Back to school is sometimes more difficult for parents than for their children. This is especially true when their children have developmental or other disabilities that affect their ability to participate in the general curriculum. These children may require specialized supports and services to be successful. Navigating and working with a team of educators and other professionals can be challenging for parents.

Recognizing the need for families to learn more about the Special Education process, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy recently hosted a webinar with Parent Advocate Brian Denger and Educational Consultant and Behavioral Coach, Jill Ann Castle who discussed important aspects of Special Education. Thank you to all parents who attended the webinar and participated asking questions about the process.

Realizing many were unable to attend, the webinar was recorded and is now available to view at your convenience.

The webinar covered the following topics:

  • Special Education basics including major differences between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • How eligibility is determined and a parent’s role in the process
  • Other areas of concern including Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHA), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Behavioral, Social and Sensory Issues.
  • Behavioral Assessments and Supports
  • Individualized Education Programs including student eligibility, team participants and parent rights and responsibilities.
  • The difference between Accommodations and Related Services with examples.
  • A brief list of resources for those wanting to learn more.

There were also questions Jill Ann Castle and I were not able to answer during the broadcast and those have been addressed and below posted for you to read.


Additional Questions 

Our family homeschools and our son was recently diagnosed with Duchenne. He does seem to have a learning disbaility, but how do we get his evaluated in order to determine that our son does need special education?

Contact your local public school and ask to speak with the Special Education Director and request a copy of their Procedural Safeguards guide.  This document will outline the steps needed for you to request evaluations to determine whether your son has a disability and if so, whether he benefit from special education and related services.

Here are a couple of additional resources:

Please email Jill Ann Castle for very helpful document that outlines the evaluation process:


Can you cover what to do if the IEP is not followed by the school?

The first step is to write the school to request an IEP meeting to discuss your concerns. Again, do so in writing and the school has a specific time to respond. It does not need to be a full IEP Team meeting, provided your concerns are with specific classes/instructors. Also, contact your son’s school and ask for a copy of their Procedural Safeguards guidelines. This document outlines the steps to be taken when you are requesting a meeting, Timeframes for the school to respond to a written request, and what steps to take when you disagree with an IEP as well as when challenging compliance. At this meeting, address your specific points and ask why they have not complied. It may be simply a matter of misunderstanding, the need for teacher/specialist education and a resolution may be quick. If this does not bring resolution, you may need to file a noncompliance complaint with your state’s department of education.  The process is time consuming, yet may be necessary depending on the situation. 


Additional resources:


Can you get related services if you only have a 504?

Depending on your public school and state’s Department of Education’s interpretation of the statute, students may get related services under 504. Services provided under 504 are designed to the eliminate impediments to access for a child with a disability. There may be overlap with some related services that could be offered under IDEA. Those related services would special education services.



Could you please go over how to register for school for the first time (for Kindergarten) when you know you want/need an IEP?

The process to have a child identified as having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is called Child Find. Parents may call their local public school asking to speak with the Special Education Director. The director or office staff should be able to provide specific information concerning the process of evaluation and subsequent meetings to determine whether assessments show the child will benefit from special education and related services. Ask for a copy of their Procedural Safeguards which will outline the process and timeframes for written requests and completion of evaluations and follow up meetings as well as parent rights and responsibilities under IDEA.

After evaluations are completed, a multidisciplinary team meeting will be held with parents, educators, and a person capable of interpreting assessments as well as a person who is able to develop an IEP plan if the team determines this is appropriate. The Procedural Safeguards also describes the process when a parent disagrees with the school’s decisions.


What sort of things should I ask for when my boy is in kindergarten year level.

Each child’s needs are different and are based on their present level of ability and function. For a kindergarten aged boy who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is still walking without difficulty there may be few accommodations needed. As his strength diminishes and falling becomes more commonplace, monitoring his activity by teaching staff and a paraprofessional (teacher’s aide) may be appropriate. Preferential seating to minimize excessive walking or to ensure the child is close to an exit may be necessary. Avoiding long walks, having to sit on the floor when rising is difficult and avoiding excessive physical activity may also be concerns to address. Assistance with removing and replacing a coat, hat and gloves are also needs easily addressed. Educational needs will be addressed through evaluation and determining the specific needs of a child as appropriate.


We already have an IEP, but more ADD/Aspergers issues are arising, as well as math learning disabilities. The school has been resistant to doing any assessments to diagnose the math & social deficits. How do I nicely insist on getting those assessments?

There are two parts to this issue you may need to consider to make changes to your son’s plan based on your suspicions of additional deficits. The first is to ask the school to reevaluate your son in the areas you believe are problems. This must be submitted in writing and the school has specific period of time to respond (A link to a sample letter is shown below.). The school may decide these reevaluations are not needed and it is within your rights to appeal, so be certain to obtain a copy of the Procedural Safeguards from the school and take time to learn the process for appealing their decisions and timeframes for their responses to providing evaluations and conducting follow up IEP meetings.

If you disagree with the school’s findings based on their evaluations, the second step is to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). IDEA provides for families to request an IEE and also request the school reimburse for this, yet parents may need to pay for this service. If you do not agree with the school’s evaluations, this will be an option to consider. Schools must consider the findings of an IEE in an IEP meeting provided the evaluator’s qualifications are equivalent to evaluators used by public schools.



Is it legal for a school to say that they can only have x number of ieps and your kid can't get one because they're already full?

Schools are under scrutiny for have excessive IEPs, yet this issue should not prevent an eligible student from obtaining an appropriate IEP. Administrator may be under pressure for providing special education to ineligible students, yet there are no limits on the number of eligible students a school will provide services. 


Ask the school for a copy of their Procedural Safeguards which outlines a parent’s rights and responsibilities under IDEA including procedures for making a complaint and resolving disputes. The Local Educational Agency (public school) must provide prior written notice when it “refuses to initiate or change, the identification, evaluation or education placement of the child…”(20 USC § 1415 (b)(3)). Any contact made to the school requesting evaluation, identification from parents should also be made in writing and parents should save copies of all correspondences and make notes of conversations with school staff and save in a file for future reference. You may need to contact your state’s Department of Education to report this “procedural error.”


To learn more about what IDEA regulations on state complaint procedures and procedural safeguards please go to:


How do you know when your child needs an IEP?

The process to obtaining special education is called Child Find. Parents may suspect their son’s disability prevents them from doing well in the general curriculum, yet the foundation for obtaining appropriate services requires full and individual evaluations and interpreting the results related to the child’s abilities and deficits and the impact on educational results.

To learn more:


When you post this session.. Can you also include a link in the same area, with Jill's session she did last year with another woman on 504/IEPs?

Jill's previous PowerPoint: IEP vs 504 (PPTX download)


Brian Denger, Collaborative Programs Administrator
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