My daughter got her first IEP last spring when she was a fifth grader. She started attending middle school this fall and it seems to be taking a long time for the school to line up some of her service providers. Is there anything I can do to help get her IEP going at the beginning of the school year?
Unfortunately, this problem is not uncommon. Schools often have to deal with faculty and staff leaving and new faculty and staff starting. Schedules sometimes change at the last minute. A new school year may also come with shifts in policies and procedures.
All of these changes help explain why it can be challenging to transition your child’s IEP services from year to year—and especially from school to school. These kinds of things can fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help the transition go as smoothly as possible for your child.
I’m grouping my advice for you in three buckets: what you can do now, what you can do to prepare for next year and how you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Did you miss the Negotiation 101 webinar? Don’t worry, we recorded it just for you! The recording of the Negotiation 101 webinar is available for a limited time!
Kim, Kristina and the PRN specialist team hope you join us tomorrow, August 15, at 12:15 p.m. CST for our next Statewide webinar Negotiation 101: How to Get the Special Education Services Your Child Needs. We will discuss negotiation strategies used to effectively gain appropriate special education services for your child. These strategies can help you become a more successful member of your child’s IEP team!
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Developing a good relationship with your child’s teacher will make it easier for you to share concerns and work together to help your child succeed. Here are some tips from Understood.org for building a partnership:
1. Meet with the teacher and staff ASAP
Consider meeting even before the school year starts, if possible. If your child has an IEP, give the teacher a copy of it. Share other information—like hobbies, interests and important family events—that will help your teacher get to know your child.
2. Find out how the teacher wants to be reached
Share email addresses and phone numbers. Explore tips you can use when emailing with teachers and sentence starters you can use when you talk.
Be specific! When you make a statement like “I want my child to have a free appropriate education,” this is like asking for a piece of string of unknown or undefined length. Your statement of “I want . . .” must be followed by a “because.” The “because” should come from your well-stated issues and your supporting factual evidence. Why? Because any issue that you identify as a grievance is a request that something be done differently than it is being done now.
Techniques & Tactics
1. Listen carefully to the other side.
If you listen carefully enough, you’ll find that the other side often gives you good clues about how to solve the problem.
Don’t formulate a response until you give the other side a chance to express their thoughts and ideas.
My son is anxious about going back to school, and the closer we get to the first day back, the worse it gets. He’s been acting out and throwing tantrums, saying he refuses to go. What can I do?
Going back to school can be a stressful time for both parents and children. Starting a new school year can make kids nervous, especially if there will be changes from the previous year, such as a new school, new teachers or new peers.
If your child seems very distressed about going back, here are some things to discuss with him. Find a time when he is relatively calm to have these talks. (Avoid times like when he’s upset or getting ready for school.)
“Let’s think of some ways I can help make the transition back to school easier for you.” Start the brainstorming by suggesting a few simple things, such as packing a special snack or walking him to his classroom on the first few days. But make clear that you will not honor requests to let him stay home from school.
1. Know the rules
All public schools abide by specific laws and regulations which provide special services for children with disabilities who qualify for such services. The criteria for eligibility vary in each state and some school districts, but all schools must adhere to a minimum federal standard. To learn more about the laws in your state and your rights as a parent, contact us.
2. Get to know the people who make decisions about your child’s education
Connect with educators and administrators in both casual and formal settings. Talk with your child’s teacher on a regular basis. If possible, volunteer in the classroom and help out with school functions. If you have concerns or problems that a teacher
cannot or will not address, be willing to follow up the chain through the school, and if necessary, to the district office. Remember that you, as a parent, have the right to request that the school evaluate your child if you think he or she may have a learning disability. Be sure that your request is in writing.
During IEP season the stakes are high. Parents and teachers alike go into those meetings full of emotions and ideas. Sometimes I am surprised that what is unsaid seems just as loud as what is actually said.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of going into an IEP angry. I did not get the best results for my son at that meeting. So I’ve been trying different tactics over the years, and I’ve made a conscious effort to learn the art of diplomacy in my words and actions.
Diplomacy is the art of prioritizing alliances over battles. It has cost me considerable time and effort to learn. I’ve had to walk away from many battles to focus on higher priorities. Sometimes I practice my fake smile. But I have allies who are always looking for ways to bring out the best in my son. I’ve been able to encourage my son’s team to try creative strategies and build upon his strengths. For the quality of education that my son now receives, it has been well worth the effort.
Parent: “We should be able to trust the system to do what’s right for our kids.”
In theory, this sounds good. But when you are dealing with a child with disabilities, there will always be disagreements. You simply will not get agreement from the number of participants who are required to be in these team meetings.
Schools are in the decision-making process for the short-term. As a parent, you are in it for the long-term.
Eventually, your child will leave the public school system. If he/she is does not receive an appropriate education, will the teacher, the school principal or director of special education come to his/her home and help him/her with his/her checkbook? Of course not. This is the parents’ responsibility.
It is the parents (and society-at-large) who are ultimately responsible for students with disabilities who cannot achieve a level of independence. So parents have a great vested interest.
Because the stakes are so high, it is sometimes difficult for parents of children with special educational needs to advocate calmly and objectively for the educational and related services their children need.
Here are some common mistakes that undermine parents’ ability to obtain appropriate services:
Raising a child with a disability is challenging. Raising a child with a disability who also has behavioral needs is even more challenging. As a parent, you may find yourself among competing approaches to handling behavior concerns. Planning ahead for an individualized meeting about your child’s behavior needs will help you explain your own ideas about the best way to help your child in addition to listening to the ideas of others.