Learning to Read and Write are Important, but so are Functional Skills

Learning to read and write are important, but so are functional skills, that can help a child live a full and enriched life! This article shares 3 parenting tips that you can use in your advocacy efforts!

Tip 1: Use Federal special education law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA 2004 to strengthen your advocacy efforts for functional skill training. IDEA states that every IEP that is developed for a child must contain a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. What does this mean for your child? Your child’s IEP should state what level your child is at in the area of functional skills. Make sure that these statements are based on objective data such as tests and not subjective opinion.

The law also states that the child’s IEP must contain a statement of annual goals in not only academic areas, but functional areas as well. Make sure that the functional goals are specific and are measurable.

Also, make sure that any skills training given to your child is written clearly on your child’s IEP and has specific amount of times that the training will be given. Training needs to be given in natural environments and at natural times. For example: Teeth brushing training needs to be given after the child has eaten, either after lunch or after a snack. Training also needs to be community based, so that the child will be able to generalize the skills to all environments.

Tip 2: Use the purpose and findings of IDEA 2004 to convince special education personnel how important functional skill training is for your child. The purpose of IDEA is to help prepare children for further education, employment and independent living. Children must have appropriate functional skills in order to be prepared for their adult life.

The findings of IDEA 2004 from Congress state that the law is to help improve educational results for children with disabilities, so that there is equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self sufficiency.

Behavior and social skills are two areas of functional skills that are often overlooked by parents and advocates. Ensure that appropriate social skills and behavior is being taught to your child, so that he or she will be able to be a full participant in the community, when they are an adult.

Tip 3: According to IDEA parents have the right to be full participants in any decision that is made regarding their child’s education. The law also includes a section under IEPs, where any information provided by parents needs to be included. Educating yourself not only on why functional skills are important but what is the appropriate type of training that a child needs is important.

Consider writing your own parent input statement about what type of functional skill training needs to be given to your child. Bring this input statement to your child’s IEP meeting, and make sure that it is attached to your child’s IEP.

Anticipated needs must be addressed by special education personnel and parents. This is a good time to think ahead of the skills that your child will need as an adult, and include functional skill training in your child’s IEP or transition plan.

Use these three tips to help you succeed in your attempt to include functional skills training in your child’s IEP. They will appreciate your efforts to make sure that they are prepared for adult life!


JoAnn Collins is a successful special educational advocate for over 20 years and author of the book “Disability Deception; Lies Disability Educators Tell and How Parents Can Beat Them at Their Own Game!” The book is filled with truths about special education, for parents, and lots of easy to use advocacy tips. For more information on the book and special education as well as testimonials on her book, please go to: http://www.disabilitydeception.com. For questions or comments feel free to E mail me at: JoAnn@disabilitydeception.com.

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