For many parents who have a child with special needs, navigating the maze of federal and state laws and regulations, and even reading your Procedural Safeguards Notice (yes, that booklet
that you should have received when you first requested an evaluation, or when the school referred your child for an evaluation), can be overwhelming. Having a child with special needs can be overwhelming in and of itself. As a parent who has been in your shoes, and as a former school teacher and administrator, we can assist you - as much or as little as you want or need. We provide the parent support you need by explaining your legal rights and providing you with legal advice, including what you are entitled to before
the IEP meeting. We will prepare you for the IEP meeting and guide you to advocate for your child. We can assist and prepare your child to advocate for himself or herself to the extent that they can; we can explain your child's legal right to him or her.
At Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, you will find an Arizona law firm not only with legal experience, but with personal and practical experience in education law issues. From our own personal experiences as a parent of a teenager with special needs and as a former special education teacher, we understand the IEP process; we've gone through it ourselves, as a parent, as a teacher, as the school district adminstrator, and as the school district representative.
We will hold your hands. We proudly help parents and children protect their legal rights. As a parent, we understand your concerns. As a former teacher and school superviser, we know how the schools function and what goes on behind the scenes. Whether you want help with deciding on the type of evaluations and assessments your child should have, or you want help with goals, or an entirely new placement, we can provide you with the tools you need as your child's parent advocate. You are the parent advocate for your child, and we can arm you with the legal knowledge you need. Schools have attorneys advising them; you should too. No one knows your child better than you; but you need to be as well versed in the law as are the school staff.
Attorney Lori Kirsch-Goodwin is a trial lawyer who learned firsthand how to navigate the special education system as an advocate for her own son who has Asperger's syndrome. Attorney Hope Kirsch has her Bachelors degree (B.S.) and Masters degree (M.Ed.) in Special Education, and nearly 20 years of experience as a special education teacher and school administrator.
Making Sense of the IDEA and Understanding the Purpose of an IEP
When teachers and lawyers talk about the IDEA, they are referring to the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law requires public schools to provide a free and appopriate public education (FAPE) to all students with disabilities who are eligible for special education (SPED) and related services.
As simple as that requirement may seem, the complexities come in the details. FAPE is the acronym for Free Appropriate Public Education. Many people misunderstand this term, especially what the law considers appropriate. It is important to remember that FAPE means that students should receive a meaningful educational benefit. It does not mean that students are entitled to the best education or an education that maximizes their potential.
In order to help schools and teachers provide an appropriate education or FAPE to disabled students, the law requires the use of an Individual Education Plan / Program, referred to an an IEP. This plan must be developed by the school AND the parents, and it must explain the specially designed instruction for an individual child and include:
- An explanation of the student's disability
- Present levels of the student's academic and functional performance
- Description of how the child's disability impacts the child's education
- Include goals for the child's learning
- Explain how the goals will be taught and measured
- Services and supports
- Transition program and services when a child reaches a certain age
In addition, the federal law requires that disabled students be educated in the least restrictive environment, known as the LRE. This means that disabled students must have access to the general curriculum so that they can meet the educational standards that apply to all children, whether in a full inclusion (mainstream) class, a separate special education (self-contained) class, a private special education school, a hospital school or setting, a residential treatment program / residential treatment center (RTC). If you believe your child needs different goals, services, supports, evaluations, placement or setting, etc. for you child to receive an appropriate educaiton, then you ought to be prepared on how to advocate and make a convincing and compelling case at the IEP meeting. We can assist you in preparing for that meeting; we can attend with you or recommend experienced and reputable advocates to assist you at the IEP meeting.
How is child with a disability defined by the IDEA
The IDEA says that a "child with a disability" must have one of the listed types of impairments in Arizona, which include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (formerly Autism; now ASD in the DSM-5)
- Developmental delay (DD)
- Emotional disability (ED)
- Hearing impairment (HI)
- Other health impairments (OSH)
- Specific learning disability (SLD)
- Mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability (MIMD, MOMD, SID)
- Multiple disabilities (MD)
- Multiple disabilities with severe sensory impairment (MDSSI)
- Orthopedic impairment (OI)
- Preschool severe delay (PSD)
- Speech/language impairment (SLI)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Visual impairment (VI)
A student must also need special education because of the impairment. This means that if your child has a diagnosis that is listed in the law, he or she will not automatically be qualified for special education services. There must also be evidence that the impairment impacts the student's educational progress.
Students with disabilities must be at least three years old and are entitled to receive special education and related services until they graduate from high school with a regular diploma, or when they reach their 22nd
birthday, whichever happens first.
Compassionate and Knowledgeable Help for Special Education Students and their Parents Throughout Arizona
Our firm can help families, whether you are new to the IEP process, are experiencing difficulty working with the school disrict, or just want support, We can accompany you to the IEP meeting, review the IEP with you, explain the process, prepare you for the IEP; we provide whatever advocacy and legal advice and guidance you want or need. We have helped parents and their children in:
When your child's future is at stake, work with education attorneys who can support you and your child.
- Drafting IEP goals, revising IEP goals
- Accompanying parents and children to IEP meetings
- Preparing you for the IEP, focusing on the issue, assuring you have all the right people to support your position
- Recommending IEP services and supports
- Obtaining appropriate placement (including private school, one-on-one aides, tutoring, RTC)
- Obtainging reimbursement for services parents paid for out of their own pocket
- Obtaining IEEs (Independent Educational Evaluations)
- Working with attorneys who represent schools to assure that IEP teams that are unwilling to work with parents will cooperate
- Advising on options when a child is not making sufficient or adequate progress
- Explaining your legal rights
- Resolving disputes at IEP meetings, resolution meetings or settlement conferences, or simply by calling the attorney for the charter school or school district
- Due Process Hearings
Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC
8900 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Suite 250
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Phone: 480-585-0600 Fax: 480-585-0622
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