Some days, it all just feels like Too Much. I know. I’ve been there. When you realize that the solution you thought would make it right, turns out to have obstacles and brick walls of it’s own. Today is one of those days.
© Creative Commons “Amelia’s Sad Face” by Donnie Ray Jones is licensed under CC
In an attempt to pull myself out of the depths, I searched for solutions online (my go-to resource) and found an article on the Huffington Post about Antidotes to Discouragement. There are some great suggestions here, but I think the one I like best is this:
HELP SOMEONE ELSE: The fastest way to get back to your heart is to extend yourself and give to someone else with anything they might need.
Start taking action, doing something to help someone else move forward, is the fastest and most effective way to overcome discouragement. So, here I am. Doing what I can to help families navigate the special education system, to help them help their students move forward toward successfully independent lives. Some days it is overwhelming, some days you are discouraged, but I think the important thing is just keep moving forward and to lend a hand to someone else whenever you can.
Learning and Practicing Self-Advocacy is one of the greatest obstacles in transitioning to independence. Parents tend to take on many of the advocacy roles for their students and may have a hard time letting them go. This is often because early on, we are the only ones who can successfully advocate for our children. However, as they grow, mature and move toward independence, the need for self-advocacy becomes more and more important.
Last week, Federal officials announced that they are allocating funds for the development of a National Resource Center for Self-Advocacy. This is very good news! While the real work of self-advocacy training happens at the family level, the fact that the government is recognizing the need for additional resources can only be a good thing.
The self-advocacy movement is a human and civil rights movement, stemming from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, but led by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to ensure they have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities as people without disabilities. Starting internationally more than 40 years ago, the movement has empowered individuals to make choices in their lives, provided opportunities to have a voice, and opened pathways for leadership development.
Read more about it:
I have mentioned before that one of the obstacles in Special Education Transitions is that Parents/Families and Teachers/Administrators seem to be on opposite sides of the fence and there is a pervasive feeling that “never the twain shall meet.” There are ways that parents can try to smooth the path to cooperation and collaboration, but it also helps tremendously when educators work toward that goal as well. I found a wonderful article this morning about the promises every special educator should make to their students’ parents.
1. I promise to stop calling parents who have high expectations and advocate for their children “high maintenance” and I will equally try to discourage the term “high profile” if due process is involved.
2. I promise to presume competence (always assume that your child can learn and is interested in learning) even if they are unable to communicate to me what they know (yet!)
3. I promise to never use the “R” word and to speak up against it when I hear it used in private or public.
4. I promise to ask your input on the educational goals for your child BEFORE the IEP meeting and realize that without your collaboration we have no team.
5. I promise to remember that YOU were your child’s first teacher and YOU are THE expert on your child.
6. I promise to not say “what are they going to get out of this?” or “they’re not ready” as an excuse for not including your child in general education.
7. I promise to never assume I know what goes on at your home or blame your child’s challenging behavior at school because of your parenting skills.
8. I promise to Always Be Communicating (ABC) with you about your child (especially the positive things).
9. I promise to keep an open mind and realize that what works with one child does not necessarily work with every child.
10. I promise to always have high expectations for your child and never give up on them…or you.
11. I promise to keep telling your child the reasons why I love to be their teacher.
Read a great article this morning on the Special Education Law Blog by Charles P. Fox.
The key takeaway for parents is about the need to document and as Mr. Fox puts it “memorialize” the testing accommodations needed by your student. This is important not only for the regular in-school tests, but also for “High Stakes Testing” like the ACTs, SATs and even post-school tests like professional licensing exams, admissions to professional schools etc.
… the DOJ states that “if a candidate previously received testing accommodations under an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a Section 504 Plan, he or she should generally receive the same testing accommodations for a current standardized exam or high-stakes test.”
This is particularly important for high achieving students with disabilities….
Previously, parents frequently were told that students with high grades weren’t eligible for accommodations, no matter how much extra effort compared with their peers that these students had to expend to achieve their grades. According to the document, “. . . someone with a learning disability may achieve a high level of academic success, but may nevertheless be substantially limited in one or more of the major life activities of reading, writing, speaking, or learning, because of the additional time or effort he or she must spend to read, write, speak, or learn compared to most people in the general population.”
The laws and circumstances may change, but the themes stay the same: Ask the Right Questions, Research! and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.
The IDEA 2004 provides a process for amending an IEP between annual Team Meetings, this can be initiated by parents or by the school district to make changes in a student’s IEP without having to convene a meeting (reference: 34 CFR 300.324(a)(4)(i)) To be implemented, it must be agreed to by both the district and the family (in writing), more on this in another post.
It is also possible for parents to send an amendment letter to correct or clarify the IEP meeting notes for accuracy. Often, that is a needed step. In fact, our special education advocate suggested to us that Every IEP could benefit from an Amendment Letter. Often the notes taken by the school district focus on documenting that they followed the appropriate legal processes at the meeting. However, things like discussions about present levels of functioning, progress toward goals, requested services and other items of parent input are sometimes left out of the notes or they are recorded incorrectly. In cases like this, an Amendment Letter can be sent from the parents/family to the school with the request that the notes be corrected and the letter be added to the student’s educational records. There is a good sample letter online at The Parent Information Center on Special Education.
For more information about Amendments to the IEP see:
I think one of the hardest things for parents to overcome is the idea that the school district will be your best source of information for Transition Planning. The unfortunate truth is that by the time a student is in the transition years, often the School district’s main concern is how to exit the student from special education as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This means that sometimes the information you get from case managers, school administrators or at the Planning and Placement Team Meetings is skewed or even incorrect. This is why it’s important to do your Research and make sure you know the laws in your State that apply in your student’s situation.