Navigating the Public School Special Education System with Huyen Cao

IEPs, ARDS, Oh My! Navigating Public School Special Education System with Huyen Cao

The public school system offers a wide range of services for children free of charge! But Navigating through the paperwork, knowing what services are available, understanding the laws and regulations and learning the new lingo can be overwhelming and confusing! In this week’s episode, speech language pathologist, Huyen Cao, MA, CCC-SLP answers our questions to help demystify the public-school special education system. Throughout the episode Huyen discusses how to ask for an evaluation, who can get services, what services are available and what to expect during a meeting. Huyen also explains many of the common public-school specific acronyms.  We also dive into the lesser-known details such as the legal timeline schools must follow, the difference between an IEP and a 504, and if the public-school gives diagnoses to students. Huyen also reminds us that even if your child is enrolled in a private school, they have the legal right to be tested by the public school system.

Huyen Cao, MA, CCC-SLP is the Director of Elementary at The Parish School. Prior to working at The Parish School Huyen worked for the Houston Independent School District for over 6 years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Speech-Language Pathology Team Lead, and most recently, Senior Manager, Special Education- Speech and Language services.

The Parish School on Instagram: ParishSchoolTx 

The Parish School Website: The Parish School 


Stephanie Landis (00:06):

Hello, and welcome to Unbabbled, a podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays, and learning differences. We are your host, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel, and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at the parish, Houston, helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them.

Stephanie Landis (00:26):

The public school system offers numerous services for children, free of charge, which is amazing, but navigating through the paperwork, knowing what services are available, understanding the laws and regulations and learning all the new lingo can be overwhelming and confusing. In this week's episode, speech, language pathologist, Huyen Cao answers all of Meredith in my questions to help demystify the public school special education system. Huyen is the director of elementary at The Parish School. Prior to working at Parish Huyen worked at the Houston Independent School District for over six years and most recently was the senior manager of special education for speech and language services. Throughout the episode, Huyen discusses how to ask for an evaluation who can get services, what services are available and what to expect during a meeting. Huyen also explains many of the common public school specific acronyms. We dive a little deeper into some of the lesser known details like the timeline schools must follow the difference between an IEP and a 5 0 4. And if the public school gives diagnoses to students or not. Huyen also reminds us that even if your child is enrolled in a private school, they have the legal right to be tested by the public school system. Meredith and I both learned something new and left the conversation feeling more empowered to be better advocates for our clients and our own children. We hope you learn something new from this episode, too.

Stephanie Landis (01:52):

Hello. Welcome. We're so excited to have Huyen here today with us talking about the public school system and specifically going through the special ed department in the public school system, she's gonna give us all of the information, explain to us what I E P, A R D. All of those crazy acronyms are so welcome. Huyen thanks for speaking with us today. Thanks for having me. We are so excited to have you here at the parish school, but we know we poached you from the public school system. <Laugh> sure. And we're so glad that you, you can give us that information because many of our parents here at Parish don't know that they even have the right as at a private school to have public school options. So we'll get way into that, but let me back up and first, just say, can you tell us a little bit about what is offered through the public school for kids?

Huyen Cao (02:44):

Public Schools are required to provide services, whether that be on a section 5 0 4 plan or an individualized education plan. So if your students identified of having difficulty in a school setting with academics, writing behavior, you can either request for a section 5 0 4 plan or an evaluation to get them an individualized education plan.

Stephanie Landis (03:08):

So those would cover, you mentioned behavior and education. That would also cover speech language, occupational therapy.

Huyen Cao (03:16):

Yeah, Physical therapy also visual impairment, auditory impairment services. So any, any student that's hard of hearing or visually impaired would get services or can get services.

Stephanie Landis (03:30):

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what the 5 0 4 and an IEP is, if, can you give us the age ranges that the schools will service.

Huyen Cao (03:38):

Yeah. From birth to 18 or older. So they do help with transition services. So in a public school, if your child is three or older that's when they're eligible for services that we do have what is called services younger than three, but that's just to identify students. They don't provide services until you turn three years old or you're enrolled in school. So for students that are not enrolled in school, it's called itinerant services. So that's like a three year old. That's not enrolled in public school just yet. Isn't in pre-K, but have requested an evaluation. They can get services. So students that are in high school can get services and then they also help with their transition process. Our public schools do identify students that are 18 years old. So that means that they've gotten lost in the system and they're struggling and need an evaluation and go to college. They're required to also evaluate then.

Stephanie Landis (04:40):

In the state of Texas, can you get services up through 21? And in some states you can, yeah, you can. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and if you are a parent and you are either in the school system now, or you have a preschooler, or you're say at a wonderful private school, like The Parish School, how do you go about requesting help from the school system? That's

Huyen Cao (04:58):

A great question. So all parents here at the parish school we're zoned to Spring Branch ISD. And so since you are zoned to a private school or since you are in a private school zoned in a public school boundary, you're entitled to services. So we do have a couple of parents here that seek speech and language services outside of school here at Parish. But for parents that are requesting an evaluation so sometimes we do ask for updated information here at the parish school. So you can request an evaluation and we have the contact information and they will do an evaluation. So the best way to really request it is I'm looking for a full and individual evaluation. I'm concerned about academics, speech, and language or behavior. And that is a written request. And so then they're obligated to meet with you to discuss what's the concerns are. And if they do proceed with an evaluation, then they will ask for consent. And then a timeline would begin.

Meredith Krimmel (06:02):

Families who are not part of Parish School, or are maybe not in Spring Branch. How would they go about finding the contact of who they need to email to request an evaluation?

Huyen Cao (06:10):

Great question. So parents that attend maybe a school like Katy ISD, or even Houston Independent School District, their website will have a child find tab on their special education website. Every school should have one on their operating guidelines and the child find will provide an email address or contact information where they would send an email or call the special ed office and, and say, you know, I'm requesting an evaluation. If their students already enrolled at the school a particular school, then they would put that written request with the special education chair. And all schools typically have one. And if you can't find one, then I would suggest that you go to their website and contact the special education office.

Stephanie Landis (06:59):

Do you find it's best to do it via email in written format or to call?

Huyen Cao (07:03):

I believe that it's best to do it in written format, just because it allows campuses to know when that request was. And then there's a specific timeline you have to follow for federal guidelines. And so when you put a written request in, the school district or the school is obligated to respond to you within 15 school days. And so it starts a, a, an immediate timeline for you. So I would put it in written format.

Stephanie Landis (07:31):

And even if you're enrolled in that school, you would bypass the teacher, or hopefully at least loop the teacher in, but bypass the teacher and go straight to that department.

Huyen Cao (07:41):

Yes, I would. And typically the teachers would know, but I think a lot of the times from my observation, it kind of gets lost. Just because there's so much going on, but going to administration or the special education chair would be the best option.

Meredith Krimmel (07:57):

And can teachers start the process if they're noticing difficulties with a child in school? Absolutely, absolutely. Or does it have to be Initiated by the parents.

Huyen Cao (08:03):

No, it can be initiated by anybody, anybody that knows them. So when we created like child find posters and H I S D they, we would say anybody can refer a neighbor that knows the student really well, a family member, aunt, an uncle because they're is a lot of things that they see that you might not see. And so anybody can start that referral process. So teachers are definitely the biggest person that would support it.

Stephanie Landis (08:31):

You mentioned that there's a legal timeline. Can you give us what the timeline would be?

Huyen Cao (08:35):

Yeah. So if you want a full and individual evaluation you would put it in written format to request it. They have 15 days to respond with what is called a PWN. And it's a prior written notice where they are saying they will test, or they will not. And if they're saying, they're not going to test, they have to give you a valid reason of why they're not going to test. And that means they've pulled data to support that request. So let's say that they are going to test, they will get consent for you, and then you will sign it. And once you sign the consent form to evaluate, they have 45 school days to evaluate. So that just means like the holidays don't count. It's just school days. And then when the report is finished, they give you a copy. And then they have 30 calendar days to hold a ARD, which stands for admission review and dismissal to review the IEP, which stands for individual education plan and said that as what they would review. If they're offering services with you or for your child.

Meredith Krimmel (09:41):

So when a parent is concerned about their child's learning and they want the school district to provide services or support, do they need to request a full and individual evaluation, or is it possible that they might request something different or I get a lot of parents say, I don't even know what to say. What do I say to the special education coordinator? What, what am I requesting?

Huyen Cao (10:00):

And I think that's a good question, cuz I think sometimes parents don't know I think special education is to parents. It's a scary situation. I think especially when I worked for Houston ISD, I think parents were like, it's just as speech and language disorder. I don't understand why it's special education and they don't really comprehend that. And it's not a negative connotation, but the, the easiest way I can think of when you're determining whether you should maybe go the section 5 0 4 route, which would be just accommodations in place. So you're identifying that you're child does have difficulty and they have a disability. But you don't want a full blown out individual education plan. You just want some accommodations in place. Then I would go that route. But the easiest way would probably just write a list of your concerns. And so if you're concerned about, you know, writing and they're reading and it might be dyslexia, then probably requesting a full and individual evaluation just to assess all areas.

Meredith Krimmel (11:02):

So the biggest difference between a 5 0 4 and an IEP is 5 0 4 is accommodations. And an IEP is services, leads to services.

Huyen Cao (11:12):

Yeah, somewhat similarly, but a student with dyslexia can be on a section 5 0 4 plan and still get services. So I think that the biggest difference is section 5 0 4 doesn't fall under the special education umbrella. And of course, an IEP falls under the special education umbrella where they are required to do what is indicated in the I E P and it's a legally binding document.

Stephanie Landis (11:38):

So if parents list on where their concerns and their main's concern is just like speech or their main's concern is reading, but as the school is testing, will the school ever say, "Hey, we noticed there's other things going on" and request for more, or if a child already has, I guess there's two questions there. Or if a child already has an I E P for just speech services, can you go back and add on other services?

Huyen Cao (12:02):

Absolutely. So that, one's a good question. And I saw it a lot with with students that, you know, the first indicator is communication. So if a student's having difficulty, a lot of the times they're like, oh, it's just speech and language. And then you get them in and you realize it's a lot more. And so in those instances two things can happen. One being you can request for further evaluation. And that is when you would go to an ARD meeting and discuss that, you know, we need more information to determine if there's more going on. So maybe it's autism, maybe it's a learning disability. And then they would complete an evaluation and then review the results with you. But then also the other, the other avenue that you can take, which I don't think a lot of parents nor school districts really understand is when you fall under the special education umbrella, you're entitled to all the services that you may need. Part of an IEP. There's a section that indicates a PLAAP, which is present levels of achievement and academic performance, where you're indicating what are the child's strengths and what are the child's areas of focus. And so, you know, the child might be identified as speech and language, but then you're indicating he has significant difficulty with reading. So you can indicate that and have a goal for that and who would be responsible for that goal. So it can happen either way. And I think a lot of schools don't understand that. But you, when you fall under the special ed umbrella, you're entitled to services. And a lot of other states do that. And Texas is kind of behind on that.

Stephanie Landis (13:41):

I have a few friends in the public school system that are like, yeah, we're often the back door into more services because the first step is often speech. And then as we dig further, we're like, oh no, there's, there's some writing. There's some reading. There's also, this kid needs some occupational therapy help as well. And, but it's, it's hard on the SLP, but it's great that the parents have that, that kind of in <affirmative> as well to test and dig further and, and get that relationship. But they've said like, oftentimes the parents don't know, they think that they just have access, they were tested the ones, these are their goals and that's what they get.

Huyen Cao (14:14):

Absolutely. Yeah. And you're entitled to it all, especially if you can indicate that there's a need for it. So, you know, I remember sitting in an, an ARD meeting with an advocate and a family and both parents or lawyers and knew the law and their student needed a goal to tie a shoe, occupational therapy. And it was a, it was a back and forth situation. But at the end of the day, the parent was right. You know, there was evidence that showed that he needed occupational therapy and that, that should have been a goal for him because it's a functional skill to have, and we added it to the document because it was important.

Stephanie Landis (14:55):

We've talked about an IEP or an individualized education plan a lot, but what exactly goes into it? Is it just like a list of diagnoses? Is it goals? Is it like what is all listed in it?

Huyen Cao (15:09):

Yeah, that's a, a great question. So one thing that I, I wanted to share with parents that when an ARD meeting is scheduled schools are actually required to show you that IEP five days in advance before the art is held, just so you can review it. And I think a lot of times parents don't understand that that meeting is meant to come to a consensus about services. It's not the school or the campus indicating what's what they're gonna provide. It's a, a mutual conversation of what should happen for the student. And that's why it's called a proposed IEP. And it's not finalized until signatures and an agreement's made. But in an, in, in an IEP, you'll find the present levels of performance you'll also provide you'll, you'll also have information about how the disability's affecting learning which is why an IEP is needed. Um you'll find goals as well as accommodations or modifications. It gets a little bit more complicated when you're, when you're in third grade because that's when they have star testing. And so that document will also ask for accommodations during standardized assessments. And so it gets a little bit more lengthy, but the main areas would be the goals, the service time. So who's going to be provide services and for how long and then as well as deliberations. And so every meeting, somebody should be taking minutes about what's discussed, if there's disagreements it should be documented and then signatures at the end.

Meredith Krimmel (16:48):

What advice do you have for parents going into an ARD meeting? How can they best to advocate for their child? A lot of families, you know, they don't have any background in education or special education. So what, what would you recommend to them to take into that meeting to be prepared?

Huyen Cao (17:03):

I would definitely first recommend that they request that proposed IEP first. So they have time to review it. A lot of the times you're going in and you're hearing all of this information and it's hard. It's hard to understand why, you know, one service was picked and not the other. So asking for the proposed IEP, which is requirement that the school provides you, reviewing it. And then coming with questions, so really asking, well, why only 30 minutes, why, you know, what data do you have to support that? As well. And then the other part is work samples and data, and data supports data should drive why we have the IEP, why they pick specific goals, because I've gone to many meetings and campuses don't have that. And so it doesn't support what they're proposing. And so the two biggest things is asking for the IEP and asking for data to look at.

Stephanie Landis (17:59):

I know for some families they may already have outside testing. If they have an evaluation from an outside SLP or an outside doctor, do school systems accept those, or do they like to solely go off of their own evaluations?

Huyen Cao (18:12):

That's a good question, too. And so the difference between private therapy and school is obviously the educational need. So you can qualify, you know, to, for articulation at a private therapy. But our school, our school districts will look at it and see if, if is this articulation deficit impacting the student educationally. And if it is, do they need specialized services in order to be successful? So some schools, they take it, they're supposed to take it into consideration. That's a requirement. But are they obligated to accept it and say, oh, you're right, there is a speech disorder, let me provide services. No. but they do have to review it in regards to the ADHD. A lot of schools actually prefer the doctors evaluation that indicate an ADHD that ADHD is present, so they can put other health impairment on there.

Stephanie Landis (19:09):

And would that give them access to IEP services or just help with a 5 0 4 or both?

Huyen Cao (19:14):

It could be both. So if you have ADHD and you believe that an IEP is not necessary, then they would do a section 5 0 4 plan and then just provide accommodations and maybe some services if they need or you can go the route of special education and have the other health impairment be protected under the law and have services provided that way. It could go both ways.

Meredith Krimmel (19:36):

So the accommodations laid out in a 5 0 4 are not, it's not legally binding.

Huyen Cao (19:41):

No, not like an IEP.

Stephanie Landis (19:43):

Can you take 5 0 4 accommodations into college?

Huyen Cao (19:46):

Yes, I think so, actually. Okay. That's a good question, but I just know section 5 0 4 is for general education students. That's why, and I know this is like terrible to say, but they're not funded. So that's another thing is IEPs are, and it's legally binding to provide special education students that service. So some, a lot of parents will go that route because they know it has to be done. It has to be done.

Stephanie Landis (20:11):

So it sounds like there's a lot of steps in this <laugh> we were talking about the timeline and you said that you hold the meeting and you get to the ARD and everybody comes together and hopefully you've come to an agreement on the service times and services provided and the goals and what they're gonna work on. When does therapy start after that?

Huyen Cao (20:30):

It's supposed to start after the paper are signs. So if it's a disagreement, then you keep going back to the drawing board. But once everybody is in agreement, it services can start the next day. Yeah. Or even that day.

Stephanie Landis (20:43):

I know when we're sitting here and we're saying the timelines and it was what, 60 days, and then 30 calendar days and 45. So these days they, like, they start adding up and its a long process. Honestly, we started with my daughter for, I'm gonna be totally honest for her R's <laugh> as a speech language pathologist, I've been working so much on like young kids apraxia and then older kids language and social that I was like, oh yeah, I guess her R does sound a little. Yeah, sure. And we tried to work on it at home and she's like, no, mom, no. Yeah. So her teacher brought it up and was like, I'm gonna see if she'll get services. And the whole time I'm thinking like, no way, like they're not gonna do it for one R there's not gonna be an educational impact. Well, lo and behold, while she was reading, she was switching the Rs and the W sound. And so we get lucked out and there was, but man, when they started it, the teacher brought it up in January. She, they finally got it written and everything, the signed consent in February to test, she got tested cuz then spring break jumped in there and we had those like random, his days off, we met sometime in like end of April. And then there was like two weeks of school in May. And she had like two or three weeks of therapy and then it was summer. It was forever. And my husband kept being like, is this ever gonna happen? Like, are, was she gonna do this? Did they forget about us? And I was like, no, no, they have these certain calendar days and everything. And I know that the SLP probably has a ton of kids, so she wasn't just ignoring her. She's a wonderful lady. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, it's just, they have all that time. And there's so many people who have to be able to come together for this meeting and check off those boxes that it really does take forever.

Huyen Cao (22:22):

It does. And IEP meetings are very long. I don't, you, you gotta prepare for like an hour or two talking about some, some information that you don't really need to know. <Laugh> you know, about the law and things like that or assurances, but it's long, it's a long process. And I think that that's one thing that parents do have a difficulty with, which I understand, but I also think a 45 day or school day window provides, if you're doing it right. Some really good information with an evaluation, it gives you time to gather what you need to observe in the classroom and really determine if there's an educational impact.

Huyen Cao (23:01):

I, I totally understand. I was just absolutely, you know, surprised by you see the numbers on paper and you're like, okay, okay. But then once you live it and you're like, oh, well it's only the school days. Then spring break is there. But it just reminds me that I had a friend who switched from The Parish School to public school. And she was like, if I saw a kid, I reached out earlier than most other teachers, cuz I just kept remembering that it took forever. And that if I waited until January, they weren't gonna get any services that year.

Meredith Krimmel (23:27):

Your story made me think of a question. Are, are children on IEPs entitled to services over the summer break?

Huyen Cao (23:33):

No, cuz it you're not in school.

Meredith Krimmel (23:35):

So they, so if you start in April, you really are only getting a few weeks until you're on hold until August again?

Huyen Cao (23:41):

Yeah. Unless your ESY, which is extended school year. So if you have, if you show regression some other criteria, then you can qualify for extended school year and then you'd be serviced for like the month of June. But then July is just nothing. Yeah. Nothing. Yeah. It's very interesting. But I, I was going to make a comment. The federal the federal legislation actually says it's 60, 60 school days and Texas actually shortened it and said 45, which is still really long, but good have Texas. I know that's a good one.

Speaker 1 (24:19):

Maybe that's why I had 60 stuck in my head. Yeah. It's

Huyen Cao (24:22):

60 and other states do 60, but we, ours is 45.

Stephanie Landis (24:27):

And since we have people that might be listening outside of Texas, other states may call things, have different acronyms mm-hmm <affirmative> because when I came down from Ohio and Indiana, like we didn't use ARD. We used something totally different for those like initial meetings. So unfortunately that's not even the same from state to state to state. So the special ed world gets tricky.

Huyen Cao (24:49):

It does the one thing I know a lot of states have that we don't have, which I wish we did was they have the DD disability, which is a developmental delay and you can hold onto that disability diagnosis until you're nine. And it's nice because then you don't fall under a category that you might not necessarily be in and you're entitled to all the services. And so that's something that I've always been interested in cuz we don't, we have non categorical here, but you can only hold that on until you're six, which I still don't think gives you time to know.

Stephanie Landis (25:22):

So if you go through an evaluation within the public school system, you get, do you get actual diagnoses? Like will they diagnose you with a speech and language impairment? Will they diagnose you with ADHD? Will they diagnose you with AP Apria or autism? Do you get official diagnoses?

Huyen Cao (25:40):

I don't think it's diagnoses. I think it's just eligibility determination. So they won't say your child is on the autism spectrum disorder. They'll just say your child meets qualifications for a student who's on the spectrum. And they actually just call it AU in a school, in a school versus ASD, which is what physicians would use.

Meredith Krimmel (26:04):

So the eligibility, it allows you to access services and accommodations, but it's not necessarily a diagnosis that you can take for insurance, for insurance or somewhere else.

Huyen Cao (26:15):

That's a good question. No, because we don't do diagnostic codes,

Stephanie Landis (26:18):

Which might feel better for some parents cuz I know some parents want a firm diagnosis and other parents are like, no, I don't want any sort of diagnosis. So that might feel by that it's just a eligibility requirement. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> is this something that then stays on their records forever? Do they stay in the special education system forever or how does it play out as they get older?

Huyen Cao (26:40):

Oh, that's a great question. So schools are typically will reevaluate every three years. That's a requirement. But that doesn't mean that you can't ask for an evaluation earlier. So let's say your child's making really good progress and you don't see the need for services. You can ask for the child to be evaluated, to determine if it there's still an education impact and need for it. And so no, you don't have to carry through high school with the same eligibility determination. It just depends on what the evaluation states at that time.

Meredith Krimmel (27:13):

And that's the same for, if you feel like your child might qualify for more yeah. Eligibility, you can request an earlier evaluation.

Huyen Cao (27:19):

Absolutely. And that happens a lot because, and you, that's one thing that I, I want parents to know is you might request for a speech and language evaluation, but it's called a full and individual evaluation. So school districts are required to look at all of the areas. So the behavior, the academics, whether that be formally or informally. And so a lot of the times it is informal, but you're missing some information and that's kind of how students fall through the cracks. But it's a full and individual evaluation.

Meredith Krimmel (27:50):

So I, I I know someone who, when they were three received services through the school for speech and language and then now they're starting kindergarten and they think something else is going on. So the parent reached out to the teacher and now they've initiated well, he was due for an ARD, but now he's also getting a READ mm-hmm <affirmative> a review of existing, existing evaluations of data. Good job. Can you <laugh> can you explain a little bit about what that?

Speaker 2 (28:18):

Is? Yeah. So a READ is a requirement that school districts have. And so a READ will occur when a parent's asking for additional evaluation or actually before three year evaluation is done. So a READ is a part of, it can be a part of an IEP meeting or it can be standalone. And so what they do during those meetings is they review the data. They get parent information, teacher inform information, and look at work samples observations and they determined do they have enough information to continue with the eligibility or do they need further information for students to qualify for different services that something else is going on that they need to evaluate for?

Stephanie Landis (29:05):

How often would you have an IEP meeting

Huyen Cao (29:07):

Once a year? It's a requirement once a year.

Stephanie Landis (29:10):

And can you call one as a parent at any time or do you have to wait?

Huyen Cao (29:14):

No, you can call one at any time. I actually just told the parent that that you can call it at any time. They do have to give you notice five day notice before the R meeting is scheduled. <Affirmative> but yeah, you can call one at any time you see appropriate.

Meredith Krimmel (29:29):

Is an IEP meeting different than an ARD?

Huyen Cao (29:32):

No they're the same, same. Yeah, they're the same. So an a meeting, the a thing is just here in Texas. I, I went to school in Kansas and they call it an IEP meeting. So Texas does it differently. And so the it's an an it's an admission review and dismissal meeting, but they talk about the IEP.

Meredith Krimmel (29:49):

So it is an IEP meeting, which is harder.

Huyen Cao (29:52):

Yeah. We had to be complicated. I wonder why parents are so confused. Yeah,

Stephanie Landis (29:55):

No idea. Yeah. So if you move school districts, especially we have a lot of kids here at Parish that live in Katy or Houston ISD or other school districts. And if they reached out to spring branch, now they're transitioning into the public school system. Will the one public school district honor an IEP from another public school district?

Huyen Cao (30:21):

Yes, they have to. So if you are, let's say in Katy I S D and you have an IEP plan in place and you trans you transfer to spring branch I S D they're obligated to implement that IEP and gather information within like a 30 day window. And if they, that they need additional information, then they will do an evaluation or, or get additional information to revise that IEP. But they're obligated to implement it until they deem that something else needs to occur, whether that be an evaluation or an updated.

Stephanie Landis (30:57):

Is that the same thing if you move states?

Huyen Cao (30:59):

Yes. So out of state families, they, you have to come and they also have that 30 day window where they have to do they have to do the IEP. And so that's, that's when it gets difficult. So let's say a student moved from New York and has the developmental delay. Well, Texas doesn't accept that as an eligibility criteria. So we still have to honor the I E P but we do have to evaluate and determine the, a different eligibility, but we still have to do it since it's a legal binding document. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>,

Stephanie Landis (31:33):

I think that's something, and I know we keep saying it it's a legally binding document, but I think that's something that most people don't know mm-hmm <affirmative> and parents don't understand mm-hmm <affirmative> like you legally have to follow what's in the, the I E P absolutely. And that's, I think, important and feels good for parents that they have that, that reassurance there. Absolutely. But it's not just like, oh yeah, we say we're gonna do this, but like, no, you gotta do it.

Huyen Cao (31:53):

Yeah, absolutely. There's something, you know, even after an IEP and you're trusting, you're trusting a school district and you're trusting professionals to ensure that they're pulling your child one once a week for 30 minutes. And so I had a parent one time reach out and said, she's clearly not getting the services. I don't know what to do. It's in her IEP. And I had just recommended maybe having a, a, a folder that they sign and say, I saw your child this day. And that's what they had to start doing. And then she started seeing a difference in that. So just documenting to is really important. And that's why when you go to an IEP, you really should ask for the data to back up what you're saying.

Stephanie Landis (32:37):

So, these IEP meetings they're overwhelming. They are, I mean, I went in for my daughter and it was for ARD <laugh>. And I, I was thinking that we weren't going to get services at all. And even then it was overwhelming. And then they started presenting other data about like her chronological awareness and other stuff. And I was like, oh, oh, okay. Like I was, and I've been in a lot of IEP and ARD meetings on the other side, like helping support parents and give, be advocates for them. And I was even a little overwhelmed there's way more administrators and diagnosticians and people that you've never met. And you're like, I didn't even know you worked for this school. And then there's just you. And so, you know, parents, it is overwhelming, but it's okay. Can they ask for, for a break and to pick the meeting back up later, if they're too overwhelmed, like what other rights do parents have if they start feeling overwhelmed?

Huyen Cao (33:31):

Absolutely. I, and that's a, the, this story that I have is really heartbreaking because I did have a parent go, go to an ARD meeting. And I just got pulled in afterwards being in administration, but she had never saw the evaluation before the meeting. And that's actually something that shouldn't have happened. She should see what the report is. And it was diagnosed, it was eligibility for autism and they, you know, showed her and they were like, this is our plan. And she got overwhelmed and cried, and ran out of the office. And I think when you're in a moment where you feel like there's so much coming at you, you can't process goals. You have every right to say, I wanna table this. And if you table it, they just have to reschedule within 10 days. So it allows you time to process what they're trying to provide you and all that information it's really nice, but you can always ask for it to be tabled and to meet again.

Stephanie Landis (34:24):

Can you invite other people as a parent to your art meetings or IEPs meetings?

Huyen Cao (34:28):

Yeah. You can invite as long as you're giving them notice the five day notice of who you want to come. Sometimes I've encouraged parents to seek out like an educational advocate that will come, who is the legal part of IEP meetings and knows the process of special education. That can be helpful for parents to ask the right questions if you can't think about it, but you can invite an advocate. You can invite, you know, your sister or, you know, a, a person that knows the public system really well. Anybody that you feel comfortable attending and they can.

Stephanie Landis (35:06):

As a speech pathologist at parish, working with families often, we've had either the, the classroom teacher or an administrator or one of the SLPs come to the, to the meetings with families.

Speaker 2 (35:16):

Yes. And it's really nice. It's nice to have support.

Stephanie Landis (35:19):

So we've used a lot of acronyms, and I know we tried to intentionally say what all of them are, and in case it's too much information coming fast at people in this podcast episode, or you're a visual learner like me, we will be sure to put all of them in the show notes so that you can see them or copy and paste and write them down, going into your next meeting so that you're aware of, of what the acronyms are and what they mean. Oh, are there any special magic words that parents should know going into these words other than like please <laugh> Or legally binding document, or

Huyen Cao (35:57):

Some of the words that I've always used is what services are in the best interest of my child. So for example, you know, if a, if an admin says, I'm really, sorry, I think we should only service your child for one time, for 30 minutes and asking why. And is that in the best interest of my child to only be seen 30 minutes for this particular goal has been helpful.

Stephanie Landis (36:22):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I know sometimes it will be a sticking point back and forth between parents and therapists or teachers, of how much time is it appropriate? Is it in their benefit to be missing this much time from class? Is it more appropriate for them to have this individual services or in a group? Is that one of the things that parents should be looking out for?

Huyen Cao (36:43):

Yeah. So sometimes when I go to meetings, I'll ask what's the group ratio, is it gonna be six to one? And is that beneficial? And is it a scheduling conflict? And so yeah, those questions definitely should be asked the ratio of a group how much time they'll be missing.

Stephanie Landis (37:02):

One of the things, another acronym that sometimes gets thrown out is FAPE, the free inappropriate public education. Would that be something that would come up during the IEP meeting?

Huyen Cao (37:12):

Yeah, that's just an assurances. Okay. So they'll read a statement that says, you know, they're getting access to free an appropriate public education.

Stephanie Landis (37:20):

Okay. See, that's one of those things that they started talking about in the IP. And I was like, why are we talking about that? <Laugh> and then back to that, parents can say, yes, I want them pulled outta class more. No, I don't want them, is that one of the sticking points that sometimes happens?

Huyen Cao (37:33):

Yeah. I think service times, it's hard to really understand why you, they might say five times for 45 minutes. And so probably asking, you know, what the schedule looks like, what they would be missing. And again, the IEP meetings are meant to be a collaborative meeting. So coming to a consensus in regards to what you feel like is best for the student. So that it gets, it gets sticky, but I think the, the only way to navigate that is just making sure that you can compromise. But not to the extent of not what's best for the student or your child.

Stephanie Landis (38:09):

Yeah. Because depending on the child's need, like back to my daughter, I was like, I don't need her to miss that much class for an R <laugh>. But if it was something like a reading issue, I'd be like, yeah. Pull her from social studies because I needed to learn how to read.

Huyen Cao (38:22):

So it just kind of depends on the situation at hand mm-hmm <affirmative> and what they're struggling with.

Stephanie Landis (38:28):

All right. At the end of every episode, we put our guests on the spot.

Huyen Cao (38:32):

Oh, here we go.

Stephanie Landis (38:34):

Okay. And we ask them if they have one piece of advice, it can be about this up topic, or it can be about any life advice that you have. What piece of advice would you give? See, we put people on the spot.

Huyen Cao (38:48):

Yeah. That's a good one. It'd probably be, and I'm just thinking in regards to this situation, it, it never hurts to ask. So just always ask questions if you don't understand. And it never hurts to ask for more

Stephanie Landis (39:02):

<Laugh> no, I agree. Yeah. I mean, we use so much lingo that asking for clarification. And sometimes if administrators have been in these meetings all day long, they forget that not everybody knows what they know and they're like, oh yeah, that is a good question. Let me reexplain that. And mm-hmm, <affirmative> asking for more being an advocate asking questions. Absolutely. I like that being curious, asking questions. Well, thank you so much.

Huyen Cao (39:28):

Thanks for having me.

Stephanie Landis (39:29):

Yeah. We're so glad we finally got you on.

Meredith Krimmel (39:33):

Thank you for listening to the unled podcast. For more information on today's episode, please see our episode description for more information on The Parish School, visit If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the UN baled podcast on your app of choice. And if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review a special thank you to stick Daniels, Amanda Arnold and Stella live well for all their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.