Special Education services are available from birth on. If you have concerns about your child’s development of speech, physical or learning abilities, call your school district and ask to have your child tested. Perhaps your child attended an Early Childhood Development Center and has already begun the Special Education process.
If your child qualifies, you will be attending ARDs before school starts to approve an IEP or Individualized Education Plan. The ARD committee meets at least twice yearly to discuss, amend and approve the document (usually before the school year begins and before it ends). Testing is done by a qualified diagnostician every three years unless requested more often by a parent.
Special education students are to be in a regular education classroom as much as is best for their learning needs. This is called inclusion. A Resource Room is a special education classroom taught by a teacher certified in special education. There are usually several aides assisting so that small group, or one-on-one, instruction can be offered. Students attend the resource room for one or more subjects but spend as much time as possible in the regular education classroom. Or students may be placed in a Life Skills classroom and included with regular education students during Special Area times including library, music, art, and PE.
- Take your spouse, a grandparent, or a friend with you to ARDs. You will need their support. I attended my child’s first ARD with no support. I felt alone and overwhelmed with the school staff including a diagnostician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, assistant principal and teachers. I needed the offered box of tissues.
- Be prepared and make a list of things you would like discussed and any information which would be helpful for the staff.
- Be on time and respectful. Everyone has your child’s best interests at heart.
- Teachers should always have a brief meeting with the diagnostician and principal (or assistant principal) before the ARD so there are no surprises.
- Always support the staff in a meeting.
- Be prepared with the necessary paperwork.
- Tell positive accomplishments about the child as well as concerns and goals.
- Be respectful and positive.
- If you have concerns about a student who has not been tested, but you feel might qualify for Sp. Ed services, then you need to document, document, document. Never give a parent a diagnosis; that is determined after extensive testing by qualified staff. But you can encourage a parent to have a child tested. A parent may be offended, or relieved, to have you suggest testing.
- Be open to having special needs’ people volunteer in your school. Perhaps they can Xerox, prepare mailers, or help in a classroom. My teenage special needs’ daughter was allowed to volunteer on Friday afternoons in my kinder room. She read books to children, colored examples, helped children learn the alphabet, played board games, picked up centers including finishing puzzles, and helped during recess time. She was a friend to a shy or introverted child. I will always be grateful to my principal, Mrs. Staniszewski, for allowing Sarah to volunteer. Sarah still talks about it with fond memories. Now Sarah and I serve in the church nursery and she continues helping children who love her back unconditionally. This is a win-win situation.
First I was told what he could not be, then I learned what he was not,
and now I understand his potential and how much my interaction
plays a part in his future. ~ A parent’s perspective
What tips would you like to add?