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

Aug 20
Avatar of Doug Goldberg

by Doug Goldberg

It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes a nation to raise a child with special needs.  Once the nation gets involved and laws are enacted, complications always arise.  This is why it is so important for BOTH parents to be fully involved in their child’s special education needs.  As a parent of a special needs child and an Advocate I attend many IEP meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences.  The majority of attendees at these functions are women.  It always amazes me when I attend an IEP meeting and Mom is alone.   Even worse when I ask Dad, “what is your child’s eligibility in their IEP” and he answers, “I’ll have to ask my wife”.  For those Dads that attend IEP meetings, know what’s in their child’s IEP and help with therapies, I applaud you.  For those Dads that think this is their spouse’s responsibility because you work fulltime, you are wrong.  How do I know, because I was once you.

When my son couldn’t eat solid foods and he had to go to eating therapy at 11 months I left this responsibility to my wife.  Teaching him to eat took three to four hours a day and mealtimes were a nightmare.  This process almost took my wife’s sanity and put tremendous strain on our marriage.  I had two choices at this point, 1) step up and handle my responsibilities, or 2) lose my wife and worse yet let down my son.  I chose option 1, and I have become heavily involved in all aspects of my son’s special education needs.

Sending your spouse alone to an IEP meeting is like sending them to buy a house or a car all alone.  Imagine telling your wife, go find our new home, negotiate the price, sign all the legal documents, move us in and I don’t want to be involved.   You would never do that, but yet the IEP is also a legally binding document that has tremendous monetary value and repercussions.    The monetary value of the IEP could be from a few thousand a year to tens of thousands a year depending on the services, placement, accommodations and assistive technology outlined in the document.  The repercussions could be your child never reaching their full potential, whatever that is meant to be.

Look at it in football terms, your wife might be the quarterback, but without blockers she is going to get crushed.  If she gets crushed, your child, the wide receiver will never have a chance to move the ball up the field and cross the goal line.  Crossing the goal line might be making sure your child can eat, walk, talk, read or any other number of things but without both parents involvement it is much more difficult.   So my challenge to all of the fathers of special needs children is to get more involved, help prepare for the IEP meetings, attend the IEP meetings and help with therapies.

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5 Responses to “A Challenge to all the Fathers of Special Needs Children”

  1. Thanks a lot, sometimes you need somebody to wake you up…

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  2. I am a Special Education Teacher, and I find it is often the case that students (if and when they do come from a two-parent household), will almost always only have one parent represented at their IEP meeting. I don’t know if I necessarily see Mom being the one at the meetings more frequently, but I absolutely agree that both parents (if there are two parents) should be as involved as possible.

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  3. Bea said on June 15, 2012

    Wrong! Not every dad has the luxury of taking off time to go to a meeting at the school. My hubby would not get vacation or personal pay to go, it would essentially cost us a day’s pay for him to go. Do not put down the dads of kids that don’t go until you know the whole story. I just lost a LOT of respect for you with this article. By the way, I DID buy a house without his help. He was in the military, we needed a house, so I went house hunting, did the paperwork, closed on it.

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    • Hi Bea, IDEA requires all IEP’s to be at a mutually agreeable time and place for the parents. I have seen some parents even participate via skype or by phone. There might be exceptions to the rule but I think both parents need to be involved. I’m sorry you lost respect for me but you can’t please everyone and this is my opinion. Raising your child is the most important job you will ever have.

      By the way, active duty in the military is one exception to the rule. Also, You are taking it as a personal affront to you and it was meant as a generality not specific to one person. Having attended hundreds if not thousands of IEP’s generally speaking this is what I have seen.

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  4. Great article! It is unfortunately not much different than parent teacher conferences. Until about 4th grade, there is a terrific turnout. Once Jr.High hits, the attendance goes down gradually. My daughter was a junior in HS this year with mostly special ed classes. 3 out of those 4 classes, I was either alone or with one other mom. This was the same for the curriculum night at the beginning of the school year. Same deal since Jr. High. Very sad.

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