systematic and cumulative, direct interaction, diagnostic teaching, and analytic instruction. Check out http://www.ortongillingham.com for more information.

Tip 4: Tell the special education person, that your child has the right to a free appropriate public education, and you will be holding them accountable for that. Be honest, and bring up any school related reasons that you believe your child is having academic difficulty, or behavioral difficulty. Many schools continue using outdated curricculums that do not work, which can cause lack of academic progress and frustration in some children.

You can overcome the blame that some disability educators try and place on your or your child. Continue to focus on your child, and their needs, and this will help you overcome the blame. Your child is depending on you!