As a parent of a child with an IEP the first few meetings I attended many years ago were quite confusing. Since I am not the type of person who likes to feel confused or unprepared, I made it my mission to learn all I could about the process. I bought law books, researched online, took a Special Education Advocacy Certificate Program and learned about many of the therapies available. During my education process I learned the School is responsible for providing my child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and for providing me, the parent, counseling and training. It’s ironic that I took it upon myself to become educated about the process and my child’s disability when it’s the School’s responsibility to provide all pertinent information.
The Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines Parent Counseling and Training to mean:
1) Assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child;
2) Providing parents with information about child development; and
3) Helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP.
Parent Counseling and Training is one of the most overlooked Related Services in IDEA. It is no different than the Related Services you are most familiar seeing in an IEP such as speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy. If your child needs a related service to assist them with benefiting from special education, then it needs to be in their IEP and this includes Parent Counseling and Training. For more information on Related Services please read, “Ten Related Services You May Not Know About”
There is very little case law on the subject of Parent Counseling and Training but in a letter to Dagley (17 IDELR 1107) written by the Office of Special Education Programs on June 3, 1991 they stated:
Under the definition of "parent counseling and training," for example, an IEP for a deaf child could include training parents to use the mode of communication that their child uses as part of an educational program.
In order to determine whether services for a child's parents, such as training or counseling, should be included in a child's IEP, the team developing the IEP must determine that the service is needed in order for the child to receive an appropriate special education or other required related services in the least restrictive environment.
To follow the analogy used above, in the letter to Dagley, Parent Counseling and Training might be considered when the School has a child whose behavior is impeding learning and they are implementing a new behavior plan. In order for the behavior plan to have a chance of being successful, the plan must be carried over to the home environment and parent training might be necessary.
As I mentioned at the start of the blog, my first few IEP meetings were when I felt the most confused and unprepared. Parents would be best served if Schools utilized Parent Counseling and Training during these initial IEP’s to teach Parents how to become active participants. But unfortunately, I have never once heard a School mention Parent Counseling and Training in all of my years attending IEP’s so the Parents need to be ready to initiate the discussion. I have learned to bring up Parent Counseling and Training when:
1) It is necessary to provide the child FAPE; and
2) If the School tries to blame the Parents for academic failure instead of working collaboratively to fix the problem. If this occurs just smile and ask the School how much money they are building into the IEP for Parent Counseling and Training. This will usually get the conversation back on track away from blame and back on providing the child a Free Appropriate Public Education.
It’s important for the parents to be ready to bring up training. Just as the professionals on the IEP team needed to be trained the parents need to be taught how to support their child’s education as well.