Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

May 14
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by Dennise Goldberg

Winning isn’t everything!!!! Let me say that again, winning isn’t everything. Your child IS everything, they are your world, and they are your “everything.” Sometimes we get so caught up in the chess game between Schools and Parents we all forget that there is a beautiful child who needs our help, is asking for our help and is screaming for our help. Negative behaviors mean something, not that the child is bad but that the child is trying to make us listen to them. Maybe that negative behavior is the only way the child knows how to communicate their needs and wants. It’s up to us as the adults to listen and not spend our time trying to outmaneuver each other in the IEP meeting.

As you can tell I’m a little emotional right now. This IEP season has been a difficult one because many of our clients have children with varying degrees of mental health issues. The mind is a complicated place that has very little predictability when mental health issues are involved. Whether you are talking about a 7 year old boy with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an 8 year old boy with an anxiety disorder or a teenager who spent her toddler years in foster care and was born addicted to drugs; writing an IEP for these children is a difficult, ongoing process. Difficult might actually be an understatement, I’m not even sure an appropriate word exists in the English language for this monumental task. So why do we spend our precious time trying to outmaneuver each other rather than spend the necessary time writing an IEP that will shape a better future for that child.

To quote Charlie Sheen, “Winning.” The constant need to win is embedded in our psyches’; to the point that the need to win actually drives us to distraction. In some cases this is what happens, Parents and Schools want to win so badly that everything else gets thrown out the window. This is actually when I tell Parents “it is time to take your ball and go home.” It is not your job as a parent to win; it’s your job as a parent to make sure your child is receiving an appropriate education. If the relationship between the School and the Parents have become this toxic, it’s time to find a new placement. To start fresh with a School that will begin listening to your child and helping them shape a better future.

As a Special Education Advocate most people think my job is to win at all costs. Not at all, my job is to be that child’s advocate and give the parents and the school the best advice I can with the information I have available to me. I have even turned down clients when a Parent called and told me they wanted the School to suffer for what they have done. It is not my job to inflict suffering; they might need to look to a higher power for that one. This IEP season also had another first for me. This was the first time we had to terminate an advocacy agreement with a client. Whether we were right or wrong is irrelevant, we were no longer on the same page with our client so it was time to go. We agreed with the School’s position and as such could no longer effectively advocate for the Parent’s position. We explained our rationale to our client and terminated the agreement. I truly wish that family well.

This has also become the IEP season of Child & Family Services. On multiple occasions this year, I have seen Schools resorting to calling Child & Family Services on Parents in an effort to remove them from their School. This is normally done after alternative methods for removal have been tried and didn’t work. In one instance Child & Family Services was called by the School after the child had snuck a bottle of melatonin into their backpack and brought it to school without the parent’s knowledge. Do you think that was worthy of a visit from Child and Family Services? My advice to this Parent was it’s time to find a new placement for your child. It’s not about beating the Principal that did this it’s about finding a School that wants to help your child. Federal and State laws aside, I know I want my child in a school that respects him and wants to educate him. If you want to file a Civil Rights complaint for retaliation that’s fine but it should be done after you deal with new placement for your child.

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One Response to “Confessions of a Special Education Advocate”

  1. pat said on May 3, 2013

    great post, I am a school psychologist considering becoming an advocate, do you have any suggestions or advice.


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