Securing Special Education Services for Your Child
As the school year creeps to a beginning, excitement and anxiety runs high: new classrooms, new teachers, new subjects. But for some parents the worry is making sure their special needs child gets their needs met in an effective manner.
Fairfax County Public Schools has over 25,000 students with autism, learning disabilities, physical impairments, visually impairments and more working with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Arlington has over 3,000 students with IEPs Loudoun over 7,000, and Prince William over 9,000.
When developing a child’s IEP, a written agreement describing the child’s needs that will be worked on throughout the year, it is vital that parents and educators are involved in collaborative decision making. But what does collaboration mean and how does a group of individuals collaborate?
Some think the approach to take at an IEP meeting is to simply cooperate. And, some approach IEP meetings thinking they should negotiate for the child’s program and services. Yet these are not appropriate when addressing the child’s need.
Collaboration is a better approach because it focuses on applying cooperation toward reaching an agreement that focuses on achieving a single goal. However, it is difficult to learn how to collaborate in the hour, or less, typically allotted to develop an IEP. Parents have information to share, as do teachers and other school professionals—school psychologists, speech language pathologists, etc. The purpose of the IEP meeting is to present and discuss all of the information, then formulate and agree to an educational program that can be carried out effectively by school staff.
There are many decisions to be made in creating the child’s IEP that include deciding what individual services are needed, how often and where the services are to be provided and if accommodations, such as assistive technology or special transportation are necessary.
Healthy disagreements may surface while making decisions about what or where the services are to be provided, as can contentious arguments. Knowing how to work through both is what will ensure a productive team meeting. It’s important, for example, to begin by explaining meeting norms (expectations of participant behaviors) even before the meeting begins. It’s just as important that team members know what questions are to be asked and that they will be answered as a team ensuring full member participations and know how to reach agreements as a team so that the IEP is developed based on the child’s needs. This is the essence of a structured approach to collaboration. But what are the questions to ask?
Through real-life scenarios, readers of “When the School Says No … How to get the Yes” are introduced to the Structured Collaborative IEP Process (SCIP), which sets out six key and sequentially asked questions that parents can pose to IEP team members. The questions guide the entire IEP team through a group decision-making process with small incremental agreements that result in shorter meetings, fewer emotional engagements and an IEP that is developed based on the child’s needs and not that of an individual or institution.
The book provides a practical, structured approach to IEP development that can readily be used by parents providing countless insights to parental perspectives providing an invaluable resource for anyone involved in the creation of Individualized Education Programs.
The kids are on the couch, but at least you know they’re learning. These fun, educational apps can teach kids numbers, letters and problem-solving skills with just the touch of a button. –Kate Masters
Pearson Education, Inc.; Free
Preschoolers and kindergarteners can jumpstart their math, literacy and problem-solving skills with the five separate games in this app, hosted by adorable monster creatures. In “Balloon Blowout,” kids can pop the balloon with the biggest number set; in “Heat Wave,” they’ll connect pipes in alphabetical order to fill a pool.
Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent’s College; Free
Featured in USA Today and CBS New York, Alien Assignment takes kids on an intergalactic adventure with the Gloops, a family of aliens who crash-landed on Earth. Players complete problem-solving scavenger hunts to help the aliens repair their ship and head back to their home planet.
Visit the Zoo
Age of Learning, Inc.; Free Aspiring zoologists will adore this animal-themed app, which takes kids on an interactive tour of zoo habitats. Their zoo guide reads illustrated facts about the animals, and players can test their knowledge later on with a series of multiple-choice quizzes.