Do IEP Teams have to honor Doctors’ Notes?
I won’t ever forget the interaction I had with one of Kevin’s neurologist. We had a regular doctor appointment/checkup. And he was a baby, like 2-3 years old. I knew he had dup15 and I wanted him in an ABA program.
The neurologist said to me, “Just tell them that he needs ABA.” And he offered to write me a letter stating as much. I still have it. And I was sure that I had struck gold!
Now when I look back on that incident and my naivete, I want to face palm.
Are there IEP laws about Doctors’ Notes?
So, the short answer here is…there is no short answer. When it comes to some accommodations, such as those for life-threatening food allergies, seizure plans, and Type 1 Diabetes, yes, a doctor note will get you those accommodations.
In fact, it is best practice to bring in said allergy or seizure plan from your doctor and present it to your team. My son’s school actually requires that his seizure plan be updated by his neurologist every year.
To give you some framework, try to think of it this way. If my son has a seizure and the seizure plan is not followed, what may happen? If your child has a life-threatening allergy, comes into contact with an allergen, and the plan is not followed, what may happen? What will happen if a child does not receive insulin?
They may die. So before you think about trying to sway your IEP team toward adding something to your IEP, ask yourself that question. “Will they die if they do not receive this?”
Chances are, no. Also ask, is this a medical or educational support/service/accommodation?
When Doctors’ Notes are Inappropriate for an IEP.
Most of what I hear from clients and in our Facebook group is not life and death situations.
Parents often (mistakenly) think that a doctor’s note will secure them:
- a 1:1 aide or special education paraprofessional
- ABA therapy (hello, this was me!)
- increased supports and services on an IEP, such as increased therapy time
And that’s not how this works. At least not in a direct cause/effect fashion.
Getting Services Added to your IEP
IEPs are needs-driven. If you want something added to the IEP, you have to demonstrate need. This happens either through evaluations, or team decisions based upon the IEP progress monitoring that is being done. If a child is not making adequate progress toward IEP goals, and can reasonably be expected to do so, then you’d add more in to address that specific need.
The three steps to follow are pretty simple:
- Parent makes a written request for said support or service.
- Team discusses it; school ultimately makes final offer to parent.
- Parent receives that decision on PWN and decides whether or not to use her procedural safeguards.
It’s also very common when a child has a medical diagnosis of autism or ADHD, but the school does not feel the child needs an IEP. You still must go through the process and request IEP evaluations.
When to use a Doctors Note in the IEP Process.
In the IEP process, for most situations, a doctor’s note is considered an outside evaluator’s report. And, per IDEA, they only have to “consider” the information presented to them in such a report.
A doctor’s note supporting your IEP request may work, but it is not the slam dunk that many parents think it is.
Whenever you make a request, you want to have as much supporting data as you can. A doctor’s note stating that your child needs a 1:1 or more OT is just one piece of data in the big picture.
If it works or has worked for you, great. I mean that. If it was up to me, all of kids would have their needs met and this blog would disappear. But just because it worked for you doesn’t mean that it’s a slam dunk for every other child. And, parents need to have reasonable expectations.
I have heard from many parents who got a doctor’s note, demanded something on the IEP because of it, and then were furious and/or disappointed when it didn’t happen. Fact is, it shouldn’t happen. Imagine the chaos in the IEP system, if all parents had to do was get a doctor’s note! We really don’t want doctors dictating what happens in the IEP process.
Again, use the IEP process and use your Procedural Safeguards.