Wednesday, March 18, 2009
image from Wikimedia Commons
I'm not sure if this applies to everyone, but in our district* (in New York State), if you want your child's related service providers (i.e. speech, occupational or physical therapists) present at his or her annual review, you have to inform the district and request that they be invited. I was unaware of this for our first annual review and was shocked when Gus's old speech teacher was recommending to end services (because she didn't think the district would approve them) but wasn't coming to the meeting to justify her recommendation. Fortunately, the meeting was taking place in the school building, so I was able to talk to the teacher quickly and figure out what was going on. Had we been in another location (like a district office) Gus probably would have lost his speech services.
I make it a point to keep the lines of communication open with anyone who interacts with Gus on a regular basis without breathing down their necks. Now I try to schedule a team meeting sometime prior to the annual review so that I don't get smacked with any surprises and so that everyone is on the same page going in. Hearing about a recommendation for a program change in the meeting doesn't allow you time to think and process the information, which can lead to a rushed and possibly bad decision. In my humble opinion, I think some administrators count on that element of surprise so that the parent will just go along with their plans. This is not to say that all CSE chairpeople are evil and want to harm the poor little special needs children; I'm not saying that at all. But realistically, everyone has their own agenda when they walk into that meeting, and you are probably the only one whose sole concern is your child.
To most administrators (and I say most because I have seen a few who have taken the time to at least put a face to the name on the reports) your child is a name and number on a piece of paper. This is one reason why having those service providers present can be so important. They are the ones who work with and know your child (at least in theory, but if they are clearly not in that category, simply don't invite them to the party). If you think that they will help you advocate for your child, make sure they will be present. Once you get the date for your review, contact your district chairperson and express your wishes for who will be in attendance. If you call, make sure you follow up with an email or letter.
That last bit is important. I just called our district and was told that I didn't need a letter. In the past I've been told something very different. I'll compromise and send an email. That way, no one can say I didn't follow the protocol.
Does your district have different rules for annual reviews? Are your child's service providers automatically included? It would be great to see how other states handle the process.
*edited in 3/18/2009