The Therapist of My Student Recommends

Submitted by Tim Schwarz on Wed, 03/14/2018 - 10:00 PM

Clinicians who work with disabled children are often very willing to sit down with a family to discuss specific recommendations, not just for private therapies, but interventions that could be done during the school day. However, many of those recommendations are rejected or ignored at the IEP meeting. Often, the school district is not committing any legal wrong in doing so. This is a combination of two distinct legal factors. 

First, the school district has enormous discretion in choosing interventions to use in serving a student. In particular, a school district is essentially never required to identify a specific methodology in an IEP. Many private clinician recommendations are driven by an underlying methodology. If the district declines to adopt or commit to that methodology, then it makes sense from their perspective that they won't commit to recommendations driven by that methodology. 

Second, the overarching principle that school districts are not required to maximize a student's potential. That means that a clinician who recommends the best plan for a student is communicating above the level of the school district's legal obligation. Similarly, a medical doctor describing what is 'medically necessary' is describing what a health insurance plan should pay for, not what a school district must do. 

Many times, the underlying issue is that the school district does not want to implement particular recommendations, or at least does not want to commit to implement. Thus, school officials will explicitly or implicitly frame the recommendations in terms of methodology or maximizing potential - if you hear a proposed addition to the IEP discussed in terms of doing what is best for the student, either the district is working up a justification to refuse or is being a little deceptive about what will happen during your student's classroom experience. 

In short, the school district is required to consider any expert's opinion, but is not required to follow or adopt the opinion. If your student's clinician identifies a need, the district must do something to individualize the IEP to address the need, but not necessarily what was recommended. 

For parents, that means being careful with advocacy language - asking for what is 'needed' or 'challenging,' not what is 'best.' Clinicians can help be focusing as much on goals to be achieved as services to implement. Ultimately, the purpose is to address parental concerns in a way that avoids rather than challenges the areas of significant school district discretion.  

Free Education Rights Seminar
March 26, 2018 - 10 AM  

Art It Out Therapy Center (255 Village Parkway, Suite 580, Marietta GA 30067)
has invited me to present an overview of student education rights March 26, 2018, at 10 am.

Check the flyer below for additional information. Feel free to pass along to any interested folks.

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