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Ask the Attorney with John Brower, J.D.   [Back to Ask the Attorney]

Question: My child is non-verbal and has fine motor deficits. Since she entered the school system the primary IEP goal has been to develop her ability to communicate using a dynamic display augmentative communication device. This device will give her the ability to some day move beyond completely and limited scripted choices. My child is now 11 years old and in fifth grade, yet no progress has been made on this goal.

In my opinion, the reason that there has been no progress is that she does not have her own dynamic display device, either in school or at home to reinforce what she would learn in school. I have given the speech therapist information on how school systems can obtain such devices for short-term loans, but no effort has been made to do so. At times, she has been given sporadic access to a device belonging to other children in the class, but this has been rare. She is enrolled in a POHI class. There has also been a lack of expertise/training for the speech therapists employed by the school system on using augmentative communication.

What options do I have to make sure the school system provides her with the appropriate device and staff training to achieve this goal?

Answer:  First, remember the mantra if it is not in writing it did not happen. Next, if the specific AT device is in your child's IEP and not being provided, then that is a complaint issue you can raise with the Washtenaw County ISD Compliance Officer in a written complaint. If the need for "an AT device" is just generally mentioned in the IEP you need to call the IEP Team together for a meeting (in a written request) and ask that the device be specified by name in the IEP. You can also ask that the IEP include training time for the child and the staff on the use of the device. If the Team refuses, you have the same rights (mediation and hearing) as you do if you disagree with the IEP.

Many times these devices are provided by the ISD, so writing POHI TC or Speech-Language professional may also help. If it is not clear what device is needed or too much time has passed you can always request (in writing) an AT evaluation.

Finally, if your child is capable of progress (as determined by qualified evaluators) and is not making meaningful progress as measured over a reasonable period of time, then by definition the IEP is not designed to provide your child a FAPE. As you likely have signed the past IEPs in agreement, and if the IEP defined services were actually provided, a claim for compensatory educational services for a prior denial of a FAPE may not make sense. However, what does make sense is to not allow another IEP cycle to pass without standing firm for the needed changes.

John Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC
Education Law Center, PLLC 810-227-9850 

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