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A PARENT'S GUIDE TO SPECIAL EDUCATION AND RELATED SERVICES:
Sample communicating through letter writing

This Parent's Guide presents a general overview of how a child becomes eligible for special education and related services, parents' rights and responsibilities, and a school's rights and responsibilities. Because the focus of this issue is on communicating through letter writing,   we have identified points in the process when writing a letter is necessary or useful.  The term "parent" is used throughout this Parent's Guide to include foster parents, legal guardians, or any primary caregiver who is functioning as a parent.  Throughout your child's school years, there is always a need to communicate with school: teachers, administrators, and others concerned with your child's education. There are also times when the school needs to communicate with you, as the parent. Some of this communication is informal, such as phone calls, comments in your child's notebook, a chat at the bus stop or at a school function. Other forms of communication are more formal and will need to be written.  Letters provide both you and the school staff with a record of concerns, and suggestions. Putting your thoughts on paper gives you the opportunity to take as long as you need to state your concerns specifically, to think over what you've written, to make changes, and perhaps to have someone else read over the letter and make suggestions. Letters also give people the opportunity to go over what's been "said" several times. A lot of confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided by writing down thoughts and ideas.  However, writing letters is a skill. Each letter will differ according to the situation, the person to whom you are writing, and the issues you are discussing. This Parent's Guide  will help you in writing to professionals involved in your child's education.  Sample letters are shown for when you want to: 

1. Discuss a problem.  
2. Request an initial evaluation for special education services.   3. Request a meeting to review the IEP.  
4. Request a change of placement.  
5. Request records.  
6. Request an independent evaluation  
7. Request a due process hearing.  
8. Write a Follow-up letter.  
9. Give positive feedback. 
SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION 
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA), Public Law  (P.L.)101- 476   (formerly known as the Education of the Handicapped Act, [EHA], P.L. 94 -142 and its amendments),  mandates minimum requirements for a free appropriate public education for children and youth with disabilities, including early intervention services, and defines these children's rights. Each state, using this law as a guideline, develops specific policies for the special education and related services of children with disabilities in that state. Each local public school district follows these guidelines and will base its policies on the federal laws and regulations, as well as on the laws and policies developed by the state.  

Q: How does this really work?  
A: A flow chart is provided at the end of this Parent's Guide to show how the process works, beginning with "I think my child may have a problem" and leading to the provision of special education and related services. The process of identifying that a child may be in need of special education and related services.  Q: What are my rights as a parent? 

A: Your rights begin with your child's right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.   This is often referred to as FAPE. Free means that your child's education is at public expense and at no cost to you. Appropriate means that the educational program for your child will be tailored to individual needs. Any change in the provision of FAPE to your child should be in writing.  You, as a parent, have the right to be fully informed by the school of all rights that are guaranteed to you under the law. Each state, county, and school system has written policies...
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