Help, my child is struggling! Where can I get help?
In most cases, when a child is having difficulty in school, help begins with the classroom teacher and the school principal. Most buildings have in place academic and behavior systems of support to promote positive development and early intervention for all students. This is generally a good place to start. If there are specific disability related concerns the team can assist in requesting a formal special education evaluation or you can request a special education evaluation in writing. The district will provide you with written notice as to why an evaluation will or will not be completed.
If you have concerns about a child who has not yet started school, you may contact the Preprimary Evaluation Team at (269) 250-9670.
I am new to this. What should I expect?
A team of individuals will gather current student data and information. This may include outside evaluation results and information provided by the parent(s)/ guardian(s), current classroom-based assessments, and teacher and other parent and/or provider observations. Once the information is gathered, paperwork (a Review of Existing Evaluation Data a.k.a. REED) will be completed and reviewed with the parent/team. Notice (a written document) will be provided to the parent/ guardian and will include any evaluation the district proposes to conduct—this may be a formal assessment, observation, or other. Parents must provide written consent for any additional evaluations. Please feel free to ask questions. We understand this may be new to you and we want you to feel comfortable with next steps.
An evaluation will be completed by a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) who will make a recommendation of eligibility if your child has a disability that interferes with his/her educational performance and meets the eligibility standards for special education services.
This team may include teachers, social workers, psychologists, speech therapists, etc., who will select tests, observations and other procedures for the evaluation based on areas of suspected need. The evaluation will include parent/guardian input, a review of school records, medical history and other evaluations that may be provided for review.
As part of the evaluation, parent/guardians are assured that:
- Tests will be presented in the child's primary language or mode of communication, including having an interpreter/translator present if appropriate.
- There will be more than one test or evaluation procedure used to determine eligibility, so that the evaluation does not rest on just one measure.
- You will be notified of each evaluation procedure, test, record and report the IEP uses in determining eligibility and the need for special education programs and services.
When the evaluation is completed, parent/guardians will be invited to participate in a meeting(s) where evaluation findings will be reviewed, and recommendations will be made about eligibility.
If the parent/guardians disagree with any piece of the evaluation, they should notify their MET members about the disagreement as soon as possible. Other evaluation procedures can be used to address the concerns.
If there is continued disagreement with the evaluation results, the Special Education Parent Handbook (located in the special education, parent resources section of the KRESA website) contains specific information about making a request for an outside evaluation, as well as parent/guardian and district rights.
An IEP meeting will be scheduled. This team determines eligibility for special education based on the MET recommendation as well as eligibility requirements as defined by the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education. The IEP meeting will include a team of qualified professionals and the student’s parent/guardians. If eligibility is determined, the team will develop an IEP to address the student’s individualized needs.
My Child needs a special education evaluation. How long will the process take?
10 School Days from Referral to Parent Notice:
Once a written referral has been submitted to the school district or service area office, Notice (a written response) and Procedural Safeguards will be provided to the parent/guardian(s).
30 School Days between Parent Consent and the initial IEP Team Meeting:
During the 30 days following parent consent:
A team of individuals comprised of professional staff and the parent/guardian(s) of the student will compile all relevant data and consider other potentially necessary evaluations. If additional evaluations are necessary, the district will provide the parent with a list of any proposed evaluations necessary to determine eligibility and seek written consent.
Results of evaluations and any recommendations will be provided to the parent/guardian. This information is often provided by a representative of the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) and is just a recommendation. An initial IEP meeting will be held (and may run concurrently with the recommendation) with the parent/guardians to determine if the child is eligible for special education services based on state rules and regulations, as well as to determine goals, supports, and programs/services based on the student’s individual needs. During the meeting, if appropriate, an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) will be written. For the initial provisions of services, the parents must provide written consent giving the district permission to proceed with the provision of services (this is only required at the initial provision).
Why does my child need an evaluation?
Data collected from evaluations helps us to answer many questions and assists us in developing a thoughtful plan to address the individual needs of each student.
- Does the child have a disability?
- How is the child currently performing in school?
- What are the child’s educational needs?
- Does the child need special education and related services?
- What accommodations or modifications, if any, are needed to enable the child to meet annual goals in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and participate, as appropriate, in the general curriculum?
How do I prepare for the IEP meeting and how long will the meeting last?
Please consider the following ideas in preparation for school meetings:
- Talking with your student’s teacher and reviewing any information provided by the school related to the process and your student.
- Share information from other agencies with school staff.
- Keep a file of reports and documents related to your child's education.
- Bring information that will be relevant in assisting the school to meet your child’s needs.
- Become familiar with your rights and with special education terminology by reading your parent handbook.
- Whenever possible, have both parents attend the IEP meeting. Also consider bringing a friend or relative who is knowledgeable about your child and can talk things through with you as needed.
- Write down your questions and concerns and bring them to the meeting.
- Make a list of the things that you want your child to learn in school. This can be helpful when determining goals for your student.
IEP meeting length:
- The IEP length varies for each IEP; however, you should plan for about an hour. There are occasions when and IEP may need to be tabled and reconvened at another time.
What is my role in the IEP meeting and can I bring someone with me?
You are an important member of the IEP team. You know your child best; therefore, your thoughts and ideas are important to us as we develop a plan to address any needs that have been identified.
- Please ask for clarification regarding any information or terminology which is unclear.
- Ask for explanations, advantages and disadvantages of proposed services or programs.
- Ask how you can help at home to practice skills.
Parent/guardians are welcome to bring others who have knowledge of the child. It is also acceptable to contact a parent advocate who can attend the meeting and act as a support person about special education laws and procedures. There are several resources listed under the Parent Resources on our web page.
Should my child/student attend IEP meetings?
Kalamazoo RESA Special Education encourages each student, as appropriate, to be involved in IEP meetings, as they often have insight into their own strengths and needs. When students are included, they often exhibit a stronger commitment toward achieving identified goals.
When students turn 17 they are notified their rights will legally transfer to them upon reaching the age of majority,18 years old.
What if I don't like what is happening at the IEP meeting?
Many individuals care about your child and disagreements can occur. It is important that all members of the team work together to resolve areas of disagreement and keep the focus on developing an appropriate plan to meet the child’s needs.
- We all come to the table with different perspectives and expertise, so it is important to stop and listen. Each person's point of view is important and should be heard.
- Ask to list areas of disagreement on a white board so these can be address individually.
- If necessary, ask to reconvene the meeting after questions have been answered or more information is obtained.
Please note: The school district has the responsibility to ensure that an appropriate program is designed and implemented for every child. There are often legal timelines that must be met; however, if at the end of the meeting, you are not in agreement with the IEP, ask to talk further with the building principal or the special education supervisor/director. In these instances, it is important to continue working with the district.
Mediation—Mediation is a method of resolving a dispute by working with a neutral third-party that can assist the parent/guardians and the school district in finding an acceptable resolution. Parent/guardians and the district must agree on the mediator, and the mediator may not impose a decision on you.
Other—State Complaint and Due Process. These are handled through the state of Michigan and are a more formalized way of addressing specific issues. This can take up to 60 days to work through the process.
Will my child always need special education services and supports?
Your child may or may not continue to need special education programs and services. These services are provided to children who have a disability as defined by the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education and need specialized instruction to access general education programming.
What is FAPE?
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) means: Free—without charge to parents or children; Appropriate—in conformity with the IEP; Public—at the publics expense; Education—preschool, elementary, or secondary school.
What is LRE?
LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) is the setting in which the child receives an education. The law presumes that children with disabilities are most appropriately educated with their nondisabled peers. Attending special classes, separate schools, or removing a child with a disability from the regular classroom, occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability prevents the student from achieving satisfactorily when supplementary aids and services are used.
How often should and IEP be reviewed?
IEPs must be reviewed at least annually. Every three years the team will revisit eligibility and identify any additional data needed to assist in updating the IEP.
What services are available in the Kalamazoo Service Area?
Kalamazoo RESA includes three service areas: Central Service Area, Eastern Service Area, and Southern Service Area. The Eastern Service Area includes the school districts of Climax-Scotts, Comstock, Galesburg-Augusta, Gull Lake and Parchment. The Central Service Area is comprised of Kalamazoo Public Schools. The Southern Service Area encompasses the school districts of Portage, Schoolcraft and Vicksburg. The service areas and member districts each employ special education staff and serve the public-school districts and non-public schools in their geographic areas.
KRESA supports programs and services at West Campus—Early Childhood and Young Adult Program; WoodsEdge—on-site and off-site; Valley Center; and the Juvenile Home. In addition, supports for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Visual impairments, speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy may be provided. These KRESA programs and services complete the continuum of services provided by the local districts.
What is PAC?
Parent/guardians may be involved at the local-level through the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC). The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) involves parents in planning, implementing and reviewing activities related to special education. For more information please see the PAC section of our website.