{Ask an Advocate} IEP team members need training on AT device

Today’s question:

my son is completely non verbal he has a novachat communication device we can not get the school to provide specialized training for him or the teachers with the device he needs one on one speech therapy with the device as well as classroom help. none of his teachers know what to do with the device and administration will not provide support for them. He is supposed to be getting speech therapy in a therapy room per his iep but it is not happening the speech therapist just co-teaches the whole class when she is there with the teacher. How can i get this into the iep? Help i am beyond frustrated. it took close to a year of trials etc. just to get the device now we HAVE to help him use it.

Thanks for contacting us. Your issue is relatively simple to resolve through the IEP process. Let’s just hope your district cooperates and doesn’t drag this out. Parent and staff training is often a part of the IEP, we just need to get it included in yours.

Author’s note: A reminder that NOREP is a term we use here in PA. Other states refer to it as PWN (Prior Written Notice) or may have their own state specific term. It is the document that you get that seals the deal, when you agree or disagree to the IEP, placement and all the services.

I’ve written before about the Parental Concerns portion of the Present Levels of the IEP. This is the approach I would recommend to you–utilizing Parent Concerns. Here are some steps to follow–make sure EVERYTHING you do is in writing.

Before you request an IEP meeting, write down all your concerns. Do it in letter format, like you are writing to the entire team. Take your time, do it well, then you’re ready to request the IEP meeting. When you are putting together the words, make sure the focus stays on your child. For example: Do not state that the Speech Therapist is not giving him instruction. Word it such as “Per his IEP, he is to receive X amount of speech therapy each week, however I do not think he is receiving that much.” Put the emphasis on what your child is or isn’t receiving, rather than pointing the finger at someone for not doing their job. Make sense?

Request an IEP team meeting in writing. If you don’t hear from them in 7-10 days, I’d ask again.

When they do respond with a formal invitation to the meeting, RSVP to them with “Great, I can make that day and time, now here are my parental concerns. I will also email them to you so that you can copy and paste them into the parental concerns portion of the IEP.” Give them a printed copy with the IEP meeting invitation and then follow up with an email.

Basically, everything in Present Levels has to be addressed in the IEP in some form. So by putting it in present levels, you are forcing them to address it.

From there, you have to decide how far you want to push this. If I was the district, this is not a battle I’d choose to fight. Providing some team training on AT seems like a relatively simple solution to this. I don’t know why they’d fight you on it.

However, if they do, you have to decide how far you want to push back. You can file for mediation or due process. When the IEP meeting is over and you are given an IEP and NOREP to sign–make sure you are in agreement with all of it, or then you will have to choose whether or not you are going to disagree with the NOREP.

Every state has a P&A group, so you may want to contact yours and see if they can offer assistance. Also, you may want to review the post I’ve done on the 6 Principles of Special Education, in case they deny you full parental participation.

From time to time this blog may generate compensation through free products, sponsorship, advertising/ads, and links. But trust me, it's not 'retire early' kind of money and most of it goes back to keeping the blog online and fast, as well as lobbying trips for special needs kids. Any form of compensation will in no way influence my opinion or content of the blog post-I only work with brands that I already use and love, or think that will benefit kids with special needs. I am committed to providing honest and open opinion and commentary. I reserve the right to decline offers of advertising and sponsorships if it is not consistent with the goals and philosophy of this blog and its readers (and I turn down way more than I accept!). For inquiries about advertising or product reviews, please send an email to info@adayinourshoes.com. This blog is intended to offer general advice and should not be construed as either legal advice, medical advice or state or federal policy. For your family's needs, you may need more specific help from a local professional. A reminder that terminology and procedures may vary from state to state.


  1. Sped teacher says

    Please remember the schools are not always against you. Teacher really do want what’s best for your child as well. Walking into a meeting or starting an email with an aggressive “I have an advocate” or “I want this on the present level because I know it has to be addressed” isn’t a way to collaborate but more putting on your gloves ready for a fight. We are qualified professionals and spend a good amount with these children knowing where they are with progress and comparison to their peers. I welcome an advocate, ABA therapist, etc to collaborate with and make sure all is covered in meetings but don’t come in ready to fight. We need to listen to parents and advocates just like our opinions should be heard and considered also.

    • says

      I don’t know if you’re talking to me (the author of the article) or the parent who sent this in. I don’t see where I ever suggested that she start things on an aggressive tone. To the contrary–I recommended that she keep her focus on her son and what he is or isn’t receiving, and not team members. Keep in mind that as an advocate, I see the worst of the worst. No one ever contacts me either through my agency or through my blog because they just love their IEP and are thrilled with their child’s progress. They are looking for help because things are not going well. I agree that there are many, many wonderful teachers out there. But by and large I feel that teachers’ efforts and good intentions are hindered by administrators. Presumably everyone who entered SpEd did so with the best of intentions, so I can only imagine what it’s like for those who have to sit in meetings and lie to parents–telling them that they do not need services when in their heart they agree that they do. I just hope that all the good teachers don’t leave before we get the system fixed.

  2. Jenny Keesee says

    I asked for this in our IEP review. They’re totally fighting me on it. Or at least making excuses. With 2 special ed attorneys sitting in the meeting plus their own. The SLP says “all SLP have AAC experience”. I’m pushing back on my own with facts. My kid has has 7 SLP’s in 5 years with this district. Never once has she mastered a speech goal. They just keep changing them. Seems like common sense but they feel like they know what they’re doing but obviously not. I’m a mom who will not rely on them. I drive my kid over an hour every week for SLP because no one in our area has AAC experience and that’s what i have to do. I wish the staff wouldn’t take it personally when you ask for training, but I can’t worry about that.

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