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How to get the Department of Education to listen to a parent.

Updated on December 11, 2009

gettting services for your special needs child

Our child has an IEP, he has had one since he was four years old.(he is now 14)  IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, which in my opinion as a teacher and a parent, every child deserves. Since he has an IEP, it means that the services ordered in this paperwork are MANDATED, which means that he HAS to have them in a timely fashion, on a regular basis, in order to succeed. Also it means that the city we live in has approved paying for them through our tax dollars that my husband and I pay faithfully.

That said, we should expect to see these services in place when school begins each year in September. Not so. Each year we wait and leave voice mails and send emails asking when his therapies will begin and who will be providing them. The second part of my statement is interesting since we have done the department of education's job by finding appropriate service providers, it is a matter of just sending us the paperwork to pay these contractors. Seems simple, doesn't it? Therapies are recommended and approved by specialists and the papers are turned in on time, so all that is left is data entry and mailing them papers to us.

So then, why do we every year for the past ten years have to fight for months at times and even go to court to get what our child needs and has been ordered? It is simple, because the city tells the department of education to shave some of its budget. They are legally not allowed to take away from the special education students, so what they do is bully the parents into letting the services go on their own. The department makes it so difficult, that most parents throw their hands up in dismay and run to their doctors for prescriptions and pay for therapy. This saves the department of education thousands of dollars in therapy costs, but denies the taxpayer and the students the right they have been given in the public laws. The right to a FREE and APPROPRIATE education. If it is mandated by the department of education approved specialists, people looking over the budget have no right to say that it is not what the child needs to succeed.

What to do, what to do? My husband and I do not give up. We fight, and fight hard. In fact, I have given up my full time job as a teacher so that I am always available for meetings, hearings and phone calls involving my son's needs. I have been known to go sit outside in the hallways and wait for someone who has repeatedly not returned my messages about services.

What we recommend to parents who are being ignored or denied services is to fight, and fight hard. You know what your child needs. If you need to take an advocate with you to the meetings because you are a bit timid, then by all means, do it, but for heaven's sake, don't back down and pay for it yourself. You are always paying for it with your tax dollars, now you are double paying. The person on the other end of the telephone or letter, is usually a clerk, not a specialist. They are not qualified to judge your child's case and in most instances have not even read your child's file. I had someone one year call me and pretend he was well versed in my child's case, only to not know his diagnosis and age! I kept questioning him and he kept giving me incorrect answers! I asked him if he even had my child's file in front of him. He said yes, I told him, you know you have to at least read it before you engage me in conversation and I prompty hung up.

We call the mayor's office, we call the chancellor's office, we also send letters and emails to the same. We have lodged complaints against the city through our local 311 system that our mayor set up. We have gone to impartial hearings and are well prepared with letters from doctors and therapists. They will be more than happy to provide these for you since they too are tired of clerks second guessing their recommendations. We show up in PERSON, not just by telephone or email. We call everyday and make a total nuisance of ourselves. We let them know that our child is VERY important to us and that we are his advocates because we are the ONLY chance he has in this world. We are fighting for his life, and you must too! Even if your child does not have special needs, you are his/her number one advocate. You brought him/her into this world, now it is up to you to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.

     Trust me, if you do all of these things and you keep yourself visible to the Department of Education, they WILL SEE you.  They WILL give your child what he or she needs.  This is how you get them to listen to you.  You work very hard, you never give up because you alone are the driving force in your child's future.


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