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Flip the Script on IEP Conversations: Mastering the "They Say, You Say"

Flip the Script on IEP Conversations: Mastering the "They Say, You Say"

Published: Mar. 27, 2024Updated: Mar. 27, 2024

In March, we sat down with Undivided's Education Advocate Lisa M. Carey to hear her playbook for how to respond during tricky IEP meeting conversations. If you hear something you don't think is correct, what do you say? Watch the full replay of our event below, or catch the highlights here on our recap page!

Full event transcript

Lindsay 00:30 Hey everybody welcome to Undivided live. I'm Lindsay Crain and I head the content and community teams here at Undivided. And today we are covering some of the most common things parents hear during IEPs. The statements that we know don't sound right, something feels off in our gut, maybe our faces feel hot when they're saying it. But knowing something sounds off doesn't mean that we know how to respond in the most effective ways. And screaming, I know you're wrong over and over and over might not be the best way to get where you want to go during the IEP meeting. Lisa would probably agree. And the sad thing is, if our school districts keep saying it enough times, sometimes we start to believe it. They're statements made with authority and experience. After all, they do way more IEPs than we do as parents, aren't they supposed to be the experts? Reality is most professionals, they're not trying to be malicious. They really believe what they're saying, because they've said it for so long. Maybe their colleagues say it. It's unfortunately become their truth. But their truth doesn't mean it's right or that it's true. And it certainly doesn't mean that it's law. So parents as much as I wish that IEPs were always run with fidelity and this didn't fall on us, we do need to learn to recognize the red flags and how we can respond. So thankfully, we have just the person here to help: Undivided education advocate Lisa Carey, Lisa has advocated for 1000s of families with IEPs, including her own. She's also the mother of three sons with disabilities. Hello, Lisa, welcome back.

Lisa Carey 01:59 Hi, thank you. This is gonna be fun.

Lindsay 02:01 I know, I know, Lisa's excited about this one. So am I. Also with you today in the chat, we have our community manager, Donna, and our lead Navigator, Kelly, they'll be passing along your questions to us. So please let us know the most confusing, maddening statements that you've heard in your IEPs. I know it's gonna be hard to maybe limit that list. And then we can ask Lisa if she has a good response. So Lisa is also going to get right down to why something may be incorrect and how we can respond. We're not going to dive too deeply into each subject unless there are a lot of questions. So Donna is going to be sharing our articles in the chat where you can get more details about each subject, which will let you dig in further. She'll also share the link to our resource page, which has articles, events, and videos that cover everything from IEPs, to regional center to IHSS, and more. It's a lot of information, we know. And if you still have questions after today, or you want one to one support, our Navigators like Kelly, they love helping parents organize and prioritize. So from monthly Boost calls with their families to ongoing conversations via messenger chat, your Undivided account connects you to step by step guides, your digital super binder where you can upload all of your documents in one place, and of course, the web and mobile app connects you with your Navigator, because there's a lot to manage in our lives. And it's nearly impossible to Google every statement that we hear that doesn't sound quite right. I don't know if we'd be doing much else. So we want you to get some time back, and you deserve a partner. So Donna shared a link where you can learn more about our free Kickstart. And you can start working with the Navigator within days. Okay, so Lisa has been to many, many, many trainings over the years, in addition to leading them, and one of her favorites was from the always awesome Chris Arroyo at the State Council on Developmental Disabilities. Chris did a training that included a section similar to what we're doing today. So we reached out and asked him if we could do our own version, and he graciously agreed. So thank you, Chris and the State Council for being a tremendous resource for all of us. Because unfortunately, we parents need to be very versed on mastering that "they say, you say" so let's get prepared to flip the script. All right, Lisa, let's do it. Alright, so before we do jump in, Lisa, I'd love for you to kind of, you know, let's set the scene based on your experience and on the things that we're going to cover today. Do you think that districts know what they're saying is false when it is indeed false?

Lisa Carey 02:10 Usually, no. Usually, I think that they believe what they're saying. Usually, I think that it's the product of saying the same thing, for years and years and years or just never been challenged on some of it. I think, you know, there might be cases where they're intentionally trying to mislead parents with the hope they'll drop it and go away. But I think for the most part, it's not malicious. It's not intentional.

Lindsay 04:59 Exactly. So, certainly whatever the intentions might be, it doesn't make it any less frustrating for parents. So we definitely need to empower ourselves by knowing how to respond. So we're going to start with comments about rules, or policies. Spoiler alert, some long standing rules don't actually exist as policy. Habits are not policies. So alright, Lisa, I'm going to be the voice of the IEP team, and then you give us your response. So let's start with, you know, the very basic, I'm sorry, Lisa, we can't do that. It's against our policies.

Lisa Carey 05:33 Yeah. So usually I like to respond to these using exactly what Chris Arroyo talks about too right, it's for me, it's best to try to ask questions instead of make statements. So a lot of my responses are going to be in the form of a question because I have found if you ask a question, and then you're able to not talk, a lot of times they'll respond, give you information. If you if you make a statement, a lot of times, they might just say, Okay, well, we've noted your concern, and then they move on. And you know, you don't get that engagement. So one of the things that I'll respond to with that is, can you please, when they say we can't do it, it's against the policy, can you please note that in the IEP, along with the reason why you can't, so we can document the request? Or you can also ask them, and I love this one, is can you please share a copy of that policy with me? And then and sometimes they'll say, Well, we'll provide that after the meeting, because of course, they're not going to have all the policies there in front of them. And so then I'll respond with great, can you please note it in the IEP that you'll be providing that by next Friday, so I don't forget? So that's a start.

Lindsay 06:47 I can say I have had to use that in a meeting of which, then, you know, we could have a conversation that we needed to have, which on the spot, they noted was actually not a policy. So you never know, maybe there you know, again, if people say things enough times, they might be believing it too. So I love I love the way that you're opening with let's ask questions, let's engage, instead of just taking that note, and that's brilliant. Does the same, as far as policies, does the same answer go for We can't do that it's against our contract?

Lisa Carey 07:19 Same thing, same thing, exact same thing. Can I get a copy of that? And note it in the notes that you've requested this thing and they're saying no because of a contract.

Lindsay 07:29 Perfect. All right, Lisa, why don't we give this IEP a try. And we can have another IEP meeting in a few months. We can talk about this again then.

Lisa Carey 07:40 So this question is a good question. So when you say why don't we give this IEP a try? You know, it oftentimes it's a specific part of the IEP, right when thinking about it, it's not just an IEP, they might say, why don't we try this service for a few months? If that's something you're good with, because you yourself want to try it, great. If it's not, and you just want the darn service in there, then you can say something along the lines of isn't the IEP supposed to be for one year? Why would we create it or build it so that it's, you know, so that we need to meet again in a few months? So you're just gonna say, Isn't the IEP supposed to be for a year? What benefit, why would we do it this way?

Lindsay 08:22 Right. And I also just say a quick follow up to our last question from Veronica that I wanted to get back to real fast about policy, she said, So what happens if they don't actually get back to you when they say they are, and it's in the IEP about when they were going to give you the policy? How should they follow up?

Lisa Carey 08:39 Well, hopefully it's in the notes of the IEP, if it's not in the notes of the IEP, then you're going to, you know, in your parent consent, when you reply to the IEP, you're going to note that, hey, in the meeting, you're going to write out in the meeting this was agreed to, but it's not reflected in the notes, right. So if you don't get it, as with anything in IEP land, start off first with an email to the case manager. So it's in writing, saying, Hey, you were supposed to give me this by this date. I haven't got it. Can you please follow up? If they don't follow up, I would request another IEP meeting. Now, the reason for this is they don't want to have another IEP meeting. Okay. So a lot of times, if you say I guess I'm going to request an IEP meeting, because I really need to get this policy that was talked about in the last meeting, a lot of times that will push things along and they'll get you the policy, or they'll admit they don't have the policy. And a lot of times, by the way, if they do give you a policy, read it and make sure it actually says what they said they said. It's not like adjacent or closely related to.

Lindsay 09:42 Absolutely. Okay, so moving on. Oh, yeah.

Lisa Carey 09:46 I was gonna say a policy, by the way, doesn't mean absolutely no, you know, they can write a policy for anything they want. Right. So then you have to dig a little bit deeper and find out is this something that they're allowed to do under the rules around IEPs under federal and state law, right? Which, you know, you want to look at just because they have a policy doesn't necessarily mean they can't do it.

Lindsay 10:08 Absolutely. All right, a slightly different variation of the last question. We do that anyways. We don't have to put that in the IEP because it's part of the offer program. We don't stop at what's in the IEP.

Lisa Carey 10:22 Right. This is one of my favorite ones. And I get that all the time. And I'm sure everyone listening has heard some variation of this, right, by some of the things that I've heard commonly is, well, all the kids in the classroom have a Chromebook, or oh, all our teachers already let kids go to the bathroom when they raise their hand, right? Or our classrooms use universal design for learning, so that's already embedded in the program. Embedded is another word. So I always reply with something along the lines, well, isn't the IEP supposed to be a portable document I can take anywhere? So you know, if you move districts or schools, they may not do that thing. Right? So yeah, isn't the IEP supposed to be portable? What if we move? I want my new school to know what you're doing. And you can say things like, you know, when they say, Well, we already do that. You can also say, Great, that makes it so much easier, please put it in the IEP.

Lindsay 11:23 Right? Especially, I mean, if you have, if your child has a lot of different teachers, what one teacher does, you really can't say that every teacher is doing so it's like, great. Just want everyone to be on the same page, all the providers, all the teachers, let's just make sure we have in the IEP all in one place. Oh, and we had, Sasha had a follow up to the policy question. She said, what if they do show you the policy? Doesn't FAPE supersede a district policy? I think that's probably what you answered. Right, Lisa?

Lisa Carey 11:51 Yep. Yes. It does. But always start by looking at that district policy too, because a lot of times, the policy is sort of close to what you were talking about, but not exactly. Right. But yes, Sasha's right.

Lindsay 12:07 And Nikki asked for the IEP is a one year document answer, she said, I've had them say it's a living, breathing document, and therefore changes all the time. How can we combat that? I've heard that too.

Lisa Carey 12:20 Yeah. And you know, it is true. It is a living, breathing document. And it does change, it does change when needed, either the school team, or the home team can request an IEP meeting to change the document. But when you're writing the document, you generally in most cases, should be looking at a year. There are exceptions, you know, I have one client right now where they're doing a fade out of the aide slowly, right. And they wanted to write a whole fade out plan, like the aide is going to do two hours a day. And then after this date, four hours a day, whatever. And we said no, we'll agree to stage one. But we need to have a meeting and see how things are going before we agree to your stage two or stage three. So there are some cases where it would be okay. But generally speaking, we want the IEP written for a year, in most cases.

Lindsay 13:09 Okay. All right. This is one that I'm betting would have lots of hands up. So Lisa, the general education teacher has to leave after 15 minutes because our class is coming in. Can you please sign the excusal form?

Lisa Carey 13:25 Yeah, this one's easy. No. So I will preface it by there are cases where I as an advocate and as a parent will allow excusals. Some of the situations might be, let's say you had an AAC assessment. And it's not an annual, you're just having a meeting to talk about the AAC and they want to know if the APE teacher can be excused. Fine by me, right. I don't need the PE teacher there for this. So it's not always a hard and fast, but the general education education teacher should always be there unless your child is 100% in special education. But even then, if inclusion or mainstreaming opportunities are being discussed, you need a general education teacher.

Lindsay 14:13 Right, or, you know, standards, you know, core curriculum that sometimes maybe specialist teachers might not know. Absolutely.

Lisa Carey 14:21 Yes, absolutely. So a gen ed teacher is someone that I would rarely agree to excuse.

Lindsay 14:28 All right. Lisa, I know you have an assessment that says your child has autism, but from what we see, we disagree, so they don't qualify for a lot of the services that you're asking for.

Lisa Carey 14:39 Yeah. And again, I always like to put things into questions, right? And, you know, I thought services were based on need. Are you saying he doesn't have a need in this area? Let's assess, right? So obviously, a lot of times you're not going to say this whole sentence in one breath like I just did, but this is just to give an idea right? But you know, if you say Are you saying he doesn't have a need in this area? And if they say no and you disagree, then we're going to ask for an assessment. And so any IEP should not ever be based on diagnosis, but it should be based on need.

Lindsay 15:11 Should we react to the fact that they're also disagreeing with the diagnosis?

Lisa Carey 15:18 That is a tough question. It's a good question. Right? So that's a tough question. Generally, I don't care. There are a few exceptions. But generally, if the child is getting their needs met, you know, in eligibility like, really quickly to not go completely off track here. But an eligibility on an IEP is not a medical diagnosis, it's an educational eligibility. And there are cases where there are kids who are medically diagnosed with autism don't qualify for an IEP under the educational category of autism and instead qualify under OHI, other health impairment, or under a specific learning disability or under speech, I kind of don't really care. What I want to know is if the child is getting all the supports and services the child needs in order to progress and access. That's the question.

Lindsay 16:08 Thank you. I just I'd heard that come up from like three different parents that I know, like in the last week, so. Okay, so a slightly different variation of the previous question. Your diagnosis doesn't qualify for an IEP. We don't need to assess.

Lisa Carey 16:27 So it kind of depends how you're getting this, right. So if you've asked for an evaluation, and it sounds kind of like this might be an initial evaluation for a child who doesn't yet have an IEP, if they tell you this, you can just say, Well, you know, thank you. But I believe my child needs an assessment, please give me an assessment plan to sign. Right? It's more complicated if they've formally replied in the form of what we call a prior written notice. But what I just talked about this with somebody. What often happens when someone requests an assessment, whether it is an initial assessment, or your child has an IEP, and you're asking for like a speech assessment or whatever, right? What often will happen is someone will come and tell you or send you a quick email and be like, gosh, you know, we don't see a problem in that area. We don't think we need to assess. And then the parent says something along the lines of Okay, thank you. And then the school says, okay, assessment was requested has been withdrawn. Right. So parents should instead unless they, of course, agree with what the teacher or whoever is saying, parents should instead reply with gosh, thank you. I'm so happy to hear your opinion or your thoughts. But I'd like to get an assessment plan still.

Lindsay 17:42 Awesome. All right. So now, you sort of touched on aides earlier, and we do have a couple questions around aides. So Lisa, you aren't allowed to have the same behavioral support company at home and at school.

Lisa Carey 17:56 So I've never seen this regulation, as far as in the state regulations or the federal regulations. I've never seen that. So this is going to be a policy, right, a district specific policy. So why is that? That's my first response. Right? Why? Can you please share the regulation or the policy on this? So like, go back to the first question, you want to see the regulation or the policy.

Lindsay 18:19 Because it could be, it could be in a contract. Possible. Right?

Lisa Carey 18:23 Right. And so it could, when it comes to these contracts, I gotta add, right. So your child's individual needs and their FAPE, which someone mentioned earlier, their free appropriate public education, right, is going to trump any of these policies and contracts and stuff. But if you're dealing with a private company, like a non public school or a non public agency, so they're contracting with ABC behavior to come in and provide their aides, right, if there is a contract between the district and that private for profit company, and they have some agreement in there, that is going to be really hard to overcome. And if a parent pushed and pushed here, I would say we're going to talk to an attorney. Because we can't obligate a private company to do something. Right? Now, if they're an NPS, they have a contract with the school district. So you're going to be talking to the school district and you can get them to do things. But you can't get the private company to do something because these rules don't apply to them. So it does get a little tricky. Just putting out there.

Lindsay 19:29 Yeah. Thank you. All right. Another another frequently heard statement, you aren't allowed to talk to your child's one to one aide.

Lisa Carey 19:42 Don't screenshot that.

Lindsay 19:46 That's all you need. Right. That emotion immediately. Right. This person with your child across all environments all day. Sorry, can't talk to them.

Lisa Carey 19:54 You know, my youngest has extensive support needs, high support needs. And as a mom, this makes my blood boil. Like, this is one of those things where I have to like bite my tongue, meaning bite my tongue so I don't respond in a way that'll not be helpful. So, first off the school, the reason school districts do this, right is they don't want parents talking to aides, because aides don't know how to talk to parents and can say the wrong thing. Okay? A lot of times things that are going on in the classroom, you know, like, like an aide is not allowed to teach your child. They are facilitating what the teacher has told them to do. But an aide might say, oh, yeah, I teach him his letters. Because they don't, even though maybe in this case, legitimately, the teacher sat down and said to the aide, hey, this is how you do it. You do this, and you press this, and then the kid does this. And then I want you to do this. And I want you to take data, right? Even though legitimately, they may have had that training from the teacher, that still is something parents run with. And I'm not saying I agree with this, just saying. So one way around this is ask to speak to the aide with the teacher present. They're going to have a really hard argument against this. You can also ask the teacher and I would have followed this up an email, right? That can you speak to the aide regarding personal care? How many times today did my child need a diaper change? Did my child eat lunch? Did his G-tube, whatever, you know, those types of questions. Sometimes schools will say yes, but don't ask about academics or services or behavior or whatever and tell the aide to defer on those. And so that's a way around, especially since a lot of times the questions parents have are around personal care.

Lisa Carey 21:06 Absolutely. We also had a clarification question to the last one about when you were talking about public versus private. How would I know whether they're an actual private company? How do I know the school district isn't lying and saying it's a private company, and it's actually a public one?

Lisa Carey 22:11 So generally, and this is not going to be across all districts, so generally, it's how they're listed on the IEP. I assume we're talking about an aide right now. And on the IEP, a lot of times, they will list it as an NPA. And you'll know that means non public agency, and they're contracting out. Different districts have different things that they call different things, right? So there's intensive individual services, there is BII, there's instructional aide, these are all different terms, that means somebody that's one to one typically, unless it says different with your child. So you're going to have to ask the school what that means when you see it on your IEP, if it has a BII in one line and a BID in the other line, ask them. Who are these people? What are their training? Where do they come from?

Lindsay 23:04 Alright, one more question on the aides. Your child aide is not allowed to attend your child's IEP.

Lisa Carey 23:10 I bet you know the answer to this one. Can you please share the policy or regulation about this?

Lindsay 23:17 Absolutely. Right. I mean, I know that's one that we hear over and over and over. Oh, and Veronica just had a follow up question as well. She's said, I think you touched on this, but for clarification, can aides give input to behavior? So if it is behavioral aide, can they give input to behaviors, whether that's at the IEP or otherwise?

Lisa Carey 23:38 Yeah. Yeah. So again, you're going to hit the same thing where they're gonna say, well, the aide can't come to the IEP, the aide can't talk to all of that. So you can ask I mean, I really do not like these situations, but I would ask the the teacher to please get the aide's input. And then when you get to the IEP meeting, say, well, what what input did the aide have?

Lindsay 24:06 And also asking the policy on why they can't be there.

Lisa Carey 24:08 Right, right, right. Yes, yeah.

Lindsay 24:13 Um, let's see. So, Nikki had a question and just trying to see if we'd already answered it. The district clerk? Okay. Nikki, I'm just going to come back around to that one. In just a few if that isn't answered in some of our later questions. All right. So, Lisa, so next comment, Lisa, it seems like there's some disagreement here. So let's go around the meeting and everyone in the team can say if they agree yes or no. Let's vote.

Lisa Carey 24:46 Right. So Lindsay gave me permission to give my sarcastic answer sometimes before I give a straight answer. So my sarcastic answer is Gosh, I don't remember seeing the democracy rules and whatever. I get really aggravated by this. There's a few reasons I get aggravated by this. My response would be something along the lines of wouldn't it be more collaborative and constructive if each team member gave their reasons for yes or no? That's really important. Because if this is something that they're talking about that you want to fight for, we want to know their whys, because sometimes that alone is enough for you to push back on. One of the other reasons I really don't like the yes or no, like it's a democracy and if this many people say yes, and this many people say no, the yeses win, is number one, it's not looking at the parents being the most important people on the team. And number two, then what is to prevent parents, which by the way, I know parents personally that have done this, what if parents were saying, well, school teams invited eight people. So grandma, auntie, cousin, best friend, I need 12 people. Great. All right, let's vote. 12 wins. That's not how this works.

Lindsay 26:14 And it feels like such a way to marginalize parents as well. And to make you feel like you're one person, like one vote like, absolutely not.

Lisa Carey 26:23 And that's what a lot of parents say, they say like, I go into this room with 10 people, and it's just me, it's intimidating. And this is just sort of saying like, yeah, you don't count, because there's nine of us and one of you.

Lindsay 26:33 Exactly. Right. Okay, Lisa, we can't do that. It'll set a precedent.

Lisa Carey 26:44 Yeah, a lot of responses, right? Um, isn't the purpose of this meeting to design a program that will meet my child's unique needs? How can this be a bad precedent for my child when that's what's most appropriate? And if they say like, something along the lines of it's a bad precedent because the other students are going to do want to do this or something like that, you can just say, are other students or parents going to be seeing his IEP?

Lindsay 27:17 Exactly right, like, how is it going to be a precedent unless you're showing others? I mean, obviously, there are situations where parents are going to see, but I love all of those answers. I also want to just say, I think it was the last question when you were saying we want to get their whys, I really love that, because we do. Like the yes and no. So for all of these questions, asking that why to them, because collecting those responses, if you do need to take things a step further, or, you know, a subsequent IEP, we want to hear those answers, right?

Lisa Carey 27:46 So just sort of a quick comment, like how those whys can be so helpful. And I want to say anytime anyone tells you anything in an IEP meeting that you're not sure about, ask why, like I said, ask questions. Always ask why, because I've had teachers say things in an IEP or staff or whatever. Well, it's easier for us to have all the kids that do this in this classroom. Right? Well, that's not going to stand, most likely, if you have to retain an attorney or go to alternative dispute resolution. Obviously, I can't say what would be a good case or not, because I'm not an attorney. But that is, you know, against the very point of what we're doing.

Lindsay 28:28 It's the antithesis of the IEP. All right, so now let's talk about some common statements around services and supports, again, lots of normalized responses here. So okay, Lisa, we only give 30 minutes of OT a week here.

Lisa Carey 28:45 So my sarcastic answer, right is do all your students who have OT have the same needs as my Johnny? What? Every single one of them has the same goals? But I mean, really, that is kind of the real answer too, right. If they say for all the students who have OT, again, we have to look at the assessments, we have to individualize and see, maybe Johnny needs 45 minutes. I don't know, it depends on those goals, right. But when they say they only do 30 minutes of something at that school for all students, then what they're saying is they're they're saying that all the students have the same similar goals and needs.

Lindsay 29:28 Right. Exactly. Again, taking the individualized out of the IEP. Okay. Lisa, services are supposed to fade out. We're gonna start cutting your child's hours.

Lisa Carey 29:40 Yeah. Let's start with show me the policy. Right. That says services are supposed to fade out because you know what, that might be true for some kids, but it's not true for all kids. And the other thing is, you can say you know, is don't we need to do an assessment in order to show a need has changed? So if there is continuing to be a disagreement, then you can ask them to provide an assessment plan for whatever the service is that they're cutting. So let's say they're saying the child no longer needs OT. Okay, great. Let's do an assessment to show that. Unless you also agree. If everybody agrees, you can skip that assessment. But if you disagree, there needs to be an assessment to show needs have changed.

Lindsay 30:25 Okay, well, we have to wait to get approval for that new service. And we're not sure how long that's going to take.

Lisa Carey 30:32 Yeah, I love this one. So if you're told that they have to get approval, please, please just very politely say, Oh, who does those approvals? Can you please put in the notes that you're going to look into that and get back to me by Friday? This is important because an IEP team is supposed to have somebody in the meeting who can make decisions about how to allocate district resources. So if they have to get an approval from somebody who's not in the meeting, then they are making decisions outside of an IEP meeting. I wouldn't say all that, I would just say, Oh, who's going to do those who does those approvals? And can you put a note, you know, that you're getting the approval and get back to me? And since your audio recording the meeting, you also have that.

Lindsay 31:17 Alright, so here's one of the most repeated, also one of my least favorites, not that any of these are high up there. We can't include that in the IEP because your child can't do that. It's above their skill level.

Lisa Carey 31:32 This is one of the ones that gets my blood boiling, too. We hear this a lot with kids that have intellectual disability, where they've already made a decision about what kids can and can't do very early on sometimes. So you can reply with are we missing a need in their IEP? Right? Are there enough services in this IEP? Has someone worked on that skill with my child? Really? That's great. Can I see the data? So I come up with these because when someone says we can't include something because a child can't do it, I always want to say like, where's your crystal ball? Right? Well, the closest thing we have to that crystal ball is an assessment. So let's see the assessment that says a child's not capable. I personally have never seen an assessment that said a child can never do something, right. It only says what they can do now and can't do now. I've never seen one that says the child is never going to do this thing in the future. So I would ask, What need are we missing? What goals are we missing? What services are we missing? And go from there.

Lindsay 32:41 Okay, so this is a frequent one that can be relevant for any support. And it's an example of that last question. Okay, your child still can't write. So there's no need to include a handwriting goal.

Lisa Carey 32:53 Yeah. It's interesting, because when this one was told to me as a question, I thought, This is my 20 year old. He's a 2E kid, right? He's can't write, can't do it, can't write. And so you know, it turns out that when kids are turning 18 are over the age of 18, right, and they're taken to the doctor's office or anywhere else, they have to sign their name and put the date in. And there are still places we go where we have to fill out a paper form. If the internet is down, then that happens everywhere, but there's still places you have to sign it at a doctor's office, usually on a piece of paper, right? So they have to be able to write, so I often will suggest a goal for filling out forms. Okay, this might be a situation, right, where we're saying we're done. We don't want to work on writing anymore as a team, maybe the child has dysgraphia. And they just need to be on a keyboard. But I do think at a minimum, we should be working on filling out some forms, name, address phone number, so that it is legible for whoever needs to read it.

Lindsay 34:05 And I think this is it's a good segue to goals. So we want to make sure, you know, we want to ensure the goals are challenging, appropriate, standards based, SMART, right, which everyone on this call probably knows what that is, but Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Results oriented and Time bound, SMART somewhere in there. I think I might have said something twice. But this can cause problems when trying to agree on, like what you just said Lisa, on what your child can do, will do, and how. So Lisa, your child met their goals. They're bright, they don't need an IEP.

Lisa Carey 34:40 So every IEP is going to have what we call PLOPS, present levels of performance. Some states actually call them PLEPs, present levels of educational performance, so someone corrected me on a live so I want to share that. It should say in the PLOPS their needs. Now it's very possible it doesn't. Sometimes they're preparing to exit the child so they won't put needs in. But first check and see what needs are in the PLOPS and you're gonna want to write goals around whatever those needs are. We shouldn't exit or end something if you don't agree without an assessment. So let's do an assessment, please provide the assessment plan. And then as a kind of a side note that I wanted to add, some kids have some disabilities that lead them to be inconsistent, maybe it's a kid who gets dysregulated, right, or whatnot. And so if they've met goals, if you want to write goals that are also sort of similar, and we're going to hopefully talk about repeating goals in a minute, but similar, but you can also change the measurement, a lot of times they'll want a measurement, measure it, like across five days, right? I would want to say, let's do it across two weeks, especially for those kids that could show a skill and then forget or lose, or be unable to perform the skill, we want to make sure they actually can do this skill consistently. So that's something I wanted to add in there.

Lindsay 36:09 I think it's really important. Because just you know, a lot of us know, like you said, one day your pick could be on. And if you're not repeating it and working on it, the next week, that skill can be gone. So it's a great way to really look at generalization across days, moods, time.

Lisa Carey 36:27 Yeah, but just remember, like they can't end a service or an IEP without an assessment. So we're going to always want to go back to that assessment to show that the need's not there.

Lindsay 36:38 All right, Lisa, you know, that's not unique to your child. I think all kids have difficulty with that.

Lisa Carey 36:46 Yeah, I would basically say something along the lines of you know, that may be true, right? But my child's disability is going to make it harder for them to do this or overcome this or learn this skill. You know, it's, this is one of those things that drives me crazy, because it's a good example is when we have a young child who might be autistic or have autism, and they're having some social skill problems, right. And then they say, well, all kids that age have problems getting along. We already know that this child is probably going to have those issues and concerns long term, while the rest of those first graders are going to kind of outgrow those specific problems. So that's essentially the response there. Just to give an example.

Lindsay 37:41 Let's say your child isn't at grade level. They can't have standards based goals.

Lisa Carey 37:47 Yeah, that's not true. Um, I would often say something along the lines of well, to the school, do you are you familiar with the Common Core connectors? That's one thing I would ask. The Common Core connectors are essentially a way to take the standard, the Common Core standard, and break it down into component parts that that make it easier to attain. So for example, I'm just making this up, right? I don't know for sure. But a third grade standard might be to write a paragraph. And I don't know if that's true. But a common core connector for that might be to write a sentence, right? So it can be adjusted so that it's still aligned with the standard so that your child is doing a similar or same project or assignment as the other kids at the same time.

Lindsay 38:39 And here's a more specific version of that. Your child is in seventh grade and reading at a second grade level. So she needs second grade goals.

Lisa Carey 38:48 Yeah. You know, for a child like this, I would think, okay, they're reading at a second grade level, but that doesn't extend to anything else. So I would say, Great, let's provide her the materials in audiobook form. So that they can still access whatever the seventh grade curriculum is, right? Whatever they're learning about it. They're learning about in history of war, right? Well, they may not be able to read the seventh grade history textbook, but can they listen to it? Can they get it in ebook form, like where the word is highlighted as it's read to them to help with the reading skill? Or if it's a child who needs modified books, then please provide a modified book for this topic. Right?

Lindsay 39:40 We can't underline that enough because schools who haven't done it, it definitely seems like something from outer space the first time that you might mention it as a parent, but it's really important to know that the answer is not always, you know, that we have to segregate your child. There are absolutely ways to learn, and if they need help with that, then then that's another conversation. Okay, so you mentioned this before Lisa, oldie but a goodie, we're gonna have to repeat last year's goal because she didn't meet it this year. She has to master skills before moving on.

Lisa Carey 40:13 Okay, so my sarcastic reply is isn't the very definition of unreasonable doing the same thing again and expecting different results, right? Like, we've all heard that kind of saying one way or another. Something from last year didn't work. What makes you think it's gonna work this time? Right? Um, what do you suggest we do differently? There are some goals that should repeat, right? For example, if you're working on a potty training goal for a child, right, regardless of the age, well, who wants to say, oh, nevermind, the child is never gonna, we're not gonna be potty trained. Let's move on. No, that's a goal we should keep working on. Right. But we need to change the goal somewhat. Right? What like, maybe we were looking for the child to initiate it. Maybe now, we want a schedule. I don't know. The rule of thumb though, is you don't repeat a goal. That is the rule of thumb and I generally agree with that. I'm just pointing out there's a couple situations where, you know, for example, if the goal is for a child who really has a lot of support needs, and we want them to write their name, that may not be a goal that we just give up on, we may want to continue to work on writing their name, again, because we want them to have that skill. So it just depends. But I would start with what do you suggest we do differently this time? Because you can't do the same thing again.

Lindsay 41:37 Alright, Lisa, well, I realize she's in middle school, but we can't give her reading goals. She doesn't even know her letters yet.

Lisa Carey 41:45 Well, reading, if you have a child who's struggling to read, I suggest, I know I'm going a little bit off book, but I suggest you learn about, you know, reading and all the component parts of reading, right? But reading involves a lot of skills. It includes comprehension. It includes decoding and fluency, and on and on and on. So I would suggest that they also use audiobooks and ebooks, right, while they're continuing to work on reading. So it's sort of kind of what we talked about before, right, with the second grader who's not reading or I'm sorry, the seventh grader who's reading at a second grade level, right? It's the same thing, we still want them to be able to access the school and the curriculum and grow and learn. But we're not going to give up on reading. Ever, ever. So we're gonna keep, you want to keep having those reading goals in the IEP every year targeting whatever the areas needed, whether it's phonemic awareness, or phonics or whatever that area is for your kid. So always make sure reading is in there, if that's a weakness.

Lindsay 42:54 And one of I think the worst areas for inaccurate blanket statements seems to revolve around placement. There are, you know, a few things that districts seem to really want to, you know, that they really want to control, you know, placement seems to be one of them. But let's, let's just let's just jump right in. So Lisa, your child is not at grade level. They can't keep up in a gen ed classroom.

Lisa Carey 43:17 Yeah. The smarty kind of, well, I don't know if this is a sarcastic response or not. But there's nowhere that says they have to keep up. Right? It's okay, that they don't keep up. When we talked about briefly, the Common Core connectors, this is what a kid should be doing in a general education classroom. So they're on the same, you know, we don't we don't want a kid working on math while the rest of the room was working on history, right. So they should be doing similar or same things as their peers, just at a modified level, if needed.

Lindsay 43:56 If we modify her work, she can't be in gen ed.

Lisa Carey 44:02 So my sarcastic response is bull hockey. And you guys can all figure out what word I really want to say. The need to modify isn't it's not enough to warrant removing a child from general education, right? So I would ask who's going to be responsible for providing the modifications, so that he can, you know, continue to learn with, you know, his peers? Needing to modify is, many schools will say, well, we can't do modified work in that classroom. But what what what I hear when they say that is we don't have the staff or the time or the willingness to learn, or it's too hard. That's really what they're saying. So I would, I would, would simply say, you could say, Where's the policy on that? Right? Because they're not going to have one. Or you could say, well, where does that come from? Where's that rule? I've never heard that. To get the response. But I would end with who's going to provide the modifications in the classroom?

Lindsay 45:07 And sort of a follow up to what you just said, Your child needs a small group setting to work on this skill.

Lisa Carey 45:15 Well, I would look at the general ed teacher and say, gosh, don't you utilize small groups in your classroom? Could we try it in the general ed setting and collect data to see if he's generalizing the skill? It's a kind of another one that fits here. I would say that all elementary school classrooms that I'm aware of, I guess we never say all, almost all, do utilize small group instruction. That is how they teach, you know, typical gen ed classrooms and usually do small groups. So I would say, don't you utilize small group?

Lindsay 45:51 And just a slightly different version could sound like, your child needs specialized instruction in a special education setting to work on this goal. How do we respond?

Lisa Carey 46:02 Aren't all services supposed to be portable? And then have you been trained in embedded instruction?

Lindsay 46:10 Because again, like that might be their idea in their head. But where is that written? That that is the case, right? That's what I just want parents to keep repeating in their heads where because we've heard it so many times, they've said it so many times. But where is it written? That that's actually what is supposed to happen?

Lisa Carey 46:28 Right? And it's not. It's not. Districts really like to sort kids. And it's oftentimes based on what works best for them, and not necessarily what's best for the child.

Lindsay 46:40 Right. All right, well, sorry, Mom, you can only tour and see placements that are offered to you. You can't view the placement until after the IEP is signed and we agree.

Lisa Carey 46:52 This is another one that gets my blood boiling. But I would, you know, the response is aren't parents equal members of the IEP team? And how can they, or how can I meaningfully participate without having the same information as the rest of the team? When you go as a parent to an IEP meeting, you have this awesome responsibility to make a decision about how your child should be educated and make a decision on whether what they're presenting to you fits with what your child needs. How is it even remotely possible for you to make a decision about that placement if you've never even seen it? When I asked that question at the end of the meeting, did we, I don't remember exact question. But they always are supposed to ask you if they facilitated your meaningful participation in the meeting or something to that effect. If they're not going to let you visit the placement that they're asking you to agree to, that would be no, I'm not being meaningfully included in the IEP process. You're excluding me, you're not letting me have the same information.

Lindsay 47:58 And that's pretty much a guaranteed part two of an IEP if you're going to recommend because I'm not going to agree to something I haven't seen if that is the case. And so then, you know, they're pretty much guaranteeing instead of letting you be proactive, and then having a conversation during that original IEP meeting. Yeah. Okay. This is one that's hard to even say, all right, Lisa, it would be disruptive to other children if we provide instruction to your child in the gen ed classroom.

Lisa Carey 48:28 Yeah, um, so my polite answer, right is going to be well, what if you use universal design for learning in your classroom so that all children had access to alternative ways to learn? The other thing is, a lot of times that statement is around behaviors, your child's behavior is going to be disruptive to other kids. And I've met a lot of parents who believe that to be true, and it may be true, right? But I don't know if people realize how loud classrooms actually are. And I'm talking about your typical gen ed classrooms are loud, right? So just so you guys know, a kid being loud typically doesn't disrupt other kids or having behaviors because those classrooms are already loud to begin with.

Lindsay 49:19 Right. And we did have just a quick follow up question to the last question. We were talking about school tours. Carrie, how do you argue against the privacy issue? So I'm assuming that might mean the privacy going in and touring classrooms?

Lisa Carey 49:40 Yeah, so I have two things I want to say there. One, a lot of people are told there's a HIPAA violation here. HIPAA applies only to health care settings and doesn't apply to schools. The privacy law for schools is FERPA, which is an F E R P A, if you want to look it up. So the first thing is if they say it's a HIPAA violation, right there, you can point out that this is not a medical facility. And, you know, if there are privacy concerns, then the school can let the teacher know for those few minutes to not say children's full names or something like that. That argument I have heard, but I've never seen it actually withstand the pushing back, because I don't think that it's really grounded in anything. But I would ask them to please put that in the IEP notes that that's the reason why I can't be a fully participating member of the team.

Lindsay 50:42 So what about we aren't trained for that here.

Lisa Carey 50:48 I would say great, what training do you need? Let's write it into the IEP. So I don't know if people know, but training for staff and teachers that is needed for a child is actually something that can be written into an IEP, and it's, you know, supported by the rules. And some IEPS even have a section for supports where they check who the support is for student personnel or parent. So great, let's write that training in.

Lindsay 51:18 Lisa, a special day class is less restrictive than a gen ed class with a one to one aide. So we need to place your child in the special day class.

Lisa Carey 51:28 Yeah, so the word restrictive when we're talking about less restrictive environment or LRE, right, that is defined as placement. Restriction applies to placement, not support, and a one to one aide is a support, not a placement. So used appropriately, an aide should be no more or less different than providing fidgets from an OT, or an AAC device or whatever else is needed. It's a support, not a placement.

Lindsay 52:00 So that's a really great way, I have never heard it put that way. So it's a really good point. A slightly different version of that: your child is being placed in an SDC or a special day class. So they don't need a one to one aide.

Lisa Carey 52:20 I would say yeah, I I'm trying to think of a question form to put it. But I don't have a question form. I would just simply say No, I don't consent to my child being in a more restrictive placement. But the question would be like, Why are you suggesting a more restrictive placement when my child is able to access general education?

Lindsay 52:43 Lisa, we have to consider the continuum of services.

Lisa Carey 52:47 No, we don't. So every IEP, they're gonna say that, right? So I want to say that if you as a parent want your child in a special day class because that's what you feel is best for your child, fantastic. I think parents know best. And I support that. If you want your child in a general education placement, they don't have to consider the continuum of placements, because they have to first consider whether the child's going to be able to make progress in general education, and what support and services are going to be needed to make it work. So as long as they can work on the answer to that question, what support and services are needed in general education, they never need to discuss the continuum.

Lindsay 53:32 Got it. So that's the question we can keep bringing up if that is the conversation we're having about having our child in a gen ed class.

Lisa Carey 53:39 Right. Now, they should explain the continuum. Just so you know, so parents understand what we're talking about. So they should say this is the continuum. First, we have a general education, then we have this, we have this, we have this, but they shouldn't necessarily be applying all of that to a child until the decision has been with all the supports and services discussed, the general education is not appropriate.

Lindsay 54:05 Lisa, the placement is based on goals and services. Your child has 20 goals. So obviously, they need to be in a specialized environment.

Lisa Carey 54:14 Yeah. My, what I want to say is, that's not how this works. Like I want to get one of those memes and just hold it up. So you know, LRE is the general education. The least restrictive environment is the general education classroom your child would otherwise attend. It's not affected by the number of goals, right? But whether the child's going to be able to make progress towards those goals. That's the question. Will the child make progress?

Lindsay 54:48 Right, again, not about earning your way in, not about keeping up. Lisa, your child should really be in a class with their peers, meaning other kids with IEPs.

Lisa Carey 54:59 Yeah, well, I mean, I have osteoarthritis. So I guess I'm only going to be talking to others with osteoarthritis. I usually wear glasses. So I'm going to hang out with people with glasses. This frustrates me to no end. My real answer is that everything I have read as far as the rules and the regulations and IDEA and everything else, from the very beginning of this, it's always displayed, showed a really strong preference that children with disabilities should be educated alongside their peers without disabilities. That is a embedded, critical component of everything that we're doing. So saying that the child should be in class with their peers, right? I agree. Because their peers are everybody else. I have this saying I say, and that is we don't, you know, if your child has autism, your child's not going to grow up and join the autism world, or Down syndrome, your child's not going to grow up and join the Down Syndrome world. Your child's going to grow up and join the same world that we're in, which is going to have a mix of people. And that's who our children should be educated with: a mix.

Lindsay 56:12 Well, and the message should not be and again, it comes back, like Lisa said, to family's choice, priorities, obviously conversations with the IEP team, but it's not an immediate othering of your child based on their disability.

Lisa Carey 56:25 Right, we're not going to sort this child just because they have this specific disability into a class and, and for the record, most classes that you know, most special day classes if we're going to say that like well, your child has autism, they should be with other kids with autism. There actually is autism core classes in LAUSD, but, but most other disabilities, there isn't a cerebral palsy class, there isn't a dyslexia class, there isn't a Down syndrome class, right? So what they're actually saying, is that disabled here and not disabled there, so they're othering your child, like you said, Lindsay.

Lindsay 57:05 Alright, so now for one of the catch all worst one liners. Lisa, we don't do that here.

Lisa Carey 57:15 Aren't you a public school? Like, if it says if it's if it's in the IEP, we need to do it. And if he has this need, for whatever we're talking about, then it needs to be in the IEP.

Lindsay 57:32 Yeah, so we don't do that here.

Lisa Carey 57:33 If they won't put it in the IEP, ask them to document it in the notes with their reason why.

Lindsay 57:39 Which actually is exactly the last question what you have been saying throughout, but I think we really need to underscore it. When we request something, and the district says no, what can we say?

Lisa Carey 57:53 Well, I would ask them, you know, again, where I'm thinking we're in an IEP meeting, I would ask them to document it in the notes. And I want to know why, why, why why. And, yeah, you can also ask for a prior written notice, which is it is a basically a letter that tells you why they're not going to do something and ask you for prior written notice, there's, you know, different thought processes on it. I like to ask for that when I know that their reason for saying no is not appropriate. And I know that they're probably not going to want to put it in writing. That's when I love to ask for it the most.

Lindsay 58:31 Well, I'm I'm looking at the time, I know, there were a couple questions that we did not get to and I know Lisa always tries to go back through when she has time to look in the chat, to answer some questions that we didn't get to. I, you know, I know we we laugh about some of these things that are said, but Lisa, and I know on a personal and professional level, right? I mean, it is intense to talk for an hour straight about things that are said to us, said to our children, right things that ultimately can keep our kids from getting an education, or that keep them segregated, that perpetuate this us versus them environment and parents versus districts, right. It's frustrating.

Lisa Carey 59:08 I want to say one quick thing. Yeah. All of those things we just went through. If you're hearing all of those or most of those in one IEP, ask them to schedule a part two and get an advocate because you shouldn't be hearing all of that in one IEP. I'm at the end and I'm thinking oh my gosh, what if that was one meeting? I'm exhausted? Yeah.

Lindsay 59:28 And I'm betting there are some people watching this, some parents that can say yeah, I ticked a lot of those boxes. Right. And that is so frustrating. I mean, it's painful, it is painful. And we want you to feel empowered. We want to reframe what you might have started believing about some of these team responses. Remember what Lisa said: You are an equal team member. You need to understand what's being offered and why. Ask questions. Ask why. And if something is stated as policy, you can ask to see it. If it's a policy, then you need to know it, you need to, you need to and deserve to understand why they're saying no, and you need to get it in writing. So again, remember that at an IEP if they tell you something just isn't done, is that something that your child needs to access their education, blanket statements can be red flags. Lisa, is there anything you want to just add in there to kind of bring this home?

Lisa Carey 1:00:20 I think I you know, I think we covered a lot of the stuff and I just the thing I leave you with is ask questions, and then resist the urge, if you're like me, to talk. Let them talk. So if they tell you they can't or won't do something, ask a question, and then let them respond. That's the best time. Wonderful.

Lindsay 1:00:43 And I mean, Lisa also said something about this earlier, that it is a huge, it can feel like it it is a huge responsibility to sit in your child's IEP and try to interpret what's happening. So again, if you want help preparing for that IEP, organizing your priorities, working through all of your questions before you sign it and reviewing what is or isn't happening after you sign it, our Navigators would love to support you through your child's IEP and beyond. And in the meantime, a great place to ask questions and get support is our parents only Facebook group. If you're not already in there, join me Lisa and 1000s of parents in the same boat. Donna's going to share that link in the chat. Our mission is to support you so your children can thrive. And we want you to thrive too. Hope to connect soon. Bye. Thank you, Lisa. Thanks, everybody.

Lindsay 1:01:25 Bye. Thank you.



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