One tool I use to keep schools doing the right thing for special needs children is hold them accountable for their actions. As a public Agency that receives federal and state funds, they are accountable to you and to the public for all their actions.
If your child’s “team” makes a decision for your child, that is against your better judgement, ask them why. If you don’t like the answer or disagree with it, ask them by what authority they made their decision.
If they deny a request, ask them by what authority they make the denial. When they give you an answer, such as, Board Policy, ask to see that specific policy. Asking these specifics keeps their feet to the fire. They must be able to justify every decision they make if it is against your judgement of what is good for you child.
You have every right to ask these questions and pinpoint where they get their authority – or pinpoint where they have Overstepped their authority.
It is not always easy to develop and agree upon an IEP for your child. The substance of the IEP is often the reason for difficult PPT meetings and due process hearings. But equally important is the implementation of the IEP. Unfortunately, specifics of IEPs are frequently loosely followed in school, at best.
This is a big problem when an agreed-upon constellation of services and modifications, equipment, etc. are not being given to a child who needs them to learn. Further, it is not easy to ensure that the school staff are properly following your child’s IEP. Parents, especially those who strongly advocate for their kids, are not really welcomed at school to observe their child’s day. I have found many districts don’t want parents to see what is going on and note any deficit in IEP implementation or any contradiction to what is told the parents at a PPT meeting.
It is important to ask your child daily if they had their services. Note any deficits he or she tells you and contact the school. If your child is non-verbal, determining whether your child’s IEP is adequately being implemented is more difficult. It is a horrible truth that many districts don’t bother to carry out much of a child’s IEP if he or she is unable to communicate this fact to his or her parents.
There are a number of ways to oversee the implementation of your child’s IEP. One of them is to put in the IEP itself a specific form of communication from which parents can check their child’s daily or weekly progress. Another is to ask your child’s classmates and parents (whom it would be smart to befriend) what they see happening in school for your kid.
If you continue to question whether or not your child’s IEP is being followed, send frequent (but friendly) emails to service providers and teachers asking about the day’s or week’s activities with your child. This shows that you are “watching.” Unfortunately, it is the parent who interposes themselves that ensures their child’s IEP is being followed appropriately.
Segregation isn’t always bad – especially when it comes to Special Education. One goal of special education is to educate all children in the most inclusive environment – meaning that special needs children are to be educated in the classroom community, with his or her non-disabled peers, as much as possible and appropriate for the child. Inclusion is important for a feeling of belonging and usefulness, and; therefore, self esteem. However, we need to determine both a child’s educational and emotional needs in designing an Independent Educational Program (IEP).
If a child only learns in a small group, or one-to-one setting, and gets lost in a full classroom, is the sense of inclusion being in that larger classroom worth sacrificing a superior understanding of basic education – like reading and arithmetic? There is no single right answer.
My preference is to give the child a better education at the expense (if necessary) of being part of the larger community. I prefer to err on the side of a better understanding of the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, science and social studies among other disciplines. A child can have many other opportunities for community, such as church or temple, camps, or family gatherings.
Many school districts stress the importance of “inclusion” over education. I believe that a large part of this is because it is easier and less expensive to teach children in a larger group. Educational expectations can be kept lower if goals and objectives are diluted with social and emotional ones. This keeps the school less accountable, which is preferable for the school from a dollars and staff availability perspective.
Different parents have different desires for their children. But the children should have a say in the matter as well. This is too important a decision without having a holistic picture of the child in question. Listen to what your child’s school has to say, but make your decisions based on the quality of education your child needs – not just whether or not he is placed in a room with non-disabled peers.