If you have a child with special needs, you likely worry about them receiving an appropriate education. State and federal laws help ensure that they receive instruction tailored to their specific needs.
Once your child qualifies for special education, the first step is the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) process, where a committee designs a plan for how the school district will meet your child’s educational requirements.
What does the committee do?
ARD committee meetings must occur at least once a year but can happen more frequently if warranted. The purpose is to design or evaluate an individualized education program (IEP), which defines the instruction your child will receive, how the school must provide those services and how to measure progress. As a parent, you are a vital part of this proceeding.
You and the committee must agree on where and when to meet. Under the law, the school must provide written notice of the meeting’s purpose, the time and place, who will be there and acknowledge that you can invite others with special expertise or connections to your child for support and input.
Who is on the committee?
Members must fulfill specific roles as stipulated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The committee includes:
- You: As the child’s parent, you know them the best and understand what makes them unique.
- School administrator: This person is a district employee who understands the school’s curriculum, resources and is qualified to supervise or provide special education services.
- General education teacher: Usually, this is a teacher who understands the curriculum for your child’s age group.
- Special education teacher: An educator specializing in individualized instruction for children with disabilities and who should be familiar with your child’s educational needs.
- Evaluation personnel: This person is familiar with your child’s evaluation and the recommended specific instruction.
In addition, you or the school can invite other people, such as translators if language barriers exist, or others with knowledge of your child’s needs, such as therapists, friends or tutors.
Focus on your child’s best interests
Your first ARD committee meeting can be intimidating, and parents often feel outnumbered. School officials routinely come to these meetings with proposals in hand, leading some parents to believe a decision has already been made.
That’s why it’s crucial to have support, which can also include a lawyer who understands IDEA protections for children with special needs. The ultimate goal is designing an IEP that puts your child’s needs first, helping them thrive now as a student and later as an adult.