Navigating the special education system is often daunting for parents and families. Common questions include:
- Will my child qualify?
- What is an IEP?
- What will the school expect from me?
For several years I worked as a social studies teacher and education technician in special education in a public school where I was able to gain extensive familiarity with the special education system rules and regulations. I now work as a Targeted Case Manager and in this role I am able to use my knowledge and experience to support, guide, and empower parents to take the helm in order to plot the course of their child’s educational future. For those just embarking on this journey here is some basic information about special education, IEP’s, and how case managers can help.
What is an IEP?
Children in school who receive special education services have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), which is a specific plan for their educational services. The actual IEP is a state document that includes parent input, testing information, academic goals, therapy goals, and other pertinent information to a child’s education. School staff that may be included in the IEP are special education teachers, occupational therapists, speech language therapists, physical therapists, and school social workers. The plan can also include special transportation and extended school year programming. If a child needs extra time to complete work or needs to sit near the front of the class, those accommodations are also included in the plan.
How can case managers help?
Attending IEP meetings can be overwhelming due to the number of people at the table and the amount of information being discussed. Case Managers can help! Here is a list of what case managers can do to assist with the special education process —
- Explain the special education process and how to get started if you feel your child should be evaluated for eligibility
- Attend IEP meetings
- Monitor all educational services
- Advocate for children’s needs
- Provide classroom observations
- Improve communication between home, school, and community providers
- Review meeting information and goals pre/post IEP meetings
- Connect parents/guardians with parent and legal advocates when needed
IEP Meetings – when do they happen?
Case Managers can help sift through the information and advocate that children’s needs are being met. There are annual meetings to review the IEP plan, and parents can also request an IEP meeting at any time if they feel adjustments need to be made prior to the yearly meeting. Every three years, there is a triennial IEP review. This means that a school psychologist, special education teacher, and therapist update testing to change a child’s plan. The IEP team, including parents, meets to review the testing results and decide on changes to be made. The education system is complicated enough and when parents have to learn additional acronyms and services with an IEP, it can be daunting! If a child is receiving case management services, case managers can help with navigating the complex special education process.
We’re here to help!
As a case manager, helping parents and families understand this complex process and all that it entails is extremely rewarding. Many times parents leave IEP meetings and are overwhelmed by all of the information that was covered. My role as a case manager is to make parents feel more at ease knowing someone is there in their child’s corner asking the questions that they didn’t think of, or were just too overwhelmed to remember. I believe that my educational background has been a tremendous asset in my work with Spurwink families.
If you have more questions about IEP’s, or would like to talk with a case manager about your situation, contact us!
Darcy Wilcox, M.Ed., LSW-c
Targeted Case Manager and TIP Facilitator