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6 Tips for Parents Navigating the IEP Process

advocate dyslexia iep

6 Tips for Parents Navigating the IEP Process

Disclaimer: The information shared in this blog post is just information and does not serve as legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are in need of legal advice, please consult an attorney regarding your specific case.  

We recently had the eye-opening opportunity to sit down with Sabrina Axt to talk about the legal aspects of dyslexia and special education

Sabrina is a practicing attorney based out of the San Francisco Bay area, and she has been for over fifteen years. Her career and personal journey have led her to leave civil litigation in order to advocate for her child and she now exclusively practices special education law. 

Sabrina guides her clients through the special education process, helping them to understand and advocate for IEPs and accommodations. She equips parents with the tools they need to advocate for their children 

During our conversation with Sabrina, she shared with us specific tips for parents who are advocating for their dyslexic or special needs children. Today, we want to share those tips with you!

Here are 6 tips for parents who are advocating for their dyslexic or special needs children and navigating the IEP process:

1. Get Educated on What Dyslexia Is

Dyslexia is not one, singular thing. It’s a cluster of characteristics that are often misunderstood or not fully understood by the classroom teacher. If you are hearing things like, “Your child can’t have dyslexia because he/she is good at math.” You may have to push a bit hard for knowledge and understanding. 

Before any IEP meeting, educate yourself on exactly what dyslexia is and the types of interventions that are needed for dyslexic kids. Additionally, you’ll want to read up on and get comfortable with special education law. 

2. Know the Truth

You do not need to wait until your child is two years behind in reading to begin the process of testing for dyslexia. The truth is, that children can be tested as early as kindergarten and get accurate results. In fact, the sooner the testing is done and interventions are started, the greater the response.

Schools can test for and use the term dyslexia. They absolutely can. Pay attention to the eligibility categories. There are thirteen categories and dyslexia will fall under, “Specific Learning Disability.” Whether they use the word or not, practically speaking, what you’re looking for is a specific learning disability in reading or writing. 

3. Get it All in Writing

It might feel comfortable to reach out to your child’s classroom teacher and have a verbal conversation about testing, but this likely won’t result in much of anything happening. You need to make your request in writing. Then, send it to both your child’s classroom teacher AND the principal. Note, that an email will suffice as written communication. 

You want and need to create a paper trail. 

4. Use the Magic Words

When you make your request in writing, you need to make sure you are using the “magic words,” those words that will elicit the appropriate response. You have to say, “I would like my child evaluated for special education eligibility. I have noticed XYZ. I would like a full psychoeducational evaluation to test for IEP eligibility.” End your correspondence by saying, “I look forward to receiving an assessment plan. 

5. Know the Time Frame

Once you hit send on that email, the clock starts ticking. Mark your calendars. The school will have 15 days to send an assessment plan. You will then sign a consent for the assessment. Once you receive that, sign it, and send it back, mark your calendar again. Then they have 60 days to complete the evaluation and hold the IEP meeting (this could vary based on state.) That will exclude school holidays in excess of five days. 

6. Ask for Drafts

This is really important. After the testing happens, but before the IEP meeting, ask for drafts. Ask for the evaluation reports ahead of time. You do not want to walk into an IEP meeting and be blind-sided by the information that is shared. These reports are extensive and you want to make sure you have time to review them BEFORE the meeting takes place. Make notes and write down questions. 

Ask questions. Then, keep asking questions until you fully understand what is being proposed. 

For even more on the legal side of dyslexia and to hear our full interview with Sabrina Axt, check out our latest episode of the Together in Literacy podcast. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a positive review, and subscribe!

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