- Make Sure You Have All the Documents! There is usually a packet of information that is given out at a CSE meeting. It is strongly recommended that you have that information at least a week prior to the meeting so you can review it, and are able to meaningfully participate in the meeting. If you do not have the information a week before the meeting, send an email requesting it. This is especially important if this is an initial determination of eligibility or a triennial year meeting. It is not advisable to have the meeting without having the information that will be presented prior. Better to delay the meeting than to be ill prepared.
- No Surprises! Just as you want the Committee to provide you with information prior to the meeting, it is important that you do the same. For example, if you had any independent evaluations done, do not wait to give them to the Committee on the day of the meeting. You may also want to submit your own parent report to the Committee as well. If you are going to bring a professional with you (private therapist, home provider, psychiatrist etc.) it is always a good idea to let the Committee know. You must let the Committee know if you are going to bring an attorney to the meeting.
- Make Sure You Understand the Test Scores! Parents often think that interpreting their child’s test results is beyond their competence and is the responsibility of the school personnel. This is not true! Actually, it is part of the job of the parents to fully understand their child’s test results. The Committee relies on data in order to make its determination. It is important that you understand this data and how to interpret it. If you are having difficulty, you can schedule a time to meet prior to the meeting to go over the test scores with those who administered the tests. There are also some great resources on the Internet to explore. You may also want to encourage your local SEPTA to call in a speaker on the topic of understanding evaluations and testing.
- Read Your IEP and Progress Reports! Make sure you have read through and understand the previous year’s IEP. Also it is extremely important to review all progress reports on goals, so you can speak fluently as to the progress or lack of progress that has been made in the previous year.
- Don’t Wait to Develop Goals! In my opinion your child’s annual goals are the most important, yet also the most overlooked, part of the IEP. There should be at least one annual goal for each need identified. Goals should be specific, meaningful and be different yearly. They must be measurable and include academic and functional (if appropriate) goals. The services and placement, is based on how best to reach these goals. Due to time constraints, if you don’t think you will have a chance to develop the goals during your meeting, schedule a time with the school team, if possible, to discuss goals prior. Also, goals may be worked on after the CSE meeting. The most important thing to remember is that you, the parent, should be a meaningful participant in the development of the goals.
- Know the Lingo! How can you meaningfully participate if you do not know the language the Committee is using? There are so many acronyms and new terms you must learn as a parent going through this process. You need to be able to speak the language to effectively advocate for your child. Please use the list provided in this link to help!
- Don’t Forget About Transition! Thinking about transition from school to post school should begin at age 12. By age 15, transition needs to be part of the IEP document. In addition to regular yearly goals, there needs to be a coordinated set of activities in place to help a student transition from school to post school, keeping in mind the desired post-secondary outcomes. Transition time is also a good time to understand graduation and different diploma options that may be available to a student, and to include a self-advocacy goal in the annual goals.
- You Have So Many Roles! You have so many roles at this meeting: the parent, the listener, the active committee member, the questioner, the creative thinker, and the advocate. This is a lot to do! If you don’t feel comfortable in any of these roles bring someone with you. Your spouse, a family member, a friend, an advocate, or, if necessary, an attorney. `
- Create an Agenda! This is a business meeting and there is a lot to accomplish in a short period of time. It is important to write down exactly the points YOU want covered at the meeting. By having an agenda or list handy, you can always refer back to it, making sure you cover what you want to accomplish. You are part of this Committee – do not forget that!!!!!!!
- Try to Remember There is a Mutual Goal! While sometimes it may seem hard to believe, you and the school district have a mutual goal – that your child makes meaningful progress. Nevertheless, we may sometimes feel as though we are on different teams, looking to accomplish that same goal differently You do not want your child to fail or become frustrated, but neither does he school district. If you find that you are at a point where no mutual agreement can be made, then it is always a good idea to table the meeting and come back to the table with further data that supports your wishes for your child.
CSE time can be an incredibly stressful time for parents. I hope the above tips will be helpful to you in advocating for your children.
Sheryl R. Frishman, Esq has worked almost exclusively with people with disabilities and their families for over 19 years. She is considered a national expert in the area of special education, disability and special needs law and is a sought after speaker for professional and family organizations in the areas of special education law, life planning, and not-for-profit board governance for agencies that work with people with disabilities. She has also authored numerous articles on these topics. In addition to Sheryl’s legal work, she is a zealous advocate for the needs, acceptance, and integration of people with disabilities in the community. Sheryl is involved and active in many organizations in the disability community including taking leadership roles in many of them and has been instrumental in developing and implementing programs in New York State for people with disabilities and their families. Sheryl is currently a Board member of the Arc of the United States. She is the past President Arc Westchester and served on the Board of Governors of NYSARC Inc. for six years. Currently, Sheryl also serves as the President of the Board of Directors of Ferncliff Manor, a residential school in Yonkers for children with severe disabilities. Sheryl has been the recipient of many awards and honors for her work in the special needs community. Sheryl is a graduate of Union College and received her law degree from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law School of Yeshiva University. Her eldest son, Aaron, has Autism, and is her inspiration.
Please consult with your own attorney before relying on this information.