A trap that many special education parents fall into is to take the school administrator’s and teacher’s fallacies about your child personally. It is infuriating when you realize that staff have been less than truthful about your child at his or her PPT. It feels like a personal affront and an attempt to dupe you into allowing mediocre education for your child.
It is beneficial to keep your cool and remain emotionally neutral – or at least to appear emotionally neutral. Once parents expose their emotions, school staff find it much easier to manipulate parents. It is unnerving when parents are not easily rattled. By calmly persisting in making factual and reasonable arguments why your child’s need are not being met, the school is less able to dodge providing the education that your child needs.
Don’t worry about being liked. It is important that the school staff who work with your child know you cannot be manipulated and will persist for as long as it takes.
Special Education Advocates have an advantage because we are able to maintain emotional distance. This enables our communication with the PPT members to remain calculated and direct in order to corral the team into doing the right thing for the special needs child.
Parents sometimes ask to observe their special needs child in school. This may be because the parents have a hard time believing what the school is telling them about how their child is doing in school. Many times, members of the PPT team (the word team is redundant, because PPT stands for Planning and Placement Team – but many people don’t know that) will report that the child is doing fabulously, but the parents don’t see the same results at home. Parents, rightly, want to see their child in class for themselves.
Most districts will deny the request – especially if it is made by telephone. But you have the right to observe your child. When you make the request, put it in writing, and use the words “in order to be a full participant in my child’s PPT, I need to observe my child in his classroom.” Special Education law states that parents are to be full and equal participants in their child’s PPT. If you feel a need to observe your child in school in order to have sufficient information, you have the right. You just have to word the request specifically so that they cannot deny it. Use the wording above, or something similar. If they ask you “why” you feel a need to observe the child in school, you don’t have to give them an answer except that you need to in order to be a full and equal member of your child’s PPT. Stick to your guns, and don’t let them take your request on a tangent
Special Education school administrators can be masters at manipulating parents. If we parents make a request for our child, from say, requesting an evaluation to obtaining additional services, we are very often met with a “no” and barraged with reasons that sound reasonable as to why our request was turned down.
Don’t accept the no. There are protections in place which keep schools from rejecting parent requests without providing good reasons.
If you suspect that your child may have a disability that is hindering his/her ability to learn in school, you have a right to request an evaluation. The school is obligated to respond to your request. If you call them on the phone, they may just tell you that your child is doing well enough and that an evaluation is not warranted. You don’t have to accept that answer.
Put your request in writing. Email is fine. Just make sure your request and the reasons are written down and sent to at least two staff members at your child’s school. This can be an assistant principal, and principal. Once it is in writing, the school cannot deny that you officially made the request. This inability to deny is vital because the school is obligated to respond appropriately to a request from a parent.
If a request is not in writing; however, the school will usually act as if the request never happened.