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January 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 1

Surviving The Back To School Blues
Part III: Advocating For Our Children

State and Federal legislation gives the right of parents to have a voice and to be a part of the educational decision-making process. Becoming knowledgeable and finding out how to show your concern by becoming actively involved in your child's education and the IEP process is only the first step

Rights and Responsibilities of Parents of Children with Disabilities
Provided by ACCESS ERIC

Parents of children with disabilities have a vital role to play in the education of their children. This fact is guaranteed by federal legislation that specifies the right of parents to participate in the educational decision-making process. As your child progresses through the educational system, you should know about and follow through on your rights and responsibilities to ensure that you are a contributing partner with the professionals who will influence your child's future.

What Are Your Rights In The Special Education Process?

The achievements gained under the Education for the Handicapped Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were clearly strengthened by the IDEA amendments of 1997. A fundamental provision of these special education laws is the right of parents to participate in the educational decision-making process. Your rights, include the following:

  • Your child is entitled to a free, appropriate public education
  • You will be notified whenever the school wishes to evaluate your child for potential special education needs, wants to change you child's educational placement, or refuses your request for and evaluation of a change in placement.
  • You may request an evaluation if you think your child needs special education or related services.
  • You should be asked by your school to provide "informed consent".
  • You may obtain an independent evaluation if you disagree with the outcome of the school's evaluation.
  • You may request a reevaluation if you think your child's current educational placement is no longer appropriate. The school must reevaluate your child at least every three years, but your child's educational program must be reviewed at least once during each calendar year.
  • You may have your child tested for special education needs in the language he or she knows best.
  • You may review all of your child's records and obtain copies of these records.
  • You must be fully informed by the school about all of the rights provided to you and your child under the law.
  • You may participate in the development of your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) or, in the case of a child younger than four years old, the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
  • You may request at any time during the school year IEP or IFSP and participate in any team decisions, including placement.
  • You may have your child educated in the least restrictive school setting possible.
  • You may request a due process hearing or voluntary mediation to resolve differences with the school that can't be resolved informally. Make your request in writing, date your request, and keep a copy for your records.
  • You should be kept informed about your child's progress at least as often as parents of children who do not have disabilities.

What Are Your Responsibilities in the Special Education Process?

Parental responsibilities can vary depending on factors such as the child's disabling condition. As a result, parental responsibilities are less clearly defined than are parental rights. However, some of the following suggestions may be helpful to ensure that our child's rights are being protected:

  • Develop a partnership with the school and share relevant information about your child's education and development.
  • Ask for clarification of any aspect of the program that is unclear to you.
  • Make sure you understand the program specified in the IEP or IFSP before agreeing to it or signing the form.
  • Monitor your child's progress and periodically ask for a report.
  • Keep records.

How Can You Become Involved in the IEP or IFSP Process?

  • Before attending an IEP or IFSP meeting, make a list of things you want your child to learn.
  • Bring any information that the school or agency may not already have to the IEP or IFSP meeting. Discuss any related services your child may need.
  • Discuss methods for handling discipline problems that you know are effective with your child.
  • Ask what you can do at home to support the program.
  • Regard your child's education as a cooperative effort. If you and the school cannot reach an agreement about your child's educational and developmental needs, ask to have another meeting with the school. Allow time for you and the school to gather more information. If, after a second meeting, there is still a conflict over your child's program, you may wish to ask for a state mediator or a due process hearing.

Where Can You Get More Information?

Many organizations have information to help guide parents through the education process. Your local school district's director of special education and his or her staff can help you obtain such information and can guide you through the process. Further resources are available from national organizations. Some of them have state and local chapters that can provide more locally based support. In addition, all states now have federally supported parent information and training centers. The following are two places to start.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013
Phone 1-800-695-0285; 202-884-8200

This publication was prepared by ACCESS ERIC in association with the ERIC Clearinghouse of Educational Management. The brochure is in the public domain. Authorization to reproduce in hole or in part has been granted.

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How Can I Be Involved In My Child's Education?
By Lynn Liontos, 1994
Provided by ACCESS ERIC

Research studies consistently reveal that high student achievement and self-esteem are closely related to positive parental participation in education. Parents and schools need to work together so all children can succeed in school.

Almost everyone agrees that parents are, after all, their children's first and most important teachers. You, as a parent, have important knowledge about your child's likes, dislikes, needs, and problems that the school may not be aware of . You may also have ideas for improving your child's school. But even though studies show that most parents want to be involved in their children's education, they may not be exactly sure how to go about it, especially if, like most parents, they work during the school day.

What Can I Do To Involve Myself With My Child's School?

Some schools value parent involvement by providing numerous opportunities for parents to interact with each other, with teachers, and with students. Your child's school can provide ideas on how to participate. One important way you can become involved in your child's schooling is to exercise any choices available in the selection of course work, programs, or even schools. Many schools are moving toward "school-based management," in which administrators share the responsibility for operating schools with teachers, students, parents, and community members. You can become involved in committees that govern your child's school or join the local parent-teacher association.

The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE) says that schools should regularly communicate with parents about their child's progress and the educational objectives of the school. This communication should also include non-custodial parents, stepparents, and any other adults, such as grandparents, (and foster parents) who are responsible for the child. If you aren't receiving such information, ask for it. Work with other parents and guardians to be sure that the school understands how best to keep you informed.

Some schools send newsletters and calendars home regularly, alerting parents to school functions and ways they can participate. Encourage your school to provide volunteer opportunities for working parents and to schedule some school events outside of the school day to increase participation.

Other ideas:

Visit your child's classroom- a visit will give you and idea of what your child does at school and how he or she interacts with other children.

Volunteer to help in the classroom as and assistant (listening to children read, for example, or serving as an aide during computer work).

What Should I Do If My Child Isn't Doing Well in School?

Contact your child's teacher. Don't wait for the school to contact you. It's important to resolve problems as soon as possible when they occur. When parents work with teachers, they are often able to improve a child's performance in school.

Ask your child's teacher for specific activities you can do at home with your child and help the teacher better understand what works best with your child. Make it clear that if the teacher sees a problem developing, you want to hear about it immediately. Then , meet with your child's teacher frequently until the problem is solved.

What If My Child Doesn't Like School?

Using your unique knowledge of your child, try to find out why he or she seems unhappy with school. Observe and listen to your child. The problem may not lie with school itself, but with peers or friends. It may also be a family problem or an issue of self-esteem.

Children whose parents are involved in their education have better grades, a more positive attitude toward school, and more appropriate school behavior than those with less involved parents. Getting involved in you child's education will make a difference.

This publication was prepared by ACCESS ERIC in association with the ERIC Clearinghouse of Educational Management. The brochure is in the public domain. Authorization to reproduce in hole or in part has been granted with credit source:

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Functional Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans: Questions and Answers
Provided by The Colorado Department of Education


Functional Assessment:

A process for gathering broad and specific information about a student's behavior in order to identify the function or purpose that the behavior serves. The information gathered in this process will be utilized to develop interventions to change behaviors of concern and to teach new behavior patterns. This is the first step in designing a behavior support plan incorporating positive behavioral interventions.

A functional assessment is not only for the purpose of defining and eliminating undesirable behaviors but to understand the structure and function of those behaviors in order to teach and promote effective alternatives. A functional assessment is a process of looking at relationships between behavior and the environment and must be conducted with the dignity of the person as primary concern.

Behavioral Intervention Plan:

A plan that is a written document which is developed when a special education student exhibits a serious behavior problem that significantly interferes with the implementation of the goals and objectives of the student's IEP. Behavioral interventions that may be included in the plan are:

  • Teaching adaptive behaviors (choice-making, self-management, relaxation techniques, general skill development, etc).
  • Positive reinforcing acceptable behaviors.
  • Changing the setting
  • Offering variety in the curriculum and removing excessive noise and other approaches.

(Fred Leiner, MA, School Administration, California - source:

The goal of positive behavior supports is to understand the underlying motivation behind a behavior so that students can be taught to use more pro-social behavior.

Questions and Answers

When must we do a functional assessment?

IDEA 97 tells us that we must do a functional assessment when a child with a disability has been removed from his/her current educational placement for more than 10 days. However, for students at-risk of suspension or those suspended for less than 10 days, school districts should complete a functional assessment and develop a behavior support plan to prevent future suspensions. A functional assessment provides the IEP team with critical information including 1) those interventions, which have been tried, and their effects 2) possible motivation(s) underlying the student's behavior, and 3) whether instructional and behavioral supports being provided to the student are working.

Do all students with identified behavior concerns need a functional assessment and a behavior plan?

IDEA, section 614(d)(3)(B)(i) states that "in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others, consider where appropriate, strategies, including positive behavior interventions, strategies and supports to address the behavior". A functional behavioral assessment provides critical information to identify the most appropriate and relevant positive behavior interventions. The Colorado Department of Education has taken the position that all students with significant behavioral needs should have a behavioral plan developed to address those needs.

Is the functional assessment the same as functional analysis?

NO! These terms are often used synonymously but they are not the same. A functional assessment gathers broad and specific information in order to better understand the precise reason for a student's problem behavior. A component of the functional assessment is an analysis of the information that has been gathered that results in predictions or hypotheses of what maintains the behavior. Functional analysis, which may also be called applied behavior analysis, takes functional assessment a step further. This is a decision making process that involves testing hypotheses regarding variables or events most strongly related to the occurrence of problem behaviors.

What assessments are done when completing a functional assessment?

The tools and strategies that are needed in a functional assessment depend upon the information available that may be related to the what, when, where, who and why of the behavior. Remember that a functional assessment is a way to gain an understanding of the behavior and why the behavior is reinforcing for the student. With this information appropriate interventions and strategies can be effectively implemented. The depth and breadth of these assessments will vary.

Who is responsible for completing a functional assessment?

All members of the IEP team are responsible for insuring that the functional assessment is completed. Since a variety of instruments and data collection tools may be used, persons collecting the information will vary; however, a person trained in the interpretation of each instrument and/or tool is essential.

When are positive behavior interventions developed?

When an education or parent expresses a concern about a child's behavior, the process of developing positive behavior interventions should begin. This is an appropriate time to refer a student to a teacher assistant team. Interventions and supports utilized should be documented so there is a record of which interventions have been tried and their results.

What is the role of the student in developing positive behavior supports and in the assessment process?

The student should be an active participant in the development of the positive behavior support plan and the assessment process whenever possible and appropriate.

Who is responsible for implementing the behavior support plan?

Anyone who has contact with an individual student may be involved in implementing the behavior support plan. A case manage should be assigned to insure consistency and that the appropriate personnel are implementing the identified interventions and providing the necessary supports.

How often is the behavior plan reviewed?

The IEP team and the case manage should determine the frequency of the review with the goal of ensuring its effectiveness. Data should be collected to confirm and document the effectiveness of the intervention. If it is determined that an intervention is not achieving the expected results, the behavior plan should be revised.

Is a behavior contract or remedial discipline plan (required by Colorado legislation) the same as a behavior support plan?

A behavior contract is often used as a remedial discipline plan. A behavior contract typically states what the student agrees to do or not to do with a consequence for those actions and often requires the student's signature in much the same manner as any contract. A behavior support plan, which is instructional in nature, is a more desirable alternative to a remedial discipline plan and may be used in its place.

Is the behavior plan a part of (attached to) the IEP?

The behavioral needs and goals of a student must be addressed in his/her IEP and on the behavior plan. LEAs need to develop policies that address whether or not the behavior plan is a part of, or attached to, the IEP. Although the law requires the development of a behavior plan, it does not specifically state that it must be attached to the IEP. District policies need to ensure that, if a student leaves a school, the behavior plan follows the student to the new school.


  1. The Colorado Department of Education website: 
  2. Mr. Fred Leiner is the husband of Barbara Leiner. Used with permission from the Foster Parent Community website:

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January 2000 - Volume 3 Issue 1 - Articles