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PPT Scheduled? Arm Yourself with Education

Getting special education services for your child is all about negotiation.

You haven’t lived until you participate in a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting. Forget every courtroom drama you have ever seen, that’s nothing compared to sitting at a conference table trying to get services for your kid. Without fail, in every PPT, it comes down to one thing: negotiation. However, before you can negotiate, you have to know what you want, and that’s where parents “hit the wall.”

Either the school, or more likely a neuropsychologist, has just evaluated your child and confirmed what you suspected: Your child has a learning issue. If you get this diagnosis, you need to do two things immediately. First, contact the school (if the diagnosis came from an outside source) and get them a copy of the report.  Second, educate yourself on what the diagnosis means and how it inhibits academic performance.  The school will schedule a PPT meeting, so get ready because you are about to enter the parallel universe of Special Education.

For those unfamiliar with this process, a PPT is a meeting of the Planning and Placement Team to discuss a child’s Special Education-Individualized Education Program (IEP). The student’s parents, and what seems like every employee of the school, sit down to discuss what services the school will provide. I have been in dozens of these as a teacher, mom, and student advocate and came out crying twice (and I’m not a crier): Once as a mom, when I was told my son would never go to college (he was in second grade and, yes, he will go to college) and once when I was a classroom teacher when a parent said I shouldn’t be a teacher because I didn’t care about kids (yep, it was all about the huge salary). Thankfully, most PPT experiences are not as dramatic, but you do want to be prepared just in case.

While you are waiting for the PPT, you will need to educate yourself.  Remember “Reading Rainbow” or “Schoolhouse Rock” or whatever that was on Saturday mornings that said “Knowledge is Power?”  I am sure whoever made up that slogan just came out of a PPT meeting. Before the meeting read the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You can find out all you need to know by going to www.idea.ed.gov . Also, when you receive the invitation to the PPT in the mail it will include information on student’s rights.  Read it! I know you don’t want to, but do it anyway because there may be a pop quiz next week.

Speaking of next week, I will get into what to expect and what you should know at the PPT meeting, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the PPT or IEP, email them to me and I will be happy to answer them.

 Sue Schaefer is a certified teacher, Academic Coach and Student Advocate. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates and to submit your education questions to Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

Corey Fyke (Editor) May 09, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Ah, the dreaded PPT meeting. I remember my first (when my older son, now in third grade, was evaluated) like it was yesterday. First of all, it was as Sue describes ... for a 4-year-old in his first year of preschool run by the school district, there were 11 people in the room, a tossed salad of social workers, teachers, administrators, therapists and specialists. There were forms galore, and sober assessments, and serious looks -- it all struck me as absurd, as if Jeff Probst were poised to jump out and tell my wife and I "The tribe has spoken."
Susan Schaefer May 09, 2011 at 10:15 PM
You paint a perfect visual of a PPT meeting, Corey. I especially liked the phrase "tossed salad of social workers" and may have to use it in a future article...I hope you don't mind! Sue
Corey Fyke (Editor) May 09, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Ha! You have full publishing rights!
Alicia Yost May 10, 2011 at 08:30 PM
I remember feeling really intimated by the whole process when I went in for our first PPT. Even though we were all there for my son, I kind of got the feeling that I was on one side of the table trying to advocate for us and our son and the teachers, administrators and social workers were on the other side of the table, working on their own agendas. Don't get me wrong, I think they were all there to help, it's just that the bottom line is, nobody's got your kid's back like you do! I totally agree about reading up on your rights! Knowing it through and through acts as your only defense when you're thrown to the wolves. And they can smell fear!
Susan Schaefer May 11, 2011 at 03:43 AM
I think your comments ring true for most parents that have been in a PPT meeting for their child Alicia. Although you know everyone is there for the same reason, to help your kid, it doesn't always feel like everyone is on the same team. I really feel parents should be better informed and prepared before the PPT. For example, the school social worker could sit down with parents proir to the first PPT and explain the process. Instead most parents have the "deer in the headlights" look through the first meeting and usually walk out wondering what just happened. I know I did!

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