Of course, there is no exact correct answer to that question. As a parent myself, only parents know when and what is best for their own child. However, if your child is not receiving a free appropriate public education at school, chances are a comprehensive consultation with a special education lawyer is immediately warranted.
IDEA, FAPE, CHILD FIND and IEPs
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all children with disabilities to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE starts with a school’s responsibility to identify that a child has a disability (Child Find) and create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to suit the needs of the child. Parents need to be persistent, dedicated and above all else aware of the many services and accommodations that their child is entitled to under the law. As early as this point within your child’s special education, many parents will often find themselves in the situation asking, “is now the time to really call a special education lawyer?” Here are a few things to consider when asking yourself that question.
INVESTING IN YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE
Hiring a special education lawyer at any part during the special education process is making a sound investment in your child’s education and future. Like any investment, if you don’t make the right one, the potential return on your investment is diminished, undervalued or could be a total loss.
DON’T GO IT ALONE
If you’re still considering whether hiring a special education lawyer for your child’s needs is worth the return on investment for your child, consider this — there’s an interesting national study that was conducted in 2015 that examined the success rate of parents at due process hearings over the past 35 years. The study revealed that parents proceeding without an attorney at due process hearings prevailed only 14% of time, whereas parents that were represented by an attorney prevailed in 58% of cases. While these statics should not be interpreted as evidence that hiring a lawyer improves the chances of success, these numbers do demonstrate the value and potential long-term, return on investment that a special education lawyer brings for you and your child’s representation throughout the special education process.
A good special education lawyer will bring value by educating and empowering parents to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their child’s case. Often is the situation that parents may think they have the correct strategy or right clinical provider in place for the betterment of their child without realizing there are flaws or legal issues with their strategy.
NOT JUST FOR LITIGATION
Retaining a special education lawyer isn’t just for litigation. An experienced special education lawyer also plays an important role throughout your child’s special education process long before litigation even becomes necessary. In fact, by retaining an experienced special education attorney early on in your child’s case, due process is often not needed because your attorney may collaboratively negotiate with your child’s planning and placement team all the while securing the best outcome for your child.
Hiring a good special education lawyer is also hiring a problem solver for situations that arise throughout your child’s special education. As a problem solver, an experienced special education attorney provides value by:
-securing your child’s entire educational records;
-requesting an evaluation or IEP meeting;
-preparing for a special education eligibility meeting;
-preparing and advocating an IEP meeting;
-evaluating an IEP proposed by the school district; and
-navigating the many other complex and confusing special education process on behalf of you and your child.
Forte Law Group has worked with many families and students with special needs. We successfully obtain benefits under FAPE for our clients guaranteed by the IDEA. Contact us to discuss how we may more fully answer your questions.