It is that time of year again for new school year meetings for the special education team. You’ll go over the regular things; what was planned for milestones last year and what needs to be worked on this year. There will be discussions with various specialists present, maybe even some disagreements, but one thing is for sure, parents should be active participants, not just casual observers.
I was always told I was a valued person at the table when it came to my daughter’s IEP meetings. One of my closest friends is a special education attorney. She has been a steady pillar to lean on in the long 6 years that led to my daughter’s eventual autism diagnosis as part of the process. She has been reminding me all this time to remember I have a voice, I can ask questions, say when I disagree, and make sure I keep the needle moving forward when it comes to progress (or what I perceive is a lack thereof). I believed her then. I still do. As a special education team member, are you making your students’ parents feel like a welcome part of the process? What ways to do encourage them to engage that work successfully?
The Special Education Team Has A Responsibility To Communicate Effectively To All Involved
My daughter has made headway since her IEP has been put in place. She is by far a much more confident child when it comes to social interaction than she was before. She knows how to help herself when she gets overstimulated and she knows when to say she needs a break. I am proud of her. Still, moving to a new school system last year meant that she and I were both in a situation of having to learn the special education ropes all over again with new teachers and specialists. Rules from one state to another can vary and they did in our case. Thankfully, those changes were in my daughter’s favor.
We had a good year last year but now my daughter is in middle school for the first time. I was anxious to meet this year’s team and talk about how my daughter is transitioning to her new environment. The Director of Special Education dutifully went around the table, looking at each member of 8, prompting them to state their name, title, and what they were working on with my daughter. I watched her point to each one; completely skipping over me. To her horror, I interrupted her when she became satisfied that introductions were made and it was time to move on to the agenda for the morning, “And I am her mother.” She apologized weakly and made a stern face as she adjusted the conversation back to what she wanted to focus on next.
For the rest of the hour I had my questions skimmed over and my comments interrupted by the Director, apparently frustrated that I was holding up her timeline and agenda progress. Answers to my questions were short and team members were constantly reminded that we only had an hour and a lot to cover. I concluded that I was there for information only and wasn’t going to be encouraged to be anything more than an observer.
Frustrated and feeling devalued, I recounted this to my special education attorney friend when I arrived home. “Feeling like an equal player on the special education team?,” she asked sarcastically. I smirked as I pictured that Director’s face as I made my presence known at the conference table earlier that morning. “Not really,” was all I could say.
How Does The Special Education Team Record My Thoughts On My Daughter’s IEP?
Notes are always taken during special education meetings, particularly at these kinds of IEP meetings. What I am always struggling with is what is written down about what I say and where do I get to write in my own notes? Don’t I get to weigh in on progress and have those observances recorded for myself? When I disagree with something in the meeting report, why does it practically take an act of congress to get it changed? Where can I ask questions and have the entire team involved in the discussion? These are the things I think about. These are the reasons I do not feel like an active or valued part of my daughter’s special education team.
I was introduced to eCare Vault last year by a friend. When I saw what its capabilities were for real-time collaboration and meaningful interaction with anyone inside and outside of school that works with my daughter, I was elated at the possibilities. I could have an equal voice too!
If you are struggling to make your students’ parents or guardians feel a valued part of the special education team in your school district, eCare Vault may be just what you need to make yourself known to them and heard by you.