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3 Steps To Request Compensatory Special Education Funds

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

The step by step process for requesting compensatory funds for services that you already paid for to ensure your child had full access to their education


If you have been paying for executive function coaching services for months or even years, did you know that you may be entitled to partial or even full reimbursement from your local school district?


If you read my other article, How I sought reimbursement for a private remediation program, you know that one of the best things you can do when your student is struggling to access school and you feel you need to hire an EF coach is to issue a 10-day notice of unilateral placement so you can recover your future costs.


This article is focused on how you can aim to recover your past payments for executive function coaching that was necessary to utilize so that your student could access school.


As a special education teacher and executive function coach, I can say with 100% certainty that some students NEED executive function coaching to access school. As part of our process at EF Specialists, we take baseline data before we implement an EF coaching intervention and we often see that the coaching process is the key factor in helping a student who is failing or on the verge of failing many of their classes, transition to being able to manage school, earn B's and A's, and improve their relationships with their teachers.


While I was aware of this process from my experience as a special education teacher, I could not have written this article without the guidance of my mentor and skilled advocate Sandy Shove, who is the founder of EPIC Advocacy (Empowering Parents

of Interesting Children).


Step #1: Create a detailed "log" of your attempts to get your school district to provide for your student's needs


You MUST prove that you have been attempting to work with the school district to resolve your issue before claiming that you had to go rogue and find your own coach. To help parents with this, I often have them CC me on email communications with the district and then I save those email conversations as digital PDFs in a file dedicated to their student.


I advise parents to put as much as they can in writing (as opposed to phone calls) because then they have to document things twice. Additionally, you want to make sure you receipts and documentation of any and all services you've paid for.


At EF Specialists, we document all our interactions and meetings in the client portal, so you can log in there at any time to print those out and bring them with you as part of your history of attempting to resolve this issue with the school.


Additionally, tell your specialist that you would like them to work with the school, as well, so you can show that you were attempting to work collaboratively with the school throughout the process. Make sure to tell your specialist to document their outreach to the school so it can be safeguarded in the student folder.


The bottom line is that you want to build a clear cut case that you have attempted to work with the school in order to provide your child with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).


Step #2: Draft a "how we got here" letter


This is an important step and will take a good deal of work, but cannot be skipped. In this step, you are going to attempt to convince a stranger that you have exhausted all possible options when working with the school and that it was necessary for you to resort to hiring an executive function coach in order to ensure your student could access school.


The key to this letter is that it is written objectively, dispassionately and focused on the well-being of the child. This letter should be a narrative of all the attempts the family made to collaborate with the school, the data they utilized to inform them that their child needed additional supports, and the supports they hired in order to ensure their child had access to school.


Here is the example given from famed advocate, Pete Wright, on his website. Review this letter as it services as a cover letter, a brief "educational history" of the student, and request for reimbursement all in one. After sending this letter in, you should expect to receive a response from the district.

"That's nearly always met with a Prior Written Notice (PWR) from the District, which then starts the 'conversation'.
– Sandy Shove

Step #3: Follow up with the district special education administrator if you do not receive a Prior Written Notice (PWR)


You should receive a prior written notice from the district within 15 school days (business days). This indicates they are open to starting the conversation around how to address the suggested denial of a free and appropriate public education.


This may be a series of written correspondences, a meeting with the district and their legal counsel, working with the alternative dispute resolution committee or Zoom meetings.


At this point, your job is to continue to show up, advocate for reimbursement and not committed to anything before you are certain it is the best plan of action going forward. For example, they may offer you funds, but continue to deny an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). If that is the case, you will want to consult with an experienced advocate or attorney before waiving you ability to use your previous experience as the basis for an IEP.


What is next?


The most important thing is that you take action! Send that letter and start the conversation. If you have questions or need more clarification, leave a comment on this post. If you would like an individualized consultation on how we can guide you through this process, visit our home page to book that.



Disclaimer: Please know that there are state-by-state variations for many of these procedures (including the timelines), so you should include a disclaimer that the advice/recommendations are general and that each individual case or situation may need to be considered individually in light of the circumstances and region of the country. Additionally, this is a narrative of my experience only. You are strongly encourage to consult with a special education attorney before attempting to utilize any of these techniques. A list of special education professional by region can be found by visiting the COPAA directory.


About the author:

Sean McCormick is a parent, husband and international executive function coach. He is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business which guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.



He has also spoken about executive function at prominent venues including the Association of Educational Therapists' National Conference, at the Athenian School and on the Qualified Tutors Podcast.

And last but not least, Sean has hosted over 50 episodes the Earn More Tutoring Podcast with a mission to eradicate educator poverty. The show recently surpassed 8,000 downloads.

Sean is regularly featured across media channels for his expertise on executive function, ADHD and special education.

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EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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