From Emotions to Advocacy
The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam & Pete Wright
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Josh Won! Compensatory Education and an IEP
We Marvel at Josh
Seventeen-year-old Josh has Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and learning disabilities. When the school refused to provide an IEP or a 504 plan, Josh acted as his own attorney during due process and prevailed!
On February 22, 2012, Pete met with Josh and interviewed him. His "disabilities" began early in his life. Despite those challenges, he persevered. His parents taught him how to tackle life's obstacles. The opening and closing statements he wrote for the hearing are quite impressive.
The audio interview is available in its entirety and is also broken down into five shorter segments.
Complete 22 minute interview (Click here). Note - this is a large 21 meg file and might take a few minutes to download, open, and run. The five segmented files are about 4 megs in size and average about four minutes in length.
And now, the rest of the story...
Note: Josh "won" in 2007. Be sure to read to the end of the article where you will find an update on Josh's success five years later. You will be able to listen to an interview that Pete conducted with Josh when they met in Akron, Ohio on February 22, 2012.
My seventeen-year-old son Josh has Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and learning disabilities. Our school district refused to provide an IEP or a 504 plan.
Josh used your books and the Surviving Due Process DVD when we filed a due process complaint against our school district. Josh acted as his own attorney. We prevailed. I want to share our experiences.
District Refuses a Section 504 Plan
After our school district refused to provide a 504 service plan, Josh was evaluated independently by a psychologist. She advised an IEP for Josh as well as an assistive technology evaluation, among other accommodations. Dr. Kay found Josh to have learning disabilities in written expression and reading fluency, as well as a very slow processing speed.
District Refuses an IEP
Our school district turned us down for an IEP. They said they found no such learning disabilities when they tested Josh, although the school did find his processing speed to be low.
By this time, Josh was very depressed. He was under the care of a psychiatrist who specialized in TS and OCD. We asked the psychiatrist to write a letter to the district confirming Josh's disabilities and his current state of emotional and physical stress. We again asked the school to consider a 504 plan. Again, the school denied a 504.
My husband and I both work for the district. We were trying desperately to avoid due process. But we felt we had exhausted all possibilities and decided we had to file a due process complaint against the district.
Learning Our Rights and Responsibilities
We used your books to guide us through the next year. Josh spent the summer researching IDEA, 504 and educational law. We purchased both of your books, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition and Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, and the DVD - Surviving Due Process. We were all committed students.
I wrote a due process complaint letter (with Josh's help). We modeled it after your examples. The letter goes into far more detail and gives you a play by play of our efforts.
Moving to Due Process
We met for consultation several times with a local attorney who specializes in educational law. She was helpful and honest enough to tell us that she didn't feel we could win our case. She didn't want us to spend the money on her. I spoke with two other attorneys who gave me the same advice.
During this process, Josh's career aspirations went from being a film-maker (a long time interest), to pursuing a career in educational law.
My husband and I asked Josh how he felt about representing himself at the hearing. He said he would like the opportunity.
An Unsuccessful Hearing
We had a two-day hearing. We compiled a 300-page exhibit binder and lined up several witnesses. We had what we thought was a reasonable chance for an admittedly tough case.
We received notice from the hearing officer that we lost the case. Disappointing, but not unexpected. We were well aware that taking on a school district is no easy task, especially doing so pro se by a seventeen year old.
A Successful Appeal
The day after the decision came in, Josh filed an appeal with ODR. Another 30 days to wait.
This time - victory! The hearing officer's decision was overturned and Josh was granted an IEP, compensatory education. We were refunded the cost of our IEE!
I wanted to personally thank you and your organization. Without your information as a resource, we would not have known which way to turn.
I am so proud of Josh for learning so much so quickly. He was such an amazing advocate for himself. Josh used the information provided to us in your books to fight for what we knew was right. His drive and commitment paid off.
Thank you again for your information. I've included the:
March 16, 2011
That was me four years ago.
I am now a Junior at the College of Wooster majoring in Psychology & Philosophy. I plan to attend law school after I finish my Undergraduate work here. I've just started my law school search. I've become really interested in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law.
Thanks for sharing my story.
Wrightslaw: Surviving Due Process DVD. This DVD takes you through a special education due process hearing, from initial preparations to testimony by the final witness.
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, Rules of Adverse Assumptions in Chapter 21.
Letter to the Stranger - Tactics and Strategy by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright.
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