From Emotions to Advocacy
The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam & Pete Wright
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Year in Review Series
People Make - Parents
Because the stakes are so high, it is difficult for parents
of children with special educational needs to advocate calmly and objectively
for the educational and related services their children need.
1. Viewing the special education process as the moral equivalent of war, fighting that war with a "scorched earth" approach, and letting personal animosity toward administrators and/or teachers distort one's judgment about what is best for the child and what is realistic to accept;
2. The opposite mistake: trusting administrators and teachers too uncritically; assuming that if they are "nice" they are also competent and interested in serving the child's best interest; not questioning slow, or nonexistent progress as long as the child, parent and teacher have a cordial relationship;
3. Taking an "all or nothing" approach: waiting too long before getting good independent advice, then insisting on instant delivery of needed services rather than steady progress toward the right program;
4. Failing to understand that the special education process sometimes requires that the parent educate the child's special education team about the child's disabilities and needs (the school system may not be willfully refusing to meet the child's needs; they may simply not understand those needs);
5. Not trying a program or added services, even on a temporary basis, when they are offered by the school system -- holding out for an alternative program only to have a hearing officer decide the untried program might have worked;
6. Attempting to "micro-manage" the details of a child's life in school; even if parents don't feel things are going well, their efforts to control the child's day usually backfire when the hearing officer concludes that the parents were over-protective and didn't let the school professionals do their job;
7. Focusing on minor, nonprejudicial procedural missteps by the school (e.g., the parent who already knows her rights who says, "Aha! Gotcha! School district forgot to give me the rights brochure!") instead of focusing on the substantial issues in the case;
8. Not consenting to school evaluations;
9. Choosing the wrong independent evaluators: e.g., "hired guns" who only say what the parents want them to say, and have a reputation for doing so; those who will not follow through by observing programs, attending team meetings, etc.; those who do not have training or experience to evaluate a child like yours;
10. Not providing copies of independent evaluations to the school, or not providing them in a timely way;
11. Not responding in a timely way to proposed IEPs;
12. Not documenting issues with the school; not sending letters to confirm agreements with the school or to record important conversations with school personnel.
13. Seeing the school system as a monolith ("All those teachers are incompetent [or wonderful!]"); failing to look carefully at alternatives within the system for this year and at next year's teacher possibilities.
More "Mistakes People Make" Articles
Mistakes Independent Experts Make. Read what to do to avoid feelings of betrayal and the retaliation that results when independent experts in your corner make mistakes. Read this article by Pete Wright, Esq.
Mistakes People Make: School Districts. What makes parents angry? Parents are angry when school personnel take actions that undermine trust, create a negative climate that destroys peace of mind, and deliver inadequate services to the child. Want to learn more? Read article
Mistakes People Make: Independent Evaluators. To make their case for services or a specific program for their child, parents usually need a competent, credible independent evaluator. Serious mistakes by evaluators can make undermine their credibility or render their opinions powerless. To learn about mistakes independent evaluators should try to avoid, read this article.
People Make: Advocates. Because
the non-lawyer advocate plays an extremely important role in the special
education process, advocates must be mindful of the power of their role
and the trust parents place in them. The more serious mistakes advocates
may make are generally ones of excess . . . Read
Other Articles by Bob Crabtree
Suspension, Expulsions and IEPs. Read this article by parent attorney
Robert Crabtree to learn about functional behavioral assessments, behavior
intervention plans, long-term suspensions and expulsions, the child's
rights, and what parents can do to protect these rights. Learn how to
request a behavior assessment, an expedited hearing, and how to invoke
The Paper Chase: Managing Your Child's Documents. "If you have kids with special educational needs, you can be overwhelmed with paperwork in no time at all . . ."
Meet Robert Crabtree
Bob Crabtree is a partner at Kotin, Crabtree, and Strong, LLP, a general practice law firm in Boston, MA. Among other areas of practice, Bob concentrates in special education and disability law. This article was originally published by the Family Education site at www.familyeducation.com
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