What frustrates parents the most about dealing with the school in relation to their special needs child?
When parents call me to say that they need help to advocate at a school meeting, it is because their child’s educational needs aren’t being met at school and they don’t know what they can do to change things. When I ask the obvious question; does your child have an Individual Education Plan in place? They say ‘Yes, but it is not being followed’. And THAT is what frustrates parents. They’ve followed the process of requesting an IPRC meeting to identify their child as exceptional and to determine the correct classroom placement, which finally led to the development of the IEP. The IEP is a document… a plan that should guide teachers on the steps to take in order to meet the educational needs of the student. So why is the student still having so much difficulty at school? You can’t MAKE a teacher teach a certain way, or provide the modifications and accommodations that are in the IEP. So what is a parent supposed to do?
Perhaps the reason that the IEP is not being followed is that it is too general – it is not specific to the individual student. Perhaps it was processed in isolation as part of a procedure rather than being developed with input from a multidisciplinary team of professionals with each of the student’s needs as the focus of the IEP.
I suggest that the parent request an IEP meeting to include all the key players, which is anyone who can provide input and suggest teaching strategies and accommodations to meet the needs of the child. The principal, because ultimately the principal is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the IEP; the classroom teacher and the educational assistant, because they will be the ones providing the teaching and the accommodations that are in the IEP; the special education resource teacher because he or she is the lead person in the development of the IEP; if the child has motor skills difficulties make sure an occupational therapist attends; if the child has language difficulties make sure a speech and language pathologist attends; if the child has behaviour difficulties make sure a behavioural consultant attends, if the child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make sure someone from the ASD support team attends, and so on…
At the meeting, the first step will be to clearly define the strength and needs of the student. Then go through the IEP step by step to make sure each need is thoroughly addressed, and that the goals and expectations are specific and measurable. Make sure that any equipment accommodations are readily available and can be provided immediately. Identify who is responsible for what service and how often. And finally, request that all school staff who have dealings with the student, are aware of the accommodations in the IEP.
At the end of the meeting, schedule a follow-up meeting in one month to evaluate what is working in the IEP and what is not working. This is not to evaluate the student per se, but rather the effectiveness of the IEP and whether or not it is being implemented successfully. Make the necessary changes to the IEP, and schedule another follow- up meeting in one month. Do this as many times as is necessary.
This is the best strategy to ensure that the IEP is effective and it is being implemented as written.