5 Things I Learned Working on Both “Sides” of Special Education

5 Things I Learned Working on Both “Sides” of Special Education

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Over the last 25 years, I have worked in very low socio-economic schools and very high socio-economic schools. I have worked all grade levels from pre-school to post-secondary. I have been a special education teacher, a special education administrator, a national and international presenter, and a parent advocate and IEP coach. Through all of these experiences, I learned that there are many people who will tell you that the only way to get what your child needs is to go in fighting. I know there is a different way– a better way! After running and being a part of more than 5000 IEP’s on “both sides of the table,” I can tell you the five truths that make or break the success of an IEP!

99.9% of people involved in special education have good intentions.

I understand that IEP’s can invoke strong feelings from people on “both sides of the table”. Sometimes those strong feelings lead to frustration and anger, but one fact I know to be true is that people work in special education because they care about kids.

Disagreement does not have to mean a battle.

Though you may not agree with where the team is in the moment, you do not need to go into battle mode. As a special education administrator, I always felt very passionately that part of my job was to really listen to what parents were saying, and to understand what they needed. But disagreements are inevitable and the atmosphere is often charged. When I work with families, I always encourage parents to take a breath before jumping into a disagreement. The best, most innovative ideas I’ve ever seen an IEP team come up with have come from disagreements.

Parents who view the IEP team in a positive light have kids who report more happiness in school, and have a more positive outlook on their special education support.

One thing I always share with families is that long after I (or any other advocate or lawyer) is gone, they will still need to have a relationship with the school district they are in.

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