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Rebecca Sidders, Director of Special Education Advocacy at K Altman Law, along with three colleagues from the firm - Norah Schumann, Ashley Bennett, and Nikki Camiso - held a webinar in July 2023 on how to prepare for your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Sidders has over two decades of experience in Special Education, while Schumann, Bennett, and Camiso each have rich knowledge from different roles in the education field. The webinar addressed important questions about the IEP process that every parent and student need to know, including who qualifies, the timeline of events, and the importance of the Notice of Recommended Educational Placement or Prior Written Notice, and more.
The experts emphasized on the significance of the parents' involvement in the IEP for their child, which is legally required for all public school children who need special education. Furthermore, they mentioned that disagreements over IEP content can be addressed through communicating their concerns and asking for supporting data from the concerned section.
The speakers listed possible results if a child either achieves or fails to reach their IEP goals, and what supports and services can be made available. They also explained that an IEP should be "stranger ready," meaning that it should be thorough and clear enough to be understood by any individual in the country.
In the end, they highlighted the importance of including children with disabilities in the general education setting as much as possible, mentioning that this helps in community integration, acceptance, and increases their learning opportunities. However, they advised that the use of a one-on-one aide is a very restrictive approach and should only be used when data shows it's necessary.
The webinar ended by discussing the continuum of services in special education and how essential the parents role in deciding on these services. The team also discussed potential steps if parents disagree with the proposed school plan, and the concept of reverse inclusion. They concluded the webinar by addressing behavior goals for children with autism in a general education setting following a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).
As a conclusion, the K Altman Law team's collective expertise provided a comprehensive overview of preparing for a child's IEP, addressing both the legal and practical aspects of the process. They emphasized the significant role of parents in this process and put forward different strategies for advocating for a child's educational needs.