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Special Education Tip # 11: Maintain Productive Relationships

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Special Education Tip # 11: Maintain Productive Relationships

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Maintain Productive Relationships in Special Education

Advocating for services or an out-of-district placement for a child with a disability can be a long and frustrating road. Often, parents must engage in countless team meetings, evaluations, and parent-teacher conferences just to accomplish small gains in their child’s service schedule. It is easy to see how many parents become discouraged by the process. Once parents reach the point of hiring an attorney, it is not uncommon to see a complete communication breakdown between the family and the school.

Here are a few helpful tips to maintaining a respectful and productive relationship with your child’s school:

1. Develop positive relationships with your child’s teachers. Take every opportunity to communicate with the teacher about your child’s progress. Waiting for report cards or progress reports to discover how you child is doing is often not enough. Be proactive and schedule appointments to make teachers aware of any questions or concerns that you may have. And always remember to compliment teachers on what they are doing right, positive feedback goes a long way!

2. Review your child’s IEP with his or her teachers. Make sure that all teachers understand each provision in the IEP and understand any changes that are made throughout the year. Verify that your child is receiving the accommodations and services that are listed in their IEP and ask for documentation if necessary.

3. Document your concerns and requests in writing. Keep a written record of all of your concerns and requests. Even when a conversation occurs in person or over the phone it is helpful to send an email summarizing the conversation and clarifying any details that may have been misunderstood. These documents can serve as a reference during any future disagreements or be used as evidence in a due process hearing.

4. Think twice before sending an email. Email is one of the fastest modes of communication. It is great to use when a fast response is necessary, but it is easy to become impulsive and send a hostile message in the heat of the moment. Always re-read emails before sending them to your child’s school to make sure that the language is both precise and respectful. Emails written with a negative tone can be damaging during a due process hearing.

Children spend at least twelve years of their life in the public school system. Therefore, it is important to remember to use a positive and respectful attitude during all contacts with the school system. Keep in mind that any communication could be brought up during a due process hearing so it is important not to say anything that you would be embarrassed to explain in front of a hearing officer. The upshot: maintain productive relationships with school staff, and that will go a long way to making the special education process easier for you and your child.

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