Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Navigating Special Education and the IEP/504 Process

July 12, 2023 Season 17 Episode 28
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Navigating Special Education and the IEP/504 Process
Show Notes Transcript

Do you have a child receiving special education services or one that you think may need these services? In this podcast, we talk about navigating this process. Our guests will be Lisa Eisenberg and Gaile Osborne. Lisa Eisenberg is a social worker, education advocate, and consultant. She is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an organization whose goal is to secure high-quality educational services for all and to promote excellence in advocacy. Gaile Osborne is the Executive Director of Foster Family Alliance, the foster, kinship, and adoptive parent association in North Carolina. She has her masters in special education with certifications in five areas, including emotional disabilities. Gaile and her husband are parents of children adopted from foster care and have fostered over 28 children. Foster Family Alliance provides educational advocacy support for NC foster, adoptive, and kinship families.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What language is preferred: special education, exceptional children education, or something else?
  • What laws govern special education?
  • What are the most common acronyms that parents will see, and what do they mean?
    • IEPs
    • 504s
    • LRE
    • SDI
    • OHI
  • How does trauma impact a child’s ability to learn? 
  • How can you tell the difference between the impact of trauma from a learning disability or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
  • What are the signs that a child needs to have an educational assessment?
  • What is involved with an educational assessment?
  • What are the first steps that a parent or caregiver should take to get an educational assessment? 
  • What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? Which one provides the most protection and accommodations for the child?
  • What accommodations should parents and caregivers be aware of that they can ask to be included in either the IEP or 504 plan?
  • What can foster/kin parents do if they believe the child in their care needs to be assessed? What are their legal rights?
  • Are they allowed to be in the IEP or 504 meeting?
  • Can they directly influence the IEP or 504? 
  • How can foster or kinship parent be of the most help when working with a child with learning disabilities or other disabilities? 
  • Tips for Parents and Caregivers when a child is struggling academically in school.


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Dawn Davenport  0:00  
Welcome to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of the show as well as director of the nonprofit, creating a Today we're going to be talking about navigating special education and the IEP 504 Plan process. Make sure you listen to the end, folks because we're going to be giving some very practical tips as well as resources you're not going to want to miss. Our guests today are Lisa Eisenberg. She is a social worker and educational advocate and consultant. She is a member of the Council of parent attorneys and advocates, an organization whose goal is to secure high quality educational services for all and to promote excellence and advocacy. We will also talk with Gaile Osborne. She is the executive director of Foster Family Alliance, which is the foster kinship and adoptive parent association in North Carolina. She has her master's and special education with certifications in five areas, including emotional disabilities. Gaile and her husband are parents of children adopted from foster care and have fostered over 28 children. Foster Family Alliance provides educational advocacy support for North Carolina foster adoptive and kinship families. And also on a personal note, Gaile is a member of the Creating a Family board. And she and I work very closely together on brainstorming ideas and working together in general, very closely. And I have benefited immensely from her counsel over the last couple of years. So this will be fun for me to interview a friend, as well as an expert. Also, I want to let everyone know that this show is part of our Back to School series, going back to school can be both an exciting and shall we say anxiety producing time for kids. And let me tell you, it's also for parents, we are excited about the new year, but also often worried about academic performance and learning challenges and what we can do to help our kids, we are creating a family, we have walked in your shoes, we understand your concerns, and we bring you evidence based resources to prepare you to get ready for the academic year. This show is only one of many that you can find at creating a to school, all one word kind of smushed together, creating a to school, come back next week to check out our show on ADHD. I want to start by at the beginning, it's always hard the language changes and we want to be respectful and know that we're using the language that is the preferred language at the time. But it does seem to change. So Lisa, I wanted to start with you. So should we still be using the word special education? Or should we be moving to exceptional children's education? Or is there something else are is all of the above acceptable?

Speaker 2  3:07  
I would say all of the above is acceptable, you know, at different states, different Cathy's, even within states have different norms for their respective programs, and how states define a child who is eligible. So the terminology has not evolved there. Even though we as a society have evolved. I think the number one thing that I try to always keep in the forefront of my mind is we're speaking about a whole child. And if we can remember that at every single opportunity. Frequently I have a photo of a child or family has a photo of a child, just as a reminder that we are talking about an actual young or maybe not so young child that is in need some support to optimize every potential that they may have. And that is the goal. So I think exceptional education, special education, because those are the legal terms that are still appropriate based on federal and state law. But the whole child would be if we're talking in general terms, my preferred verbiage because it encompasses everything.

Dawn Davenport  4:18  
Yeah, that's helpful. And we will in this case, for the purposes of this, we will probably use most often the term Special Ed because that is they are special education, because that is the the legal term. But I am so glad you brought up that as we are talking about children who have learning challenges, we also have to remember they also have some wonderful strengths. And we will circle back to that when we're at the end. Talking about keeping that in mind. All right, Gail, what laws govern special education, I said that was a legal term was special education. But what does that mean as far as what laws are relevant here?

Speaker 3  4:56  
So you'll often hear schools referred to idea RDA. And basically, it's the law from the federal government that makes available a free and appropriate public education or faith, you'll hear the acronym fake. And what we're looking at is children that are eligible with disabilities throughout the entire nation. And then what is then done is it's down to the state level to be able to implement that federal law. And so, you know, interesting enough, seven and a half million children from infant to age 21 are actually receiving services under Ida.

Dawn Davenport  5:38  
Wow. All right. That's, that's a lot. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So Lisa, what are the most common acronyms that parents are going to say? And what do they mean? So this is for people who are beginning to try to figure out what they need to do from a special ed standpoint. So what are the acronyms we need to know the most common ones, there's 1000 of them, so no, go into all of them. But the most common ones,

Speaker 2  6:02  
I would say the most common that you want to keep in mind are your IEP, which is your individualized educational plan. 504 is shorthand for a 504 plan, which falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You have your least restrictive environment, which is your LR E. When we talk about a child we want to talk about are we providing them with an education in the least restrictive environment where they're able to sustain themselves with support. That is a very important one. And then you will hear things in terms of diagnoses or services, specially designed instruction, SDI, that's something that you will find in the IEP document itself, regardless of the state that you reside. So that is one of the classifiers of what is the difference between a 504 and an IEP. But that is definitely the top few. There are certainly others as you get into various areas of exceptionality, such as acronyms for occupational therapy and speech therapy. But we can provide a list of those to help families navigate or for professionals navigate as well. But there's definitely the top five would be my IEP five oh, for least restrictive environment, that LR E, and then looking at that eligibility category. And that is not always very clear. So another acronym that you will see very frequently is O hai. And that stands for other health impaired. And that's just an eligibility category that we frequently see. For children that may have some mental health needs, or medical needs ADHD, type one diabetes, it runs the gamut. But that is a very frequently used acronym in the IEP 504 circuit.

Dawn Davenport  8:00  
Did you know that word of mouth from our listeners is the best way to help us get the word out about this show the creating a we would really appreciate it if you would tell a friend today about this podcast so that we can continue to inspire and strengthen the adoption, foster and kinship care community. Okay, Gail, how does trauma impact a child's ability to learn? Because many of the kids we're working with have experienced trauma? And how can you tell the difference between the impacts of trauma and the impacts of learning disabilities or ADHD or other things such as that

Speaker 3  8:43  
I can remember being in the classroom and noticing students that would come in and instantly put their hoods up, or they would be incredibly resistant to me physically getting around them, you know, lack of motivation and things like that. And as I continue to do my graduate studies, it all it immediately dawned on me that these kids had been exposed to trauma and how it looks different. It wasn't a child that was refusing to do work. It was a child that couldn't do the work. So we would have a child who didn't have a sense of themselves who wasn't motivated, didn't have that self esteem piece, and they truly weren't engaged in learning. And so the trauma just impacts the brain at a totally different level. And it's one that we don't need to know the trauma to be able to support this child as much as we need to know that there's trauma there, and then change our approach to supporting the child. And so in the classroom, I mean, and what does it look like even father, they can be irritable, if you walk up on them, they can startle, you know, increased or reduced appetite. I had a kid who literally had to have food sitting on his desk the entire day. Sometimes he would choose to eat it some Toms it was just having that access, complete exhaustion. And it would look like to the average teacher, it would look like a situation where the kid was not sleeping enough at night. And then they would ask the parents what's going on. But they were so exhausted that I mean, literally holding their head up was all they could do. Aggression, physical and verbal aggression is there, we talked about low self confidence, risky behavior, those are the behaviors that get, you know, elevated to administration, whether it be substance use, or sexual reactivity or promiscuity in the school session, we would see kids bolting out of the classrooms. And you know, why is that happening? And, you know, traditionally, we would look at it through the lens of, oh, they're being defiant, they don't want to be there. But when you started looking at it through the lens of trauma, it was a situation where they were running away, they were flight away from what's triggering them within that classroom. And the big one that we often see a lot of is defiance, and the kids would come in, and you know, from the go, it was just pushed back, pushed back, pushed back. And it was a total different level of pushback. And it just felt like there was no relief from that. So those are just a few things that I observed. Okay,

Dawn Davenport  11:22  
thanks. That's helpful. I just want to do a shout out again to the Jackie being family foundation for allowing us to offer you guys 12, free online education courses. They are geared for those of you who are parenting, adoptive foster or kinship kids, you can find them at Bitly slash JBf support, that's bi T dot L Y, slash, J. F Su, pp. O RT. Thanks, jockey. Check it out today, folks. All right, I want to move into talking about some of the practicalities from a parent's standpoint of getting an educational assessment. So Lisa, what are some of the signs that a child first needs an educational assessment? And then what are the first steps? What's involved with getting an educational assessment? How do you even begin?

Speaker 2  12:21  
So that's a really good question. And I think the first signs and symptoms are, if you are not sure, if you are feeling uncertain, uneasy about whether the child has achieved or is working towards achieving a developmental milestone that maybe the pediatrician has mentioned, or that you see other children are able to do, and the child might be having some delays. That's a great opportunity to have an open dialogue with the child's pediatrician about any concerns. And they often will also have a source of checklists developmentally that you can kind of use as a guide. You know, there's no exact science, no two children are exactly alike. So people are going to attain things a little bit differently. But there's always going to be a range. And if you see that your child is on the lower range, or it's not even really within the range. Or you're noticing some signs and symptoms of maybe less engaging in conversation, or maybe is more isolated during play, that your nephew, those are things that you might just make a note of, and bring up to your pediatrician during your next well visit. The other thing is, depending on the age, you can always reach out to your locally zoned public school. If the child is age three and up, or child find for a child that is from that zero to three. So age, it might be early intervention in some states, it might be through the Coalition for early intervention, some and those other opportunities where you can speak to a clinician or an intake worker to see if it might be appropriate to do a screener, or to come in to talk about any concerns that you may have regarding your child's development. And that might be at age three, and it might be at age 14, because children are going to develop an ebb and flow as they attained skills or perhaps they have difficulty attaining skills. So there's not any specific time or any exact science to it. A lot is instinct and just trusting that if you feel something maybe seems a little off that maybe there is a way to make things easier. And some of the common things in a school situation we say is task avoidance might be overwhelmed. I come home maybe I've been masking all day and now kind of like a puddle of of tears when I get home. And I'm not quite sure what to do. Maybe I didn't pack up my backpack the way I should have worked write down my homework. So there are definitely things that we see a lot more often, especially children that haven't come from the greatest, strongest beginnings. I know, in my own family, you know, that was something that I was really hyper aware of, because I wanted to make sure that I was providing ample opportunity for each of my children in their individual ways to attain whatever they could with success. But having those conversations is the most important having a provider having a care team that you feel confident that you can reach out to

Dawn Davenport  15:35  
what is the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan, and which one provides the most protection and accommodations for the child.

Speaker 2  15:45  
So the difference between a 504 and IEP is that a 504 plan, which can be enacted at any time during a person's life, is they have a medical need, or diagnostic need for accommodations and or modifications in their academic environment in the area of academic learning, independent functioning, and social emotional learning. If that need can be potentially met with accommodations and or modifications, then that would be your 504 plan. If we determined that a child's needs extend past just the need for accommodations and or modifications, perhaps they will benefit from specially designed instruction. So one example of that would be a student who has difficulty in math. So I'll use my daughter as an example, when she was younger, she had a lot of difficulty with mathematics. And therefore we had a Support Facilitator. They came into the math classroom when she had math and wood pushing, and being there to break down the content into bite sized chunks for her during the lesson to make sure that she was able to recite back what she just learned, and was able to demonstrate an understanding by doing two problems. So that was the difference for her by having that specially designed instruction, or by pulling out of the class, maybe for 30 minutes a week with that person, she would have the opportunity for that one to one or small group instruction. Whereas in the classroom environment, perhaps she did not have enough time or it was overstimulating, and therefore she wasn't as focused. So that is the major difference between the two. The other really good thing is regardless of which document, they are both fluid documents that can be revisited and looked at at any time, there is no set prescription on how often you can reopen or re examine any updates that would benefit the student.

Dawn Davenport  17:54  
So from what you're saying, you describe that five of four, but how would an IEP be different? What type of additional things would an IEP provide that a 504? Would not?

Speaker 2  18:07  
The IEP would be the difference would be providing that specially designed instruction in a academic independent functioning or social emotional learning area? Because those are the three main areas that school is looking at, in regards to the student's educational plan.

Dawn Davenport  18:25  
I have a question and my experience and I do have a lot of experience in not not professional but just with children in my family. There seem to be a push towards moving kids from an IEP to a 504. We received a lot of pressure to do that. I wondered why I assumed there was a financial something for the schools. And maybe I'm being cynical, but was that the case?

Speaker 2  18:50  
No, it's actually the opposite. But I do have a theory about that. But when we look at the difference, so a 504 plan doesn't have funding attached to it. Because for the most part accommodations and or modifications, for the most part are not costly. You know, if we are increasing the print or the font size on a paper, if we're using more whitespace for a student, or giving them extended time, that's really not costing us much. Versus if we're looking at an IEP that has measurable and meaningful deliverable services that are monitored that are delivered by specific staff, then that is in fact something where states are getting federal dollars. And then states are being expected to also have state dollars to put forth through that, but it's not attached to a particular child. It's not attached to a particular classroom. It is funding that is supported through the Kathy that provides that child with that education, that free and appropriate public education. Now in the state of Florida we do have very unique options here at As that can be achieved, we are a very heavily scholarship state, which is surprising, given the education here. But there are actually more options in Florida than there are in most other states, where you have the opportunity to choose how you wish to educate your child, whether that's through homeschool private school, public school. And whether you are a student that has typical needs, or you are a student that is neurodiverse, the opportunities are the same, which is a really nice thing that we do have here.

Dawn Davenport  20:32  
And some other states probably have that as well. Let me pause here to tell you about a resource that honestly I am just very proud of it is creating a family's interactive training and support curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. This curriculum these these curricula, I should say, because we actually have a library of curriculum, I have 25. Right now, these curriculum are all in one resource for helping you to interactive trainings, or just support groups. For the foster adoptive and kin communities. Each one contains a video of facilitator guide a handout, and additional resources. And they also come with certificates of completion. If your families need that as well, you can just pull one off the digital shelf, and with very little prep, run and high quality, expert based trauma informed training our support group, so check it out at parent support You can also find it by going to the creating a family website, hovering over the word training and click on Support Group curriculum. So either one will get you there. All right, Gail, what type of accommodations should parents and caregivers be aware of that they can ask to be included in either the IEP or the 504 plan.

Speaker 3  21:57  
accommodations that parents should be aware of include preferential seating, and children that have experienced trauma, they're going to need to be part of the decision making. But do they need their back to a door do they need to sit in a corner where they see the entire classroom, a lot of times teachers want to put our children at the front of the classroom, but then it puts anywhere from 20 to 25 students behind them. And so you know, anxiety can go up from that. I encourage families to ask for frequent breaks, emotional breaks, or brain breaks where they can disengage from being old all the time. Recording class lectures, when you get into high school and even in college talk about getting those lectures because your mind a child with trauma and the mind is just constantly going and they're going to miss bits and pieces of what's being taught. Another strategy would be instead of relying on the teacher for notes would be to rely on a peer to get a copy of their notes. But also the notes from the teacher could be a perfect accommodation. And some students plan as far as just getting the copy from the teacher as they go through it. Looking at concrete papers or textbooks, versus the textbooks and papers that are like scanned in are given to us electronically nowadays. But having that hard piece in front of them so that they can ride on it. They can follow along things like that. Transitions are triggering for children that have trauma. And so looking at warnings and a system that's consistent across all arenas just to give the warning of a transition common. You know, another thing is a lot of our kids have to keep their hands busy. And so given them fidget tools, or even music to listen through quietly in their headphones, coloring pages, things like that, that they can do while they're listening to the lecture. And the other one that I really, really point out is that to break down tasks to break down assignments are the bigger projects into more manageable tasks. Because our children with trauma get incredibly overwhelmed with large assets. And so being able to give them something do today, something due in two days and just break it down into more manageable chunks.

Dawn Davenport  24:28  
Okay, yeah, that makes sense. In addition to kids with trauma, I think those accommodations would apply to kids across the board who are struggling academically, because executive functioning challenges as well as organizational challenges are very common. Okay, Gail, what can foster and kinship parents do? If they believe a child in their care needs to be assessed? What are their legal rights because oftentimes about always with Foster, they have the physical custody of the child but the foster parents don't have legal custody. And very often in kinship parents situation or kinship caregiver situations we have that the kinship caregiver doesn't have legal authority over the child. So this is the legal thing we're talking about IEP s 504, is educational assessments. So what can foster and kinship parents do if their child that their parenting, they believe needs to be assessed?

Speaker 3  25:26  
Don't This is an incredibly important question to ask, you know, what are the legal rights for our foster kinship family members that are or their caregivers, and it's probably one of the top five questions I get asked. And so one of the things that Ida did really well is it defined who the parent is. And so very clearly, it's anyone in the role of a parent, so whether it be natural adopted foster parent, legal guardian, and so that opens it up to the grandparent, it opens it up to kinship, it opens it up to foster parents, who we just didn't know that could serve in that role, we were looking for that natural connection. And so when I DEA define this, you know, it can be the grandmother, this has the child in their custody, and they're acting as a as a parent. And so the rights that they are granted is number one, they can actually participate in the IEP process. But even before that, it is, you are able to come to the table or to send an email or to ask for an evaluation for the child. Now that evaluation ask is going to trigger multiple themes, and the school is going to know a bit of the information, but they're gonna want to figure out is this child and legal guardianship of the state of a child welfare organization, or if this is just a parenting agreement, custody, all those legalities. And if there is a scenario where this parent is serving outside of child welfare custody, then they can absolutely sit in as a parent, each state kind of looks at everything just a tad bit different. So you want to make sure you're checking in every state. But the parent should whoever sitting in that parent role should be invited to the IEP meeting, they should be invited to the table to talk about evaluations and to give information now, where things get a little different is if a child is a ward of the state. And in that case, that we're looking at a surrogate parent being appointed, and a surrogate steps in as a parent in that role. And it's one of two ways. One is it's decided on by a judge through the court system or to it is assigned by the local education authority. So the local school system would assign a surrogate parent and you ask like, why do we need a surrogate parent if we have these people acting in parenting roles, and the surrogate parent ultimately is there because there needs to be no conflicts of interest of the person making decisions for the child. And so I as a foster mom could be sitting in as a parent. But if I go up to a higher level care with that child, and I'm receiving a higher amount of money for the child, then my decisions may be very different than if I was just getting the traditional room and board, right, because I don't want to make a decision that would impact my finances, or impact my parenting. And so in those situations, we definitely want a surrogate parent to step in and make those decisions. A parent can absolutely and we've talked about this just shortly, we want them involved in the IEP meeting, because sometimes they are the ones that have a lot of details to be able to share with the IEP team, they'll be able to talk about what their role is what DSS is role or Child Protective Services role, and they're definitely going to be able to know what the child needs to work on. And so as goals are created, you want that that parent at the table to be able to be part of that process.

Dawn Davenport  29:22  
And would this be any different? You mentioned IEP? Would anything be different for a 504 plan meeting?

Speaker 3  29:29  
It shouldn't be any different and best practices. It shouldn't be different. But the one thing to keep in mind is the father of four does not require parent participation. And so school systems, you know, they often invite the parent and they include the parent, but they may not be able to come to the table whereas an IEP they're required to be at the table in the parenting role.

Dawn Davenport  29:55  
Okay, thank you. That's helpful. All right. So we've talked a lot a lot about when a child might need an assessment, how to get an assessment, how to make a distinction between children who are impacted by trauma versus children who have learning disabilities or other challenges, academic challenges. Now I want to get practical. What are some tips for parents and caregivers, when a child is struggling academically in school, it is a frightening place to be as a parent. I know both of you have personal experience with this as well. And I do. It is such an emotional, it's an emotional time. It's a scary time, because you worry about the future and you love this child, and you want them to have what's best, and yet you're not sure. So Lisa, I'll start with you. Start by giving us a tip that you tell parents, when they realize that their child is, I like to say, a square peg in a round hole, what are some tips that you would tell them?

Speaker 2  30:59  
I think the number one thing I always want them to know is they're not alone. And this too shall pass. You know, we have to try and eliminate or at least drastically reduce the stigma that having diverse learning needs is a problem. We all as adults learn differently, we all have preferred ways of learning whether it's audio visual, both children are no different. And the adults that love them and support them are no different. So you know, that is probably my number one sticking point is trust your instincts, but don't be afraid to ask, don't be afraid to talk to your child's team about where they are. And you don't have to wait for there to be a bigger problem or a major concern to take action. So having those again, having a conversation with a pediatrician, having a conversation with a child's teacher, whether it's a parent teacher conference, or maybe you request a meeting, because you've noticed that, you know, Susie's just struggling lately with math homework, and you want to reduce her frustration and reduce her feelings of inadequacy. And the best way to do that is to come to the table and see how she's doing in class, what observations the teacher may have, because what happens during the day, and what happens at home may be very different things. And continuity is always important. So coming to the table and having that first preliminary conversation. And then going from there, there is a legal process where when you make a request for a official evaluation, you have a certain expectation of that procedure. And what that timeline looks like under normal circumstances. And states will vary this somewhat. But for instance, here in Florida, if I go and I request to have my child evaluated at school, and let's say we come to the table, and it's a student study team, which is important to know, you need to have a student study team in order to determine whether or not consent is appropriate to do an evaluation, we can ask for an evaluation, we can come up with 20 reasons why we think it's appropriate. But if the student study team doesn't agree, then they don't necessarily have to grant it. I have rarely been in a room where somebody doesn't grant it. Because when I come to the table, I'm armed with a lot of good information. But that is the other thing. So knowing your rights, knowing the child's rights, being an equal member of that child's team, being seen and heard as an equal member, and making sure that you're asking questions and having input on everything that happens. So even if you're in that child's life for a short amount of time, you absolutely can affect change. You might be the first person to take a stand to say something's not really connecting. How can we help?

Dawn Davenport  34:21  
Okay, excellent. Gail, can you suggest a tip?

Speaker 3  34:25  
So for me, the number one thing I see in what parents and caregivers need to really focus on his communication, and that streamline in that communication with the team, with your administration and whoever's involved. And, you know, when we're looking at foster children, the case manager and things like that, when you're in meetings, ask for clarification. As teachers, they're throwing off acronyms and you just have no clue what it is. Don't assume that they're talking some, you know, educational term that you can never understand. Because you absolutely can just ask them. The other piece of communication I really encourage parents to do is put things in writing. Send an email a time and date stamps, things. When you request an evaluation, send it via email. So it's time and date in the communication can and we'll make or break a case with your child.

Dawn Davenport  35:24  
That's an excellent, excellent point. Excellent point about putting things in writing. Okay, I will give a tip and it's one we mentioned at the beginning. And, and I have actually, in my experience found that the school system is equally wanting to do this. But even if they aren't stressed that your child has strengths and start or lead, if you have the option with what your child is good at, I think it brings it back to helping us see that this is this is a child not a problem. So that would be my tip. Okay, we'll go a second round. Lisa, can you give us another tip?

Speaker 2  36:00  
Yes. So I recommend that you have a binder set up with tabs, separating things like report cards, evaluations, annual physical hearing tests, Vision tests, things that may seem mundane and routine. And things that may be typical to this child, oh, we need to have a speech language evaluation. Okay, here's the speech language evaluation, oh, we've identified that feeding therapy would be good, okay, and have that binder, set it up in reverse chronological order. So your most recent information is always on the top and take it everywhere you go to those IEP or 504 meetings, those doctor's appointments, A, you are going to be showing your commitment, obviously to the child in your care or your child, if it's your child, you are going to have organization and we'll be able to hopefully recall information with ease, especially if it's information that you might not have been there for. So developmental, early developmental milestones, things of that nature. And just keep that current and updated and color coded. And whatever way works for you to good, man, don't be without it. And take a deep breath, you know, you're not alone. Yeah,

Dawn Davenport  37:21  
having a notebook is such a good idea. If nothing else, you're giving the aura of competence, even if you don't feel competent, you know, you're organized or even if it's not, you're certainly assuming that that message. Okay, Gail, your turn for another tip for parents.

Speaker 3  37:37  
So mom's twofold. One is to assume that the school means well until you have information that they're not meaning well, and the reason I say that is you are the expert on the child when you go into these meetings, and they're the expert on the educational process, and the IEP process, or 504. And I think a lot of times, things get mixed up in communication, and we are very highly emotional moms or dads at the table. And, you know, we want to get defensive and we want to fight for our kids, but assume the process and assume them come into the table is pure and, and good. There are times when the situation you know, steps away from that, but at the most just, you know, go in with an open mind. The other piece of advice that I would give is that any paperwork, any evaluations, anything that is going to be presented in a meeting, that you ask for a copy of it ahead of time, because if you're like me, when I go into a meeting, I'm very emotional. And I am going to here and I actually use this conversation, the Charlie Brown teacher, you're gonna hear a lot long, long as they go through everything, and you're gonna miss the points that are truly valuable. However, if I get that paperwork 24 hours ahead of time, and I'm able to absorb it, and I'm able to sit with it, and I'm able to reread it and those kinds of things, highlight

Dawn Davenport  39:11  
it make any questions in the margin? Yes,

Speaker 3  39:14  
absolutely. And Lisa would take that copy and put it in my phone, my binder that you talked about, and I'm able to be a more equal member of the team. But I'm actually my emotions are down because I've actually had time to chew on that information prior to that meeting.

Dawn Davenport  39:32  
That is such good advice. And the the other thing is that you have all the players at the table in one of these meetings, and you it's hard to get those players together. At least if it's an IEP, they're required to be there, so they have to be there. So if you haven't looked over it ahead of time, you then formulate your questions afterwards. It's hard to get them all back to the table again to ask your questions. hard, if not downright impossible, so that is perfect. Well Gaeltacht mind, I was going to say don't make it adversarial, unless it has to be. But we go in with the assumption, again has already said that she took mine. So the other one I would say then, and I speak from a parent's standpoint, it is so easy as a parent to start spinning into the what ifs. And the will my child have a place or you know, what's going to be the future. And it just all of a sudden, working our way up into when you speak about the emotions. And now that my children are, thankfully have now moved out of public schools of now into college and beyond. I've learned a lot about the future as it comes, things will be different. It's almost always not as bad as we imagined when we're, you know, two o'clock in the morning when we're trying to write in a journal to calm ourselves down. I actually we'll include a link to an article I wrote about what I had learned after parenting kids through this process. It's called calming the what ifs, parenting kids who don't fit the mold, and I'll include a link to that, because I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wish somebody had told me when I was going through it. All right, Lisa, have we run out of any tips? Or do you still have some?

Speaker 2  41:18  
So I actually still have some tips. And this is probably one of my favorite ones this year is respectfully, I disagree. Okay, it's a statement. It's a statement. And it's okay to simply say respectfully, Mrs. Jones, I disagree. Let me share with you my perspective, no, is a complete sentence. And it is okay to ask for a break. It is okay to not feel pressured to sign a document on the spot. It is okay to have questions. It is okay to not know the answer and not be sure because decisions are made at that table. And you don't need to make everything at that. Second, we we've become so ingrained in us that everything is you know, around the convenience of the school, it's really supposed to be around the convenience of the parents, or caregivers, especially with this post pandemic education situation that we're struggling with. But that is probably the most critical thing. And I am because of your comment about not being adversarial. And I don't have a problem respectfully saying she that's new information, would you mind sharing with me where I can find that in the policy procedure manual? Because for me, I work in the state of Florida, I have worked so far in 29 different counties, every county has their own form, every county has their own format. Everybody has their own way of doing things, does it still all follow up to the law, kind of sort of, but we do not have a unified way of delivering services, we do not have a unified format of creating an IEP. We should, but we don't.

Dawn Davenport  43:12  
Yeah, and I think that's the case, often in many states as well. I love that I respectfully disagree. We had an experience where we actually disagree said we can't sign the IEP, as it is currently written, we won't be able to sign it. And what really surprised us was the teacher who was there. After everybody else, the teacher said, you know, I, I don't think I'm going to sign it either. And so it was a real shock to all of us. And so then, of course, we had to have subsequent meetings, and they weren't happy about it, because they didn't want to have to schedule another meeting. But they did. And we actually, we were able to work something out that everybody then agreed with. All right, Gail, you're up.

Speaker 3  43:53  
So I, I had the privilege to work at a federal and state level around Parent Information Centers. And so every single state has a organization that will help you walk through this process. So even the US Virgin Islands, Alaska, you name it, every single place and like for instance, in Florida, where Lisa lives, there are three or four of these organizations that are assigned to different counties in North Carolina, there are three two that work in smaller areas, and then one that covers statewide but it may be a good place to start when you need direction and to be able to find out like what are the processes in the state? What happens when you do disagree? How do I effectively engage in dispute resolution? And these individuals are trained to kind of give you a more systemic point of view and a more broad versus, you know, very particular nuances within a certain County and things like that, and I think You know, what I have seen and what I experienced was just incredible printed resources, as well as phone consultations. And then sometimes they go to meetings with you as a parent,

Dawn Davenport  45:12  
which is amazingly helpful.

Speaker 2  45:14  
Yeah. And it's, you know, it's fortunate unfortunate that people like me, you know, have small businesses because of this need. You know, I always feel bad about it, because I say nobody should have to hire somebody to spend money to get something for their child or loved one that they should automatically have. But it's the reality that we live in. So it's very humbling. I will say, as a parent, as a professional in this space for 30 years, it's very humbling for me, when families engage with me, because they're trusting me with their most important person. And you know, I always say it's not wasted on me, because I do I carry it, I cry for them, I celebrate with them. I went to a preschool graduation at kindergarten graduation last week, for you know, families that I support it because it's exciting. It's exciting to see the growth, it's exciting to see opportunities

Dawn Davenport  46:09  
and having an advocate, I love the fact that there are organizations, I love the fact that there are consultants who are there. But I also love the fact that there are organizations who can provide advocacy resources. All right. But speaking of resources, I want to now move into, we will include links to or the actual resources of some of these that I think could be very helpful for parents. I have mentioned one, which is an article, calming the what ifs. Gail has mentioned a resource on advocacy groups and states, we will include that. Lisa, I believe you mentioned that list of acronyms, which would be very helpful. We will include that. Are there other resources for parents who are beginning this special education process that would be helpful for helping them navigate? Gail? Do you have another resource?

Speaker 3  47:04  
Yeah. So when we look at like a national organization that then has different offices in the States, I would definitely lean into the disability rights and protection and advocacy corner. And the reason I say that is they have particular funding that supports education, litigation, advocacy, around special education, Father fours, IEP, that kind of route, and in particular, some are really focusing on systemic issues. And so you know, I would look up to the National Disability Rights Network, and then from there, find your local disability rights and protection and advocacy within your state. And again, that's another arena and lots of these organizations have one pagers that explain processes, so that you're not having to dig through all of this information to get very concise resources.

Dawn Davenport  47:59  
Okay, excellent. Lisa, do you have a resource that we haven't mentioned that we should include?

Speaker 2  48:06  
I really like a day in our shoes. It's a national blog and website that was started by a parent and it's just got a wealth of information for families, regardless of where they are in this journey. So a DNR students also, if you're a compliance or statute junkie, like me, rights law with a W is a really great source of information. Rights Law has done a lot of the books that I recommend, from emotions to advocacy. They do trainings for parents, for professionals. So I definitely would say their information is tremendous.

Dawn Davenport  48:45  
And the last resource we'll mention is I have always found that is a district great source of expert but we are creating a family is our hyphenated buzzwords, expert based trauma informed and I have found resources to fit that mold. And they cover a whole host of different learning challenges. This the Del Mar has been a long time supporter of this show, and honestly this show wouldn't be happening without our long term supporters and short term supporters for that matter. Vista Del Mar is a licensed nonprofit adoption agency with over 65 years of experience helping to create families. They offer home study only services as well as full service, infant adoption, international home studies, and post adoption support for international as well as a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del All right, well, thank you so much, Gail Osbourne and Lisa Eisenberg for being with us today to help us navigate special education and the IEP or the five before planning process it's been very helpful so thank you so much thank you thank you

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