Helping You Become All You are Capable of Becoming
Getting Organized to Get the Most out of the System
3. Getting Organzied to Get the Most out of the System Tools for Getting Parents Involved in the Exceptional Education Process By James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.
Getting Organized to get the most out of the System
A. Keep records on your child
Purchase a four drawer file cabinet or its equivalent and create a separate set of folders for the following information:
history and medical records from birth on
All evaluations and progress reports:
All relevant school materials:
IEP's all past and current
official letters of eligibility and placement
a yearly file of selected samples of child's academic work from classroom, resource rooms. therapies and other activities
annual standardized test results
church and religious education records
copies of all formal notes, letters, or correspondence exchanged between parent and professionals in the school
resource materials on IDEA / PL 94142
exceptional parent magazine articles or other magazine, journal or newspaper articles relevant to progress in treating your child's exceptionality
B. Remind yourself about the process and your rights
Read this manual at least once a year to remind you of your rights and responsibilities as you continue in your role as lifelong advocate for your child.
C. Tips on how to handle yourself at meetings
At all school conferences, staffing, IEP meetings and other school related meetings follow these helpful tips:
1. Do not go to meetings alone. It is common for parents to feel overwhelmed and alone when confronted with a room full of professionals discussing their child in a clinical manner. Invite other parents, friends, relatives, and anyone you know who might be interested in attending. Explain to them that you would like them to attend to give you moral support, and to function as witnesses in case of a disagreement.
2. The image you portray will affect how the school personnel react towards you. If you wish to be treated in a professional manner, you should dress in a professional manner. Choose clothing that is simple but dignified. Walk into the room with confidence. Don't wait to be acknowledged, but introduce yourself and begin greeting people as soon as you enter the room. Bring your copy of these material with you and display them prominently on the table. It lets the professionals know you are informed.
3. It is a good business procedure to tape record the meetings. It will not be possible to take accurate notes in these situations, and personal notes can be disputed. Simply place the recorder on the table and plug it in. (Don't ask for permission.) If someone expresses resistance, explain to them that it is a good business procedure to tape important meetings.
4. Pass around a sign-in sheet at the beginning of the meeting. You will then have the names of all those present, and be able to address them by name, (from their positions on the sign-in sheet.)
5. When speaking during meetings, take a deep breath to help project your voice clearly and confidently. Maintain eye contact with the professionals while you speak.
6. Repeat what you are asking for whenever school personnel offer excuses or evasions. Remember that you are not there to discuss the limitations of the school budget. You are there to determine what your child needs to have an appropriate education. State this repeatedly, as often as necessary to make your point.
7. Don't be intimidated: If school personnel state that there is a certain policy, rule, regulation, or law that requires them to take certain action or not to take certain action, do not feel intimidated. Ask to see in writing the specific policy, rule, regulation or law that they are referring to. Remember that federal law, rules and regulations take precedence over state and local policies, laws, rules and regulations.
D. Know Yours and your Child's Rights which are Protected by Law:
In recent years, Federal and State laws have been passed which guarantee that all children and youth with handicaps from birth to 21 years of age are provided a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Action also known as IDEA and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, also known as PL 94-142, and state laws were passed to make sure that all children with handicaps have available to them a free appropriate public education and to make sure that the rights of children with handicaps and their parents are protected.
The federal and state laws identify the importance of parent participation in educational planning. The laws promote parent involvement with educators to provide the best possible program for every child with a handicap.