5 Top Parental Special Education Advocacy Tips to Benefit Your Child!

My top 5 advocacy tips:

1. Trust your instincts. If you think, your child has disabilities in certain areas trust yourself. No one knows your child like you do, and you are the best judge of what will help your child learn. It is my experience that special education personnel may try and tell you that your instincts are wrong, but only accept this, if there is concrete evidence to back it up. You are the only advocate that your child has, and they are depending on you to advocate for needed related and special education services.

2. Important educational issues need to be handled by letters not telephone calls or e mails, so that you can begin developing a paper trail for documentation, you may need in the future, to help you in a dispute with special education personnel. As far as sending e-mails to special education personnel, I do not like to use e-mail, as e-mails are kept in an electronic record, and not in the child’s written educational record.

If you have a verbal conversation with school personnel and want to document the conversation, you can always write a short letter to the person that you had the conversations with. Try and keep the letter to one page, date it, and give a summary of the conversation. Also, keep a copy for yourself.

3. If special education personnel say something that does not sound right to you, ask them: “Please show me in writing where in Federal or State law it states you have the right to do what you want to do or not do what I asked you to do to benefit my child’s education.” In my opinion, this is one of the most important advocacy skills that parents need to learn, because of the amount of misinformation that is given to parents. If school personnel cannot show you in writing from Federal or State law where it states they have the right to do something or do not have to do something you asked them to do, you know that they are not being truthful.

Use the same procedure if school personnel state that they have to do something, or cannot do something because it is school policy-ask to see the policy in writing, and also ask for a transcript of the board meeting where the policy was passed.

4. If your school district evaluates your child for disabilities and states that your child does not have any disabilities (even though you believe they do), and is not eligible for special education services, you have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense (which means that the school district pays for it). You must disagree with the school’s evaluation, (could be over the actual testing, the areas tested, the interpretation of the testing, the findings and conclusion of the testing, etc) to be able to receive and obtain an IEE at public expense.

5. Educate yourself on all laws related to special education and disabilities and requirements so that when your school district tries to say things that are not truthful, you have the information to stand up to them, for the benefit of your child. Learn about State Complaints, Mediation and Due Process to help you resolve any disputes that you have with special education personnel.

By following my top five tips you will well be on your way to successfully advocating for needed services for your child!

6 Things That Special Education Personnel Can Do to Decrease Restraint and Seclusion in Their School

Are you the parent of a child with autism or another disability that is very concerned about your child’s safety at school, due to negative behavior? Has your child been physically or emotionally injured by restraint and seclusion, by special education personnel? This article will discuss 6 ways that school districts can deal with behavior rather than relying on restraint and seclusion!

Restraint is defined as any manual method, physical, material, equipment that immobilizes or reduces the ability of an individual. In school districts they mainly use holding techniques. Prone restraints (where the child is held face down) are the most dangerous and cause the most incidence of injury and death!

Seclusion is defined as the placing of a person involuntarily in a room or area alone and prevent them from leaving. Some schools have started relying on time out rooms to seclude children with disabilities when they misbehave.

Below are 6 things that special education personnel in your district can do to decrease or eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion in their schools:

1. They can have school wide policies in place with specific instructions on when restraint and seclusion will be used; and also policies developed on releasing the information to the public. By keeping written charts on when it is used, and releasing the information to the public on when it is used, will actually cause restraint and seclusion to be used less. The danger comes when special education personnel keep the information secret, and refuse to share it with the public; ask your district for accountability!

2. Stop relying on punishment, restraint and seclusion to deal with children’s negative behavior. One of the important things to know is that a lot of children with disabilities have behavior that is related to their disability. Also, it is proven in research that punishment, restraint and seclusion do not work in the long term to change a child’s behavior!

3. Have good attitudes that include all children in the school; including children with disabilities! Personnel that take a positive proactive approach to school order and behavior can absolutely have a wonderful affect, on all of the children in the school. Positive attitudes encourage learning, negative attitudes discourage learning!

4. Teachers and other special education personnel need to be taught not to overreact to behavior. By appropriately dealing with negative behavior the child’s behavior may decrease, but on the other hand overreacting to the behavior, can escalate the behavior. I have seen this many times over the years; a child with autism gets upset and the teacher jumps in; gets in the child’s face and escalates (makes worse) the child’s behavior! Teachers must learn to step back and give the child time to calm themselves down!

5. Understand the huge connection between behavioral difficulty and academic difficulty. Many parents call me when their child has negative school behavior, and ask for help. I ask them: how is your child’s academics? In 100% of the cases the child is below average in all areas of academics. The child is telling the people around them: I cannot do this work, so I am going to misbehave so that I can avoid the work! Avoidance of hard academics is the cause of a lot of negative school behavior!

6. Use research based processes; positive behavioral supports and plans to deal with a child’s negative school behavior. The process starts with a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) to determine what the child is getting from the negative behavior. Is it to avoid hard academics? Is it to access attention? Then a properly conducted FBA is used to develop a positive behavioral plan. This is not a punishment plan, but a plan to increase positive school behavior which then decreases negative school behavior.

Bring these 6 things to your school district and ask them to implement them for your child and other children. This will ensure that all children have a positive environment to learn; even children with disabilities!

Special Education – How to Help Your Child Excel This School Year!

Would you like to help your child that has a disability and is receiving special education services, have the best school year yet? Would you like to know about 5 things you can do, to help your child make this school year a success? This article will discuss 5 ways to help your child excel this school year.

1. Open lines of communication with special education personnel.

You can do this by:

A. Start a communication notebook; a steno pad and rubber band work well for this. When a page is finished rubber band it to the cover, that way when you open the steno book, you will come to a blank page, or a new message. Encourage disability educators to write in the book daily; what has happened, what child has learned, positive comments about behavior etc. You can also write messages about your child; sick, tired, learned something new, difficulty at home etc. By doing this you and disability educators will be able to communicate on an ongoing basis.
B. Visit your child’s classroom the first week of school; and talk to the special education staff, that are working with your child. Tell them what works for your child, what upsets them, and your willingness to work together for the benefit of your child.
C. Call your child’s teacher occasionally to check in, and see how things are going. Is your child learning, are they struggling in a certain subject?

2. Express the importance to all disability educators, of having high expectations for your child. With appropriate instruction, children with autism or other disabilities can learn academics at a similar rate to children without disabilities.

You can do this by:

A. Discussing this on your visit during the first week of school. Children will live up to our expectations; whether low or high.
B. Write a letter to your child’s teacher expressing how you believe that your child can learn academics, and are looking forward to working with the school for the benefit of your child. Include things that have worked for your child.

3. Make special education personnel accountable for your child’s learning. Some children with learning disabilities or autism, may need a multi sensory reading program, in order to be a successful reader. Stand up and ask for a change in curriculum, if your child requires it.

You can do this by:

A. Asking for pre testing at the beginning of the school year, and post testing at the end of the school year. This will tell you where your child is starting academically, and how much they have learned over the school year.
B. Discuss homework with your child’s teacher; and anything you can do at home to increase their learning.
C. Keep copies of schoolwork, positive ones and things that you think your child needs more help on. Write letters when you need to, especially if you believe that your child needs more special education services.

4. Learn about positive behavioral supports and how they are successful in increasing positive school behavior, while decreasing negative school behavior. Share the information that you learn with school personnel, and insist on the use of positive behavioral supports, rather than punishment.

You can do this by:

A. Reading a book or attending a training, that specifically promote the use of positive behavioral supports and plans.
B. Many disability organizations have information about positive behavioral supports on their Websites.

5. Tell disability educators when they are doing positive things with your child that are working. This is done for three reasons: The first reason is because teachers need to hear when things are going well, and your child is learning. The second reason is that you are documenting what is working for your child for future school years. The third reason is that if you tell school staff when you are happy, they are more likely to listen when something goes wrong, and you are not happy.

You can do this by:

A. Verbally telling school staff when you are pleased. Also write letters that will be kept as a part of your child’s school record.

By doing these 5 things you are increasing your child’s chances of having a wonderful productive school year.