And Thoughts are Turning Back to School

Liz Ditz

I know we said a break, but…

Today, Gary Brannigan PhD and Howard Margolis PhD (the authors of a great book, Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds) published a blog post Stonewalling the IEP. While Brannigan and Margolis are writing about specifically reading issues, their advice can be generalized to all kinds of issues.

The blog post is particularly about “Present Levels of Performance” and how many IEP teams skimp this section. Brannigan and Margolis suggest there are four reasons:

  1. The school members of the IEP Team don’t know how to develop a Present Levels section that’s complete, meaningful, and functional.
  2. The district’s evaluations failed to supplement norm-referenced data from standardized tests with instructionally-relevant functional information.
  3. School members of your child’s IEP Team have overwhelming caseloads.
  4. (Rarely): To wear parents out and send a message to other parents: “Be satisfied with what we give you.”

Brannigan and Margolis give possible solutions for each of the reasons.

The first reason reminded me of Daniel Dage’s post, Writing Effective IEP Goals and Objectives: Suggestions for Teachers and Parents.

What most parents (and an embarrassing number of teachers) don’t realize is that goals and objectives are what are going to drive the students’ placement and services during the coming school year. While a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) is the most abused part of the IEP, the goals and objectives are among the most neglected.

Be sure to read his whole series on IEP at his blog, The Life that Chose Me, or at least the section on Present Levels of Performance.

The second reason can be mystifying to parents new to special education. For demystification, I recommend the resources at Wrightslaw, specifically Tests and Measurements for Parents (and advocates…) and the slideshow on tests and measurements. The Wrightslaw bookstore has even more resources for purchase. Kristina Chew‘s article here, Special Education 101, is also a good place to start.

The third and fourth reasons reminded me of three posts here: the first by Elise, AKA aspergers2mom, Embrace Your Inner Bitch:

What do you do if you are faced with a problematic situation? How do you channel your frustrations to get your child the services they need? It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I learned that you need to do what you need to do for your kids — who cares what others think? This is what I call “embracing your inner bitch.”

Now, embracing your inner bitch is a good thing. You use your frustration and your anger to motivate you, but you do so in a way that is calm, intelligent, and very thought-out. You leave the yelling and the kvetching and the breakdowns for home, Facebook, or Twitter (as long as someone from your district isn’t following you on social media). So the question becomes: how do you get what your child needs without throwing a fit?

The second post, from Caitlin Wray, is Advocacy 101 How to Write An Effective Letter

Odds are at some point in your role as your child’s advocate, you will need to write a letter to the powers that be. A masterfully crafted letter can be an incredibly powerful weapon in an advocate’s arsenal, but it’s often not an intuitive process; there are unwritten rules and unspoken expectations that need to be addressed, if you’re to achieve maximum effectiveness.

The third post is from Shannon des RochesRosa and Jennifer Byde Myers, on Creating a Special Education PTA

It’s not always easy to connect with parents like us. These kids we love so much are vulnerable, they need us – and the demands of our extra-intense parenting can leave us feeling drained and isolated. But if you can muster a burst of energy and round up a few like-minded individuals, then you can create your own community: by forming a Special Education Parent Teacher Association, or SEPTA.

I first read the following on the late, lamented SchwabLearning Parents’ Forum, and took it to heart. It was recently reprinted at the Wrightslaw blog
1 person = A fruitcake
2 people = A fruitcake and a friend
3 people = Troublemakers
5 people = “Let’s have a meeting”
10 people = “We’d better listen”
25 people = “Our dear friends”
50 people = “A powerful organization”

If you collaborate with other parents and organizations, you can make a difference. There is strength and power in numbers.