Going into meetings for The Boy, I always feel like the Cowardly Lion - I have the best intentions but there is always an element of fear and failure. Because while I talk a good talk, I'm really a big coward. I hate addressing a group. I get shy and nervous and I can stutter and stumble over my words. During my first IFSP meeting, I learned that no matter how nervous I was, I had to put on my brave face and charge forward. There is no place for fear.
I also learned that you need to be prepared. Going into my initial IFSP meeting, I had The Boy's evaluation in my hand - sections highlighted, pages tabbed, questions scribbled into the margins. I knew it backward and forward. And I was able to prove it when the EIOD suggested the minimum amount of services, I said "On page 9 of the eval it suggests..." - I got the amount of services I wanted.
Since then, I've always been prepared to fight. I've always armed myself with knowledge of the law. So I wanted to share some of the links I've found that have helped me attain services for The Boy.
- Part 200 (Student with Disabilities) and Part 201 (Procedural Safeguards for Students with Disabilities Subject to Discipline) -- This has been extremely helpful; it is a PDF of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. (I found the link here.) The document is long (about 200 pgs) but it's important to look through. It goes through Due Process Procedures and the Board of Education Responsibilities and Definitions. I've noted sections in letters to CPSE administrators. Let them know that you know the law. Please note there is a disclaimer: These Rules of the Regents and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education ("regulations") are unofficial, and are presented for general informational purposes as a public service.
- "Creating a Quality IEP" - Individualized Education Program Manual -- Another long document, but it takes you through the requirements and roles of the IEP. As a the parent, you are an equal part of the IEP. Sometimes I think administrators forget that and see you as a more of a formality rather than a voice. Never forget that you have as much of a say as they do. You know your child best. You've seen your child in every enviornment: school, home, with children, alone, with therapists. You have an advantage that no one else in the room has.
- Advocates for Children - Turning 5: A Guide to Transition from Preschool Education to Kindergarten -- This document is about 30 pages and walks you through the process. The document also lists the contact information for CSE within the 5 boroughs of New York City. Advocates for Children can also provide legal service for families - however, services are based on financial need. It is my understanding that a family of 5 needs to be in the 50,000 annual income range. Please note there is a disclaimer: This guide does not constitute legal advice. This guide attempts to summarize existing policies or laws without stating the opinion of AFC.
So it's okay to be scared. That's normal. I still feel nervous walking into a meeting. But I always walk in prepared and that gives me a sense of courage.