The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now
Advice for parents on working with your child’s teacher:
- Speak with your child’s teacher openly and honestly. Learn to read between the lines. Does the teacher seem tired or exhausted? This may be due to a shortage of staff. Does the teacher seem to really care? Most do care. They are often in a difficult situation in the classroom. Ask how much facetime your child is getting each day, what are they working on, and how are they approaching the IEP.
- Contact the teacher first -do not go over his or her head IF you have NOT yet discussed the situation first hand. This can be detrimental to the teacher, and in the end, hurtful to your child’s needs if a good teacher is transferred out of the classroom.
- Put yourself in the position of the teacher. What would you want a parent or guardian to say to you? You can attract more bees with honey: Speaking nicely and trying to understand their position will likely get you much further than threatening or fighting.
- Provide the teacher with any ideas you have used that help your child. If you know the secret to ending a tantrum or specific negative behavior, let the teacher know. It can mean the difference between multiple staff taking an extended period away from other students to address the behavior and a speedy turnaround that can benefit everyone.
- In many cases, the teachers are dealing with students that have varying cognitive levels. This is not a situation where all of the students can be taught at one time. That is why seeing that there are enough staff members present to address all of the needs is crucial.
- Finally, and most importantly, know that the teacher may face discipline or possible transfer to a less desirable school for speaking up. They might feel as though their hands are tied. What does this mean? If a teacher believes that your child needs a particular service, an extra staff member, or special testing, he or she may not be able to tell you this if it is going against the mandate of the principal. It’s about money. It is not that the teacher wants to withhold important information from you; it is that there is no other choice when it comes down to maintaining a job. YOU have to be an advocate for your child.
The IEP Meeting Rights and Laws
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) sets reasonable goals for the child and outlines the support and services that the child is to receive from the school and the school district. The IEP is developed by a team that includes key school staff AND the parents. You are allowed to bring anyone with you to this meeting – including private tutors, behavior therapists- anyone who knows, and has a vested interest in, your child’s well-being. Be sure to let your school team know in advance who will be attending your child’s IEP meeting so they there can be ”transparency” for all parties. It is best to not catch anyone off guard …… whether you intended to or not…so that everyone can be up to speed on the IEP.
Important fact – the school staff may not know the IEP rules or what is available to you. That is why doing your own research is crucial before attending these meetings.
The IEP meeting must take place within 30 calendar days after it is determined that the child has one of the disabilities listed in IDEA and requires special education or related services. Annual review of the IEP is required for achievement of goals and revision as deemed necessary. Additional information about the IEP can be found at the Center for Parent Information and Resources.
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