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Special Education & Learning Disabilities Resources: A Nationwide Directory

Navigating the Storm: Advocating for your Special Needs Child (continued, p. 3)

by Amie Borst
P. 3

Special Education Referral Team (SERT) is the step that follows RTI. This is a meeting to discuss the needs of the child if the RTI has been unsuccessful. A team of individuals will meet with you, the parent or guardian, and your advocate. Typically the team will consist of your child’s teacher, the principal, the Special Education teacher, a social worker, an Educational Diagnostician and school psychologist. The team will address concerns about your child, if further information is warranted or required for a clearer picture, grades, classroom performance, teacher feedback and any testing or evaluations that have been done.

The school may then decide to do a "battery" of tests, to confirm or deny the existence of a learning disability. Once these tests are completed, the team will meet again for an Eligibility Meeting. The intent of this meeting is exactly as its name identifies; to determine if your child, according to the school’s criteria and guidelines, is eligible for services and can be classified as having a specific learning disability.

If your child is found eligible then there will be another meeting to implement an Independent Educational Plan (IEP). This meeting will discuss what they intend to do for your child’s specific learning disability. This is a great opportunity for your advocate to use their expertise. Many times, the plans the school intends to put in place, fall short of the child’s needs, or merely address it for only a short time (ie: speech mastery of a sound in 2 sessions as opposed to 8 sessions).

If your child is not found eligible, then they will deny special education services. If this happens, and you still feel as though something is blocking or interfering with your child’s ability to learn, do not be discouraged. There are options.

Get an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). If you disagree with the school’s findings in their testing, then the law entitles you to receive an evaluation by an independent consultant, not employed by the school district. The IEE is completed at the school district’s expense (no cost to you). Use this tool. It can be to your greatest benefit.

#4 Retaliation is Illegal
If you have advocated for your child and action was taken against you, the child you advocated for, or any other member of your family, which made you feel threatened or otherwise unwelcome in the school setting, this is retaliation. Do not take it lightly, brush it off as coincidence, or give hopeful anticipation that it will end. If the school personal believes they can get away with these actions, they will. Report retaliation to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the web address listed here: You should know that there is a statute of limitations on these disputes. The Office of Civil Rights requires that the alleged discrimination is reported within 180 days. Otherwise, an investigation will not occur. Although the OCR does have options for retroactive cases, these accommodations are usually for extenuating circumstances only (ie: coma).

#5 Get Everything in Writing
Documents, paperwork, report cards, your child’s school file or record and anything that might have your signature on it should be something that you have a copy of and keep in a folder. While asking for copies of everything might annoy school personal, it is your right to have these items. Keep them organized and filed. Should you need to refer to them for any reason, they will be at your disposal. One tricky tactic that school personal like to perform is the phone call. If your case were to go to Due Process the he said/she said of phone conversations would be difficult to prove. Instead, inform the school that you would prefer not to communicate via the telephone. Suggest email or snail mail. There are times when phone calls are inevitable and in these cases follow-up with an email. Be sure to include date, time, person you spoke with and something that says, "As per our conversation today." Forward or CC the email to anyone involved in advocating for your child (spouse, advocate, etc). Print off the email and save it for your records. Typically the school will not respond to these kinds of emails, but nonetheless, you have created a paper trail of evidence should you need it.

#6 Take Notes
At each meeting you attend, you should be prepared with pen and paper. Label the paper with the date and type of meeting, and then have everyone sign in. Take notes in the meeting, also. This will give you a point of reference when the school begins to forget promises or gets off topic. Better yet, if the school will allow it, bring a tape recorder. Assure them that you will gladly make a copy for their records. This may ease their apprehension of having such a device in the room. A tape recorder will allow you to listen more intently and can be a great tool to help aid your memory in reviewing the meeting.

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Amie Borst is a mom advocating successfully on behalf of her child. You can reach her at: See her web site at:

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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