You’re Not Having Dinner with These People

Published on April 25, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

It can be incredibly difficult for many parents to express their concerns about their children’s program to the school district staff.  I can not even count the number of times I have been interviewing a prospective client who has been going along with the school district’s recommendations for years, even though something in their gut told them not to.

Parents, listen to your gut.

There are few moments I dislike more than that moment when a parent looks to me with hopeful eyes, as if I will tell them the school district has been doing absolutely the right thing all along, has been complying with their legal obligations, and they are just over-reacting as parents.  Much more often than not, I am instead having to confirm their suspicions were accurate; that, in fact, the school was required to convene an IEP Team meeting when they requested it, or evaluate their child in all areas of suspected disability, or whatever the case may be.

I especially hate those conversations when we’re discussing an 18 year old.

Look, we want and expect to trust our children’s schools.  After all, they are the educators.  If they say things are okay, then we want to believe it.  And I admit that I am jaded, as when parents call a lawyer, things are already pretty bad.  But when it comes to your dealings with your child’s special education team, do NOT simply assume that the school district staff are right.  They may know more about education than you do, but you know more about your child than they do.

Read up on your child’s disability, so you can’t take be taken advantage of because of your ignorance on the subject.  If you don’t understand something, or don’t agree, ask questions, and make sure they are documented.  There may be an honest, simple disagreement between adults about what is appropriate, but at least you want to know what they are talking about.

I understand it’s hard to “buck the system.”  At least I understand it intellectually.  But when a pattern starts to emerge, where your child is struggling and you are seeing the gap between him and his peers widening academically, socially, or emotionally, it is not just your right as a parent to start questioning, but it is your obligation.

Comments are closed.