Improving Your Child’s IEP Month by Month
A monthly article series by Jacqueline Lembeck, Esq.
In talking to parents of children with disabilities, I’ve realized that answering the question, “where do I begin?” is sometimes the hardest part. Navigating special education can feel like drowning in a sea of acronyms (IEP, RR, PTRE, NOREP, LEA . . .) or climbing an endless mountain of paperwork, or both! For those of you who have a resolution to make 2017 a more organized, successful, and peaceful year, this article series is for you! Month by month, I’ll discuss a way to improve your child’s IEP and give action items to focus your journey. It will still be a mountain, but I hope these tips will provide some trail markers along the way.
How Do I Access Resources Outside of the School?
Summer can be a great time to get to know the other resources outside of your school district or charter school which can be used in conjunction with the services in your child’s IEP or 504 plan. Through Medical Assistance or your private insurance, you may be able to set up services in the home or in the school setting to help your child succeed. In Pennsylvania, children with disabilities are eligible for Medical Assistance regardless of parental income.
Keep in mind that, while your school district or charter school is required by federal law to provide your child with a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), there is still much to be gained by making use of ALL available help. Moreover, during the summer you are unlikely to be attending IEP meetings and you may have more time to explore these options than during the school year.
This article is meant to be a very basic review of some of the types of services which may be available to families. Naturally, the availability of services will depend on your child’s particular needs. Often there is considerable paperwork which must be submitted, so you will want to be prepared with the documents you scanned and filed in January. As with the educational apps, remember that other parents and parent groups are excellent sources of information (to locate parent groups, try checking your school’s website). Finally, many services will only be prescribed after an evaluation which finds them medically necessary, so you should be prepared to have your child evaluated again.
If your son or daughter is struggling behaviorally or emotionally, you may want to determine whether you would be eligible for Wraparound services through Medical Assistance or private insurance. For example, a Therapeutic Staff Support (“TSS”) provider may be available to work to redirect your child and teach more appropriate behaviors in school based on a treatment plan. This treatment plan may be created with the input and oversight of a Behavioral Specialist Consultant (“BSC”). In addition, if you child needs therapy that occurs in the home, he/she may be eligible for a Mobile Therapist. Wraparound services may be available through either your private insurance or through Medical Assistance, depending on the nature of your child’s disability and the insurance coverage you carry. If you are requesting Wraparound services through Medical Assistance, you will need to contact your county’s assigned Behavioral Health Managed Care Organization (“MCO”).
Similarly, you may be able to access speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy through Medical Assistance or your private insurance carrier. You may also be able to pay for evaluations with Medical Assistance or through private insurance. In addition to the above therapies, you may be able to access audiology evaluations through medical insurance.
July Action Items:
Apply for Medical Assistance if you haven’t already
Get to know what types of services are covered by your private insurance
Research providers who will take Medical Assistance or your private insurance and determine the cost of services