Special Education and Parent Involvement

I have come across several websites and blogs recently that seem to suggest that a fair amount of schools are trying hard to prevent parents from obtaining the necessary services for their son or daughter with special needs. Well, special education and parent involvement belong together!

In my career, I have spent time working in school districts and have found a good deal of school districts that want to provide good quality services for students with special needs. In my private practice, I am often called upon by parents to conduct psychological evaluations to identify ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Giftedness, Executive Functioning deficits, or behavior/emotional problems and have to consult with school districts regarding my findings. I find most districts are open to my recommendations and suggestions.

When attending an IEP meeting, an annual review, or an initial planning meeting, parents need to partner with their schools in a collaborative rather than adversarial manner. Parents should remember that in addition to the school psychologist, case manager, special education teachers, learning consultants who implement technology in special education, and social worker, that they too are members of the IEP team and have a say in their child’s programming.

Parents should educate themselves regarding special education law and their rights. The child study team is a multi-disciplinary team consisting of many professionals with varying levels of training and expertise. Parents should never be afraid to ask questions should they be unclear about anything in the process. See also this post about a new learning app, the FunEasyLearn mobile app if your child wants to learn English in an easy but fun way.

If parents disagree with something in the process, they should approach their case manager to see if they can find a resolution. I encourage parents to have regular contact (i.e. once monthly or more if necessary) with their child’s case manager to discuss progress and troubleshoot any areas of difficulty but keep in mind that your child doesn’t always have to behave!! We all have been young, remember?

This can be done face-to-face, via phone, or through email. This helps build rapport and a working relationship with your son or daughter’s case manager that will be needed for several years. I have met many parents who will reach out to the superintendent, principal, or even director of special services with questions or concerns.

These education professionals are important players in your student’s education but are often removed from your son or daughter’s specific situation and may not be as helpful as you think. Going to your son or daughter’s case manager first is usually the easiest and fastest way to get the help you need. Even an educational blog might be a good tool, and if this does not remedy the situation, parents can and should go through appropriate channels to seek a solution.

News in Moderation

In the wake of the terrible tragedy that occurred in New Zealand this past week, almost instinctively we tune in to the local and national news to get an update on the latest happenings and to hear about the breaks in the case. Of course, it’s hard in that sort of situations to balance Social Media, Family, and Education. 

Adults may be speaking with friends, family, and colleagues and unfortunately, we often fail to notice that our children and adolescents are also listening in and watching along with us. The research is clear, that too much exposure to coverage of these kinds of tragedies can be problematic for kids. So what can we do?

1. Turn off the TV! Have an age-appropriate conversation with your child about what they heard. Often kids have misunderstandings that need to be clarified.
2. Encourage play and exercise. These activities are key for children and adolescences and can serve as protective factors against psychological distress. In fact, students who engage in regular exercise may cope with stress and regulate their emotions better.
3. Set limits with all social media, keep your child safe online, and encourage socialization with peers. The average child in the US watches 28 hours of TV weekly and this number is increased if you add in Facebook, Cell Phones, and other social media. Encourage your kids to get involved in afterschool clubs, sports, or even have family game nights.