- Get It In Writing: After a transition meeting, a school tour, a phone conversation, etc., send a letter to your district representative recapping the conversation. This creates a paper trail and timeline of events, not only so you can remember everything that has transpired clearly, but should you need to have a mediation or go through due process you will have the appropriate documentation you need. Be sure to mail copies to all parties involved, and keep a set for yourself.
- Speak Their Language: Key phrases like, "this environment is/is not appropriate", are essential to securing the placement you desire. Remember, school districts are only required to provide your child with a free and appropriate education. They do not have to provide "the best," and using that term can hurt your case.
- LRE: A wonderful piece of advice we received is to use the LRE acronym as "Language Rich Environment", instead of "Least Restrictive Environment". In our transition to preschool, it is very difficult to find the typical setting for a least restrictive environment, since school districts only provide preschool services to children with identified needs. When evaluating different programs, whether it is a program designed for the deaf or hard of hearing or not, look at the environment for its' richness in language. For example, a classroom with non-verbal children is not appropriate for a oral-speaking child with hearing loss.
- Use All Resources at Your Disposal: We have found great support from our Help Me Grow representative, since she is used to the transition process. She has been invaluable in securing legal information for us, and has been very supportive throughout this long process. We have used her to witness our meetings with the school district, as an additional party serving on our behalf. Another great resource we have found is the Wright's Law Website, with a wealth of legal information surrounding special education.
- Placement Offering: An appropriate preschool (or school) placement can not be determined until a Muti-Factored Evaluation (MFE) has been completed. Know your time lines (click on the "Countdown to Transition Link"), and be proactive in securing a date for the MFE as early as possible. This will allow you time to get a second option, have an administrative review, etc., should you have issues with the placement offering.
Overall, we are very disappointed in our transition thus far, but we are actively working through the process. We are currently waiting for a date to have Drew's MFE conducted, so that we can have an educated, meaningful conversation with the school district regarding an appropriate placement for Drew. While I wish this process was easier, we have learned a lot about our rights, and feel very comfortable in our knowledge of the IEP process. If that one day can help others in our similar situation, then this experience will be worth it.