Are you the parent or guardian of a child with disabilities relocating to the Denver metro area? If so, this information will help you with special education planning in Denver.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that ensures students with disabilities are provided a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their individual needs. The goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as their non-disabled peers. Disability categories under IDEA include: Autism, Emotional Disabilities, Hearing and Vision Impairments including Deafness and Blindness, Intellectual Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and Language Impairments, and Other Health Impairments. However, it is important to understand that a medically diagnosed disability alone does not qualify a student for services under IDEA unless the disability impacts the student’s ability to access their Free and Appropriate Public education.

Educational Needs

Students with a disability or disabilities impacting their ability to access their education are entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) detailing their need for services and the specific plan to meet their educational needs. These plans are developed and implemented by their home school district. If you know your student needs support beyond what general education typically offers, but does not yet have an Individualized Education Plan, you should request an evaluation for special education services. Ideally, the IEP would be developed and implemented prior to your relocation to the Denver metro area. The school district where you reside must complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine if your student has a disability that impacts their ability to access their education, at your request. According to the United States Department of Education, the evaluation process cannot exceed sixty days, including during COVID. However, the process can be involved and require further observations and assessment. Therefore, it is ideal to start this process as early as possible and at least three months before your relocation.

Transitioning to a new school

If your student’s current school team already developed an IEP for your student, the best way to ensure a smooth transition to a new school district is to make sure your student’s IEP is as robust and detailed as possible. When you relocate to a new school district, the new district is not bound to your student’s current IEP. They will have the opportunity to adopt the current IEP or reject it and form a new one. However, during the transition period IDEA mandates that your student must continue to receive their services; no lapse is permitted. Therefore, until your new district can schedule and hold an IEP meeting following your relocation, they are bound to provide the services detailed in your student’s current IEP. Furthermore, the more detailed and specific your student’s plan is prior to your relocation, the more likely it will be that your new district will adopt the existing plan.

Questions to ask

To that end, you will want to request a team meeting prior to your relocation to make sure your student’s IEP fully addresses all of the services they require in order to access their education and to make sure that all of the information in your student’s current plan is up to date. The more details provided in the IEP about your student’s needs, the services they receive, and the qualifications of those tasked with providing the services, the easier the transition to a new school district will be for your student. Make sure that your student’s IEP addresses the following questions: What is their disability category? How do they qualify for special education services? Who are they as a learner? What accommodations do they use and for how much time? How much time do they spend each day or week with each service provider? Do they have a dedicated 1:1 adult with them while at school? For what purpose? What are that person’s qualifications? What parts of the day or week are they with your student?

The goal is to do everything you can to make their plan reflect what their school day actually looks like (or should look like) and to eliminate potential questions that may be raised by your new district. Make sure you know your student’s plan inside out so that you can easily explain it to their new team. It is always a good idea to ask your current school team if they would be willing to participate in a virtual transition meeting with your student’s new school team. In addition to the updated IEP, make sure anything you have already formally documented with their current school team have been updated. This could include their communication plan, behavior plan, health plan, advanced learning plan, and special transportation accommodations. Again, the clearer information you have to share, the better.

If your student’s IEP details their exact and specific needs in order to access their education and your new school district can read and understand the plan with ease in order to ensure your student continues to receive those services, then your student has a strong IEP and you have accomplished the most important step in relocating a student with disabilities. Congratulations!

That said, we all know moving is a difficult process and relocating a student with disabilities can be even more challenging and sometimes overwhelming process. Advocating for your student with a disability or disabilities can feel like a full-time job without the added stress of moving. A skilled professional advocate can help you manage the process and ensure your student’s needs are meet. Please contact us at Duguay Educational Consulting and Advocacy if you have any questions about the process and complete our intake packet if you believe our advocacy services would be a good fit for you. You are not alone.

For additional information contact Meryl Duguay, Ed.S. of Duguay Educational Consulting and Advocacy