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Expert Q&A

What is the best way to persuade our son’s school to accept the recommendations of a private evaluation?

Mr. Cohen,

We are wondering what we can ask for at an IEP in regards to accommodations and assistive technology for our ADHD son. I was reminded today by the special education teacher that we are “allowed” to present evaluations and recommendations from outside specialists, but the school is not required to consider them. This does not sound like a “team” approach to me.

I am very excited about the assistive technology resources available to our child and do not understand why a school would refuse to incorporate it in the IEP if it would allow him to spend more time in regular classes. Also, if we disagree with the “team’s” IEP decisions, I know we can refuse to sign the plan and revisit the issues, but then services will not be ready at the beginning of the next school year.

Do you have any suggestions on how to present our academic wish list for our son, and get what we feel is very important for his academic success?

Thank you,

Amy Black

Dear Amy:

Your letter reflects concerns that your child’s IEP doesn’t adequately reflect the recommendations of outside evaluators or sufficiently incorporate assistive technology to address your child’s needs. From your description, both you and the school may have some misunderstandings about the law’s requirements. First, schools are always required to “consider” outside evaluations. 34 CFR 300.502 (c). However, while they must seriously consider them, they are not obligated to accept the diagnostic conclusions or recommendations. However, to the extent that the school disagrees with or does not wish to use the outside evaluation, it must be able to provide legitimate reasons for refusing to do so. Thus, your evaluations should be considered, but this doesn’t mean the school will automatically follow them.

If the school refuses to incorporate the outside recommendations into the IEP, you have the option of requesting mediation or a due process hearing (or both) to try to resolve the dispute. Refusing to sign the plan indicates your disagreement, but does not force the school to follow the private evaluations. This can only be accomplished either by a) the IEP team reconvening and being convinced to change their position; b) the school changes its position in the context of a mediation or pre-hearing resolution session, or c) the school being ordered to follow the independent evaluation by an impartial hearing officer. To the extent that you can develop convincing data, both clinical and based on comparisons of how your child functions at school without the extra support and outside school with the accommodations and/or technology, you will be in a better position to both potentially cause the school to change its position voluntarily or to accomplish a change via mediation or due process.

In relation to technology and accommodations, you should be sure that the IEP not only lists the technology or accommodation, but delineates how and when it will be used, that tracks its use, and to the extent that both your child and/or the staff need training in the technology, that there are goals in the IEP for your child’s mastery of the technology and supports built into the IEP for training the staff on its use.

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