So You Think You Need an Expert: A Cautionary Tale

Apr 1, 2024 | IEP, Special Needs

So You Think You Need an Expert: A Cautionary Tale

 

Part I: Mistakes Parents Make When Seeking a Better IEP or 504 Plan

Parents may know their children best, but it is virtually impossible for a parent to have the training and experience to identify and assess all of their children’s educational needs. In attempting to make positive changes to their child’s educational program, parents often make the following mistakes.

 

A. Parents Think They Know What Their Child Needs.

Parents see their children day in and day out. They know what frustrates their child and where their child displays strengths. They get feedback from teachers and other parents. This often leads parents to ask for IEP or 504 Plan changes.

This is dangerous for several reasons.

    1. First, you may be missing your child’s real issues.  Even professionals who are educated and trained in the various disciplines encompass special education miss these things.
    2. Second, if you miss the real issues, your child may end up believing he’s stupid and feeling devalued and demoralized.  It will undoubtedly affect his self-esteem and the goals that he believes he can achieve.  It can eat away at any motivation he has to try harder, to try new things, to maintain friendships and outside interests.  In short, missing your child’s real issues can be an unmitigated disaster.
    3. Third, if you miss the real issues, you will not know what to ask for.  You will not learn what services, accommodations, and modifications the school district must provide to your child, and which ones will help him learn to, in the words of the law, “obtain meaningful educational benefit” and gain “significant learning.”  Your child will be left wanting, and you don’t want that.  It could be a waste of his whole life.

 

B. Parents Ask for Changes Based on Their Own Assessment.

Even if you know the exact details of the program your child needs, asking for it without any proof can undermine the goal you’re trying to achieve.  What if the CST refuses to give your child the type of instruction or programming you request?  You might then seek the help of a suitable expert.  If you go back to the CST with your expert report three months after they turned down your first request and your expert’s recommendations are similar to your original ones, the CST will believe that you paid an expert to say what you wanted.  They will accuse you of having an idee fixe, a fixed idea of what you wanted ahead of time, and that you found an expert willing to put those recommendations on paper and sign her name to it—for a fee. You have now dug yourself into a hole.

 

C. Parents Trust the Child Study Team.

Many parents simply go to their case manager if they think their child needs a change in program. If your school district and your case manager have provided your child with comprehensive programming and have included you in important decision-making in the past, that might work out fine. But school districts must stick to a budget and decisions about programming are often made based on the financial needs of the district as a whole (even though that’s illegal).

If you do ask your case manager to change your child’s programming, your school district child study team may perform assessments.  The resulting reports will almost certainly be brief when compared to comprehensive private expert evaluations. Once those tests are done, the results will guide programming decisions, and the tests that were done cannot be repeated within twelve months. If your child’s study team doesn’t do comprehensive testing or doesn’t accurately interpret the testing, the team may not make the programming changes your child needs to make meaningful educational progress.

 

D. Parents Ask a Relative for Advice.

Having a relative who is “in the business” can be a great help … or a great hindrance.  It’s always the same, isn’t it?  There are two sides to every coin.  On one hand, a relative who is well-trained and experienced in special education can often spot warning signs in children even outside of their classroom.  On the other hand, your relative may be trained and experienced in only one area and may see only that through professional tunnel vision.

 

E. Parents Choose the Wrong Expert.

Parents sometimes believe they know what issues their child is having and choose an expert based on that belief. Parents may also choose an expert based on another parent’s recommendation. But presenting problems can mask underlying struggles and an expert who was a good fit for another child may be a disaster for yours.

 

F. The Expert Fails to Make Proper Recommendations.

Some experts who have excellent skills in identifying and assessing educational needs may not understand how to make recommendations to a child study team. If your expert report is strong but the recommendations are weak, the time, effort, and finances you’ve invested may be wasted.

 

Why Parents Need an Objective Professional Evaluation.

As the parent of a child with special needs, it is critical to understand how your child functions, to fully understand the type of educational programming your child needs, and to be able to demonstrate those needs through objective scientific evidence.

You need to know what to ask for, and you need to be able to convince the school district that your child needs that programming.  A good expert evaluation with supportable recommendations is exactly what you need.

 

Interested in this topic? Stay tuned for Parts II and III:

  • Why Timing is Everything.
  • How to Choose an Expert.
  • What Does a Good Evaluation Look Like?

 


Concerned? Confused? Let the experience attorneys at SGW guide you.
Call an experienced attorney today to find out:
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info@sgwlawfirm.com


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