Ask a group of non-education people to tell you the first thing that comes to mind when you say the words, “Special Education,” and you will likely have a wide range of answers. Some will harken back to the days of special resource rooms from their childhood where students requiring special education seldom were seen outside of them.
Special education has come a long way since the 1970’s. Still, you might find that the public-at-large seems very misinformed about what special education services entail, and of course what they don’t.
Bringing up the subject of special education services to parents for the first time tends to be nerve-wracking. There are many parents who have misconceptions about special education that can make broaching the subject particularly tense. No one wants to hear there is ‘something wrong’ with their child but this is exactly what they hear when you start throwing phrases around like, “learning differences,” or “language impairment,” and lastly, “processing disorder,” to name a few.
When parents don’t know what these phrases mean the conversation get alarming for them. As they struggle to follow along with someone who is telling them their child is different while having little to no frame of reference, you can understand why parents who have misconceptions about special education get defensive and at times avoidant.
Helping them understand the terminology and meaning behind it is only the beginning of a fruitful partnership between parents and special education team. Communication and collaboration are critical to the success of a student with an IEP/504. Parents must feel engaged, comfortable, and involved. How can education leadership make that easier for all?
The Key To Alleviating Misconceptions About Special Education
It would be easy if parents would just go along unaffected by their child’s learning differences and the special education team’s plans for helping the child make the most of their educational experience. That seldom if ever happens. Putting minds at ease around the special education meeting table with parents involves a lot more than saying, “trust us.”
Do you trust people you don’t know or understand? How about if it were to involve your child? Getting parents who have misconceptions about special education to understand what their child’s learning difference is and how it is affecting their ability to be successful in their educational journey is one thing. First, a good explanation with supporting information will go a long way. Giving the parent(s) time and space to absorb all this new information will help with lowering defenses as well.
Secondly, they need to be adequately informed of every step in the process and what the effectiveness is along the way. It is not enough to share with parents who have misconceptions about special education what you will do to help their child. What is much more effective is demonstrating to them what progress is being made. Parents in this category will need more than a progress report or grades on a report card. They need assurance that what you set out to do to help their child is actually working. A demonstration will win the day for them and you!
Collaborating With Parents Who Have Misconceptions About Special Education
How do you keep your parents who have children receiving special education services informed of plans and progress right now? If you are like most school districts, unless a problem has arisen, you are covering this information at the beginning and the end of the year.
For parents who may have been doing the special education thing for a while, this is what they expect. For parents who are unsure about this whole special education business, a twice a year information session is going to cause nothing but headaches for you and your special education team.
You will know if you are offering enough information by the level of phone calls and emails you get from parents who have no clue what is being done for their child or what the results are. These calls and emails usually start with statements along the lines of what your school is not doing for their child and accusations around not caring to help. Very rarely do you find an education professional who has a half measured desire to see a child succeed. These kinds of sentiments usually stem from the parent not feeling informed enough. There is hope.
eCare Vault is the first solution of its kind to be specifically designed for collaboration around students in need of support and services. Special education services involve a lot of professionals, oversight, and sharing with parents.
Progress reports and paperwork is not enough. eCare Vault allows all information pertaining to a student to be securely stored, shared with individuals involved in providing services and support, and a way for parents to stay informed and feel involved in the progress and success of their child’s IEP/504.
If you want to do more for your special education team and the parents who have misconceptions about special education, eCare Vault is just what you need to bridge the gap and mend fences for the success of your students. Get more out of everyone’s special education experience and focus on what really matters; student success.