Many parents have an extra responsibility when it comes to their children's education. Every year these parents attend their child's Planning and Placement Team meeting. Any child with a designation within the special education spectrum has one of these meetings every year. These designations include learning and intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, autism, other health impairments (ADD/ADHD, etc) and many others. Attending these meetings can be daunting and intimidating to non-educational members of the team. It doesn't have to be though. If a parent is prepared for the meeting and knows the 'drill' it should be much less difficult.
Annual PPT's are held every year at the same time. Legally there must be a meeting every year within 365 days and a triennial every 3 years. The triennial is a meeting to determine if a child is still eligible for special education. I am jumping ahead here a little, let's start at the beginning.
If your child has never had a special education designation, a member of the school community, yourself or your doctor may suggest that your child is tested to determine if he or she needs extra support. Sometimes it is obvious (your child may have autism, down's syndrome, or a physical disability) and other times additional testing needs to be completed to determine eligibility.
- The first step is for you or school personnel to start the process. If you initiate the process (through a written letter - example to be shown) the school must hold an initial meeting called a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting. At this meeting a number of individuals may be present. This will include a building administrator, special education teacher, a regular education teacher, the school psychologist, guidance counselor, school nurse, transition coordinator and anyone else deemed necessary. Your child's strengths and weaknesses will be discussed and you will be asked for your input and what your concerns are. You must also sign a permission to test form. Withholding permission will stop the process. The school district may determine that legal mediation is necessary at this time. A multi-disciplinary will be conducted to determine eligibility and must be completed within 45 of the initiation of services. Therefore, a full evaluation must be completed from the date the school receives your letter (or is internally referred by school personnel) within 45 school days. Weekends and vacations do not count.
- At the 2nd meeting it will be determined whether or not your child qualifies for special education services. For placement in special education, you must give your written consent. This can be withdrawn but you should seek the advice of an educational lawyer or advocate if you plan to do this. If it is determined that your child does not qualify for special education services, ask about a qualification under a 504 designation. You can disagree with any of the decisions made and have it noted in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is the map that school personnel will use to guide them in servicing your child's educational needs. You also have the option of disputing your position through the courts. The school district I work in tries to work with parents and avoid this altogether. If you win your case, the school district must pay your legal bills. It is suggested that you bring another individual with you (spouse, friend, pastor) for positive support. You should write down the concerns you have: strengths, what your child needs the most help with, goals that you want your child to succeed.
- If you child will be transitioning from high school to college or the world of work, a transition plan must be developed as well. Be prepared to discuss what you see for your child. Your teen will also be at this meeting (starts attending around 8th grade) and be asked what their interests and dreams are. You can help him or her in discussing this beforehand.
- Standardized testing will be discussed and it will be determined whether your child needs extra time, special setting or a reader (or any other number of accommodations).
- A modification page will be in the Individual Education Plan; you should ask for a copy of this page and make suggestions that you think are necessary for your child to succeed without enabling him/her.
- The number of hours your child will be serviced by special education personnel, counseling staff, etc. will be determined.
- Goals and objectives will be written for any areas that your child needs additional help in. This can include reading, math, writing, general academics, behavior, self-help skills, communication and other areas as necessary.
- Make sure to ask questions if you have them and get the name and number of at least one member of the team that you can talk to if you have any concerns or questions about your child, the IEP or PPT meeting.
- IEP's generally go into effect 5 days after the meeting or sooner if agreed to by the team. The school is obligated to get you a copy of the IEP within 5 days of the PPT meeting. Any questions you have (or disagreements with the plan) should be directed to a member of the team (usually a special education teacher or administrator).
- Relax, relax, relax. The more often you attend PPT's the more comfortable and knowledgeable you will become.