If your child receives special education services, it means you, as a parent, are part of a team. That team includes a special education and general education teacher, and may also include other professionals who help your child, such as a speech or occupational therapist or a paraeducator. The team also includes a school or school district administrator who can commit whatever resources are needed and can help everyone understand the myriad of rules and regulations governing special education.
Each school year, the members of your child’s team can change. New teachers are assigned, therapists rotate to other schools, and education plans (“IEPs”) are revised. That means parents and educators must quickly build a trusting relationship while trying to get to know each other and work together in a relatively short amount of time (because a 180-day school year goes by quickly). And at times, that can be hard. Like any other profession, teachers have different communication styles and ways of working. Parents have their own personalities as well. Some are hands off while others are more hands on. Trying to mesh different working styles isn’t always easy.
Parents also can feel frustrated starting from scratch each school year, because even a high-quality and well-written education plan can’t possibly capture all the institutional knowledge a teacher gains from working with a child directly. And the reality for students with disabilities is that the work can be challenging, both for the student and the teacher. That leaves parents at times struggling to fill the knowledge gap each year for new IEP team members. All of these factors can lead to stress and frustration.
Special Education Pro Tip – The one thing to tell your IEP team. Whether it’s at the beginning of the school year, or any time you feel the IEP team needs it, parents should tell teachers and therapists that you understand their job is challenging, that you are there to help them, and that it’s OK to feel frustrated sometimes. This could be as simple as encouraging teachers to email or call you any time they have a question, feel overloaded, or just want to share ideas.
The IEP process at times can be needlessly confrontational, and at times school staff may feel as though they can’t share their views. Parents can play a valuable role by encouraging open dialogue, so that the professionals working with your child will feel comfortable providing honest feedback.