Sometimes working with the school on your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan can be a challenge. This is especially true if the school wants to reduce or take away services they believe your child no longer needs. It’s not always easy, but negotiating with the school is an important part of your role as an advocate for your child.
Here are a few pointers on how to convince the school not to reduce your child’s services, if you think the services are necessary.
Keep your cool.
It’s important to keep your cool. Anger can turn off even the most sympathetic school personnel and end any chance you have to convince them not to reduce services. Remember that staying calm could help you get what your child needs.
Show the school you know your child’s rights.
School officials may be less likely to reduce services if you appear confident and knowledgeable about your child’s rights. For example, you can mention that your child has a right to stay put in the current placement while you dispute a change in his IEP. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t know—but make sure the school knows you’ve done your homework.
Understand why the school wants to reduce services.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires the school to give you prior written notice explaining why it wants to reduce services. Make sure you read this notice. And during any meetings with school officials, listen carefully.
If the school says your child has performed at grade level for, say, several months, then the school may have a good reason for cutting back on sessions with the reading tutor. If the school says it wants to reduce services because of scheduling or staffing issues, however, that isn’t appropriate. Understanding the school’s reasoning will give you a roadmap for how to negotiate to keep services in place.
Be sure the school measures your child’s progress objectively.
A common reason schools give for reducing services is that your child is “doing well” and doesn’t need services anymore. The school may point to good grades or to teacher evaluations.
Keep in mind, however, that these are subjective measures—meaning they depend on a particular teacher’s opinion. A good strategy for convincing the school is to focus on objective measures of how well your child is doing, such as data from tests. Objective measures may show that your child hasn’t made as much progress as his grades suggest.
Show the school how reduced services could affect your child’s performance.
Learning and attention issues don’t disappear over time. Your child may need services to continue doing well. If removing services could cause your child to perform worse in school or even misbehave, present documentation of how your child has performed without the services. You may need to gather up past reports and evaluations to do this.
Give the school a way out.
Once you’ve made your case, it can be helpful to give the school a way to keep services without looking like it made a mistake. One way to do this is to suggest an alternative service that would be just as good for your child. Another way is to suggest that the school return to this issue at a later date after gathering more objective data.
The more solutions you suggest, the greater the chance the school will agree to keep services in place.
When the school wants to reduce your child’s special education services, you may need to negotiate on his behalf. If that’s not successful, keep in mind that you have other options.