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Transcript of LIVE Q & A with Gary Mayerson

How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child
Navigating the IEP process can be an overwhelming experience. Join nationally renowned attorney Gary Mayerson as he answers live questions from parents and explains what parents can do to secure effective and appropriate programming.
Gary Mayerson is the founder of Mayerson & Associates, a law firm in Manhattan that was formed more than a decade ago as the very first law firm dedicated exclusively to serving people with autism. To date, Mr. Mayerson and other lawyers at his firm have helped more than 1,000 families in more than 30 states, as well as military families stationed abroad. He also is the author of How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child (DRL Books 2005). In addition, Mr. Mayerson is a long-time board member of Autism Speaks and serves as the Director of the Autism Speaks Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level.



Hi all……I am going to be answering parents questions……..this is back to school time and there is quite a bit of anxiety as to how this year is going to go…..



Comment From TannersDad Tim 
When A school system decides it can no longer handle your child, how do you evaluate the place they want to send them?



Many parents have good results bringing in a behavior analyst or educational consultant to go into the recommended school



Parents have the right to assess the recommended placement, just as schools have the right to assess the student….this can be initially agreed to at the IEP meeting



Comment From Guest 
My little brother is starting preschool and he has PDD-NOS and we went to orination and he does not want to go. What do we do?



Transition planning is something that comes in handy, to create greater predictability…..but I am a lawyer, not a behavior analyst… this is something that really can be plotted out with the assistance of a behavior or educational consultant…



Comment From Guest 
I live in small village, my AS son is failing math and needs a tutor, i understand that the school district can/should help pay expenses, how do i encourage that to happen?



If you live in a small village….your school district is not likely to be unduly burdened with this kind of request. Your first move is an objective assessment to ascertain the extent of the “damage,” and then present the results at an IEP meeting to make the request…..



Comment From Kendalls Mom 
What happens if the school feels your child has no need for an IEP anymore? But you still think they do?



This is a recurring problem…..initially, such a move MUST be based on objective criteria…..and if you disagree and file for due process, “stay put” will protect your child in their current placement until the judge rules otherwise…



Comment From Katy 
I live in Wisconsin, where there’s massive school budget cuts. I’m concerned that it will affect the services my 3rd grader receives. Do we have legal rights to push for the same level of service, or must we accept whatever’s coming?



Budget cuts across the nation are creating fear and apprehension, and there are real budgetary realities that school districts–all districts–must contend with. On the other hand, the district cannot simply slash your IEP services because of budgetary concerns and if any IEP proposes to do so, again, “stay put” comes to the proteection of the parents who have no choice but to move formally to protect their child’s program components



Comment From Carol 
we have a 6 year old child who is not currently diagnosed with autism, but the believes the with the behaviors and patterns that he exhibits that he has aspergers. Who responsibility is it to get the testing done?



You first must REFER your child to the school distrrict for an evaluation to determine eligibility under one or more of the classification categories…and if you do not agree with the districts assessment, you can request an independent eval at district expense



Comment From Karla 
Our son turns three in November and we would like to know whether it is best , from a legal stand point, to send him to a public school first and then try to get him into a private school or not send him at all and fight the school district to send him to a private school?



This really turns on the outcome of the IEP meeting. IF the school district is offering a classroom or program that appears to be an effective to meet the child’s needs, then by all means, sign me up!! On the other hand, if it appears to be clearly inadequate, you would be moving in the other direction.



Comment From Es Mom 
I have a severly autistic son that I wanted to place in a special needs school. I have noticed that there is an extreme push by the public school for him to go there instead. Is there a reason for this? Do I not have a say?



The public school has an obligation to at least try to place your child in a public school placement before looking to private situations. You do have a say, but you need to first consider, in good faith, the public school options that are presented



Comment From Linda 
I would like to know the best way to present the need for a 1:1 aide for your child. My child bolts and is very fast. I have agreed to 2:1



A child who bolts and who is fast is a potential danger that could expose the district to potential liability. This year, we had a case of a student who bolted out of a NYC school, and was found undressing by the East River. It should not have to get that level of danger. How often does your child bolt? Is there a bheavior plan in place? These are all questions to be discussed at the IEP



Comment From Melissa in Michigan 
What is “stay put”?



Stay put is a simple description of a far more complicated statutory provision which simply means that if you bring a due process and challenge your child’s IEP, you are entitled to “stay put” in the last AGREED placement……



Comment From Jane 
Our high school contracts out for Occupational therapy for my son…what can I do to assure that he gets the service due to him, as I know that they have “skimped” on his IEP mandated time in the past?



You can test the situation by asking for service records or “session notes”….all parents are entitled to their child’s educational records…..and if there is a problem, call an IEP meeting and make sure to invite the questionable provider(s)



Comment From Mitchells Mom 
Can you request that a 504 be terminated and a IEP be initiated, if you feel that a 504 is not the appropriate measure? I don’t won’t to seem too pushy, causing the teachers to be biased towards my student.



Get pushy! Many school districts will try to give a 504 rather than an IEP because they know that it will likely be less burdensome to perform…..there is no dishonor in an IEP…..which often is exactly what the student needs (understanding that many children do just fine with “only” a 504 plan)



Comment From Meg 
What can I do if my child’s IEP is not being followed?



School districts hate having to assemble lots of teachers and administrators for an IEP….if they are not following the IEP, the “cost” is that you will demand a further meeting…eventually, most districts will ensure basic compliance rather than have to deal with your IEP requests



Comment From Melissa in Michigan 
do you have a web page?






Comment From Guest 
if my sons IEP has special instructions on transportation; can tthe school district who has now leased out their bussing to a private company refuse the IEP instructions to drop off and pick up curb to curb and make my child wait at a bus stop?



No….the school district MUST comply with the IEP mandates….and they cannot delegate their legal responsibility for compliance, even if they subcontract with another company



Comment From Andrew 
My daughter gets speech therapy for 30 mins a day in school and everytime that I ask if we can up the therapy, the response I get is, “30 minutes is enough, any more than that would be too much for her to absorb” How do I get them to at least try increasing her therapy time?



Particularly for children with autism who are often highly distractible, a 30 minute session is not adequate. You may need a private evaluation to measure this problem, and to make recomendations you can then present to the district



Comment From Karla 
Do you recommend that we bring a mediator or an attorney to our son’s IEP meeting?



I think that often, this is NOT a good thing to do unless prior statements by the school district alert you to hostility or closemindedness…..I think parents should first TRY to speak openly without attorney or mediator assistance….



Comment From melissa 
can you have a 504 and a iep also



You can technically wear a belt and suspenders too but one of them is not needed



Comment From Brittnii 
ED kids, what can i do to help so my child isnt teased?



Bullying has now become a huge issue for school districts, who are beginning to implement zero tolerance policies. More importantly, we just got a federal court decision this year that confirms that bullying is a big violation under IDEA



Comment From Guest 
Any suggestions to keep the IEP process collaborative rther than confrontational? My daughter sometimes feels overwhelmed by the “experts.”



This may sound silly, but many parents quiet the waters from the outset by bringing in cookies or something else to the meeting. It is difficult to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Peoples egos often get in the way. I also think that if you present an expert report, the dynamic changes from “this is what the parents want” to “this is what an expert is recommending”



Comment From Erika 
My daughter is starting middleschool and has inclass support mainstream, i also am wondering if theres any advice on her bullys, how to prepare teens for staying away from peer pressured things when there so volnerable, is there a book or any advice you can give us on tackling this cause this worrys me.



There is a link on my website,, to this year’s landmark bullying decision, which offers a lot of guidance as to what parents and school districts should do



Comment From Shell 
I have the same issue with ‘budget cuts’. My son has lost an excellent autism teacher and I am afraid that he will lose the 1 on 1 that he used to get. Should I address my concerns to the school or go straight to BOE w/ other parents? Thx



I would address it initially with the school and telegraph that such a move would not be acceptable and that if that were to occur, you would take action. You might well get a reassurance, as the squeaky wheel often gets the grease



Comment From Leslie G 
Children in NYS Early Intervention despite their diagnoses are receiving service authorizations that are ridiculous and similar eg. 1X60 every other week or 1X30 every other week. The service authorizations are not individualized. What can families do collectively to fight this?



Under Early Intervention, which goes only to age 3, a parent may get a lot of mileage going straight to mediation……



Comment From guest 
do kids with autism get their ears pierced????



I don;t have a clue. My daughters are the experts in our house about ear piercing



Comment From Katy 
What can you do if you do not want a particular staff member working with your child? (if you have only one example to demonstrate this person’s poor ability to adequately work with your child and you just have a “gut” feeling)



This is the weakest leg, often, that parents have to stand on. Personnel decisions are very much left up to the school district unless you can show true incompetence or worse conduct……



Comment From Guest 
Who is legally required to be at an IEP meeting?



This will differ slightly from state to state, but usually there is at least a district rep, a special education teacher, and evaluators, and if your child is attending or is being considered for regular education participation, a regular education teacher



Comment From Guest 
Good evening Mr. Mayerson. Wanted to stop im just to applaud everything your firm does to promote and protect autistic children. We have moved our 11 year old from public school to a private school that deals exclusively with autistic children through the age of 22. And thanks to the McKay scholarship, it’s free. We were so afraid of him being bullied in middle school.



Thank you for your kind words……and I am glad that your child is now in a good place



Comment From Guest 
If I’m not agree with an IEP meeting decision about related services, should I sign any paperwork?



You always should sign the “attendance” page of an IEP, but if you are not in agreement about related services, you should so indicate and communicate…..otherwise, the inadequate service levels will commence…



Comment From Mia 
When are services required to start under an IEP? I assume on the date the IEP states (the first day of school), but our district always takes a few weeks to get the schedule done and it can take 2-3 weeks until services actually begin. What can a parent do?



Each IEP is required to specifiy the start date and end date….to give parents notice of how to plan



Mia…you should write to the district and request the schedule weeks before the start of school….and I know that I just gave you impractical advice considering the time of year!



Comment From MB 
How can you address behavioral issues in an IEP? My son is currently screaming and yelling which I feel is his current way of stemming, but the teacher feels it isn’t related to Autism?



I am going to stick my neck out, but your child would appear to require a Functional Behavior Assessment to determine the function of his behavior(s). This should not be the subject of conjecture or guesswork



Comment From keli 
what is a Functional Behavior Assessment?



An FBA identifies the target behaviors, tracks and measures the frequency, duration and antecedents of those behaviors, and then, finally, hypothesizes as to the likely function of the target behaviors…and you need to know wjhat the function is before you can develop and design a proper behavior intervention plan



Comment From Maria 
Is it possible on IEP meeting to request bilingual paraprofessional or ESL services for autistic kid?






Seriously, it is not only possible, but often required….depending on the unique needs of the student.



Comment From Melissa 
Thid is my 3rd time writing this but its not going through I assume. I have a problem with my sons teacher. He is 4 and has Autism. She would only speak with me if he had a problem at school. She feels that he needs a behaviorlist which we do not have in our area that knows how to work with Autistic children. What should I do?



Ask the teacher if she feels comfortable shareing that with the district and if so, I would call an IEP and get this problem on the table



Comment From MJ 
I am a special education teacher and have several children with autism that I serve. I am sad to read about parents not feeling like they are getting adequate services or that their schools look at their children as burdens. Not all schools/districts are this way. We welcome parent input and do the very best we can with the resources available to meet each student’s needs.



Thank you for the fine work that you do. Dont be sad. Parents cannot move their children forward having a party that celebrates only all the wonderful things. Parents know that they have to move the mountains that are standing in the way of their chilldren’s progress. This is nothing personal….but a reality that all parents face. We have worked with many fine and honorable school districts that will always do the right thing…..but that is the question all parents must ask. “ARe you a good witch or a bad witch.”??



Comment From Bryce`s Mom 
Going into a IEP meeting is stressful enough but how about when my Son`s Dad brings a girlfriend in with him that has been nothing but hateful toward my son and more than I can say on here but it makes it twice as uncomfortable? …school claims there is nothing they can do? Thank you for any suggestions :}



I hear you. Unfortunately, either parent has the right to bring anyone they wish to the IEP, unless that person becomes disruptive at the meeting. That often helps parenets who bring advocates, experts, but works less well when your ex brings their baggage.



Comment From Guest 
How do the rules change for Autistic students starting college? Do colleges have to provide the student with all of the services that they had while in k-12?



This is a thorny issue but it normally is not an IDEA issue as much as an ADA issue……however, in the last few years, we are seeing many colleges and universities promoting special serrvices supports for students who need extra assistance…..its not the stigma it once was and colleges recognize that 13% of the population will have some form of disability to contend with…..



Comment From Cate Borzi 
How do I get ABA services in a region of Illinois that is still fighting tooth and nail to avoid schools here providing it?



Cate……this is less of a problem now, but obviously still of concern. If I can get ABA to come to a remote stretch of Alaska, you have a shot to import it to Illinoise. Check out the T.H. v. Palatine case, from your jurisdiction, that we won in 1998 and which supports ABA programming



Comment From PB 
Speaking of resources, are there ANY rules, (laws) about case load, number of students and the intensity of each student’s needs?



The IEP ratio limits the number of students, and some professional organizations, such as ASHA (for speech pathologists) publish caseload limits….



Comment From Lisa 
My daughter is 5. Does a school district always offer the bare minimum that is doesn’t remotely address the child’s needs to learn but just warehouses them in a large class with no support? It seems that is all they are willing to do and when I object, they say the environment is “least restrictive” because it is the closest Special needs primary class to our home.



It’s not even the “bare minimum” if the services are inadequate to create meaningful progress. The problem is assessing whether your daughter is meaningfull progressing or not.



Comment From Imelda Donato 
I moved to a different school district while my son’s old IEP was in place. The new district has decrease speech services by 50% and when I told them what was needed according to the IEP, I was told that “that” document is no longer legal. What can I do?



If you moved to another district within the same state, you have “stay put” rights to the services in the old IEP that you can invoke by filing for due process, assuming that the move was very recent.



Comment From Karen 
Can I use meaningful progress in regard to behavior issues or is this relevant only to academic progress?



It is BOTH, particularly if your child has interfering behaviors that, when occurring, are making your child unavailable for learning.



I want to thank everyone for throwing me some very interesting questions….questions that come up time and again. I hope that everyone has a great start for the 2011-2012 school year…..good luck!!