Your Child’s IEP Team: Can you Request a Specific Service Provider?
It’s back to school time, and the phones at Hands & Voices begin to ring off the hook as families send their children back to the halls of education and the delivery of IEP goals and objectives begin to be implemented for another school year. One of the common issues that may arise is that of the proficiency and compatability to the student of staff assigned to him/her.
Often the scenario occurs in which a provider who was a perfect match for a student the previous year ( i.e. personality-wise, communication modality proficiency, a personal working knowledge of the student) is no longer assigned to your child. Whether it be an interpreter, teacher of the deaf, SLP etc, this can often leads to concern on the part of parents when they may not feel confident about the ‘fit’ for working with their child. As one parent put it, “When you are able to put together a good team of people to work with your child, and it's working, you hate to see 'systems/administrators' mess that up for scheduling/convenience purposes, and re assign service providers to your child that may not be able to communicate effectively and/or have the necessary experience of skills to assure your child an appropriate education.”
As an equal member of the IEP team, do parents have the right to have a say in WHO is providing services to their child? The answer is yes and no. Parents cannot demand a specific provider be assigned to their child The IDEA provides that… The Public agency must ensure that all services set forth in the child’s IEP are provided, consistent with the child’s needs as identified in the IEP. The agency may provide each of those services directly, through its own staff resources; indirectly, by contracting with another public or private agency; or through other arrangements…the public agency remains responsible for ensuring that the IEP services are provided in a manner that appropriately meets the student’s needs as specified in the IEP. (IDEA Regulations Appendix A) Recently, one parent was so frustrated at an IEP meeting and the fact that a newly assigned provider who did not have proficiency in their child’s communication mode and was now in charge of delivering services to the student, that she tried to fire the provider during an IEP meeting. While you have to admire the confidence of the parent in feeling like she was a meaningful part of the decisions regarding the IEP, needless to say, that ‘advocacy effort’ did not go over well, and in fact was outside the bounds of the parent’s role.
So, DO parents have a ‘voice’ at the table of WHO is implementing the goals and objectives of the IEP to their child? Yes, there are some practical ways that parents can participate in the WHO of the team by ensuring that the communication and other needs of the student are clearly defined and agreed upon. For instance, if the student’s primary communication mode is ASL (American Sign Language), and an interpreter is assigned that only knows SEE (Signed exact English), it is easier to get the RIGHT person assigned if it is clear in the beginning. Another example would be that of an SLP who has never worked with a deaf child with a cochlear implant. You may want to ensure during the development of the IEP, that Speech Therapy services are clearly defined, and the goals and objectives are concrete and specific so that certain techniques that might fall under the expertise of someone who has experience with Cochlear Implant habilitation would be written in.
It is a fact of life over our children’s education that providers will ‘come and go’, but you must remain vigilant so that those who are assigned to your child have the necessary competencies to work effectively. If you have a good working relationship with your school district, you can let your desires known when you have a good match, in the hopes that it will continue.
Even when you have a great ‘fit’ in provider/student relationships, there are some benefits to changing up personnel over time. For students utilizing interpreting services, there is an advantage to giving them the experience of using different individuals over the years. Also, there are sometimes concerns over too much dependence between a student and provider if they are together year after year. This is sometimes used as a reason to re- assign service providers and has some relevance for some kids.
So, while a family cannot go in and say, “We want Mary” for our child, you can develop a specific list of qualifications the service provider would need to meet the individualized needs. For example, a student’s IEP doesn't just say 'interpreting services' it says: 1. experience with hard of hearing 2. experience at the hight school level 3. can move from CASE to ASL when needed etc etc. so while you can't put an exact person's name down, you try and narrow the field so that the student has the appropriate fit for her needs.
In conclusion, the person delivering the services to a student can make or break success for any given year. We as parents need to be assured and aware of the qualifications and ‘fit’ for our kids.