Helping You Become All You are Capable of Becoming
Parental Assertiveness in the Exceptional Education Process
11.Parental Assertiveness in the Exceptional Education Process Tools for Getting Parents Involved in the Exceptional Education Process By James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.
A. What is Parental Assertiveness? Parental Assertiveness is: expressing your needs clearly and directly expressing your ideas without feeling guilty or intimidated sticking up for what you believe your child needs - even though professionals may not agree knowing your rights and how to get them documenting what your child needs and all facts pertaining to those needs treating professionals like a partner effective communication conveying your feelings of self confidence when you communicate with others advocating effectively on your own behalf self reliance and independence persisting until you get all the services your child needs analyzing a problem and pinpointing the area of responsibility before you act agitating to get necessary legislation passed and get it implemented organizing for change having a positive attitude at all times.
Parental assertiveness is not: beating around the bush before stating your needs feeling too guilty or afraid to express your needs agreeing with professionals - no matter how you feel - because "professionals know what's best" ignorance about your rights leaving everything to others because "they know how to do these things" apologizing when asking for what is rightfully yours ineffective communication begging for what is legitimately yours by law abdicating to others your right to advocate on behalf of your own child reliance and dependence on others giving up when you run into red tape acting precipitously before you get all the facts letting the politicians "take care of laws and all that political stuff" giving in to defeat
In order to help you identify the difference between parental assertiveness and non-assertiveness, do the following exercise:
Exercise 1 Which is the Assertive or Non-Assertive Parent? Read each pair of statements. Decide which one is the assertive statement and which is non-assertive. Check the box in front of the assertive statement. 1. A. "I wish they wouldn't take so long getting my child into a program." 1. B. "I've waited long enough. I'm setting a deadline."
2. A. "Mrs. S. is always very nice when I talk to her about getting my child into a program. But I've waited nine months now and nothing has happened. I'm setting a deadline. Then I'm filing for a Due Process Hearing." 2. B. "Mrs. S. is always so nice when I talk to her about getting my child into a program. She's very sympathetic about my having waited nine months.
3. A. "If they think I'm pushy because I keep asking about services then I'll have the kind of reputation that brings action." 3. B. "I better not ask them again about services. They'll think I'm too pushy."
4. A. "Every time I call the special education department, they're too busy to talk to me. I better not call again." 4. B. "Every time I call the special education department, they're too busy to talk to me. I have documented that I have called them five times during the last two weeks. I'm going to report this to the school board at its next meeting, to the state Department of Special Education, and I'm going to insist on their being made accountable."
5. A. "Sure, I'll go to the meeting - even though I don't like to go out at night - if it's important for my child." 5. B. "I don't think I can go to the meeting. I don't have time."
6. A. "I don't think this program is right for my child. And I will not accent a program that is not appropriate. 6. B. "I don't think this program is right for my child - but it's better than nothing."
7. A. "I'm only a parent." 7. B. "I'm a parent. And I am the authority on my own child."
8. A. ''I'm not sure I agree with what the professionals want to do about my child. But I better do what they say. After all, they're professionals. They ought to know.'' 8. B. "I will obtain outside recommendations regarding my child's needs and request a meeting to amend the IEP immediately.''
9. A. ''I don't understand anything about PL 94-142. And I intend to find out everything I need to know. Where can I go for Parent Rights Training?'' 9. B. ''I don't understand anything about this PL 94-142. After all, I'm not a lawyer.''
10. A. ''I intend to participate as a partner with the school, in the development of my child's I EP as the law requires - my contribution is just as important as the school's contribution.'' 10. B. ''It's OK if the school decides what should be in my child's IEP. Professionals know best."
11. A. "It's better if someone else represents my case at the Due Process Hearing. I 'm too closely involved. '' 11. B. ''I 'm getting parent rights training so I can represent my own case at the Due Process Hearing. I will also bring other parents for support.''
12. A. "If I stick my neck out and rock the boat they'll take it out on my child.'' 12. B. ''I'm willing to stick my neck out to get the services my child needs. And I won't allow anyone to punish me or my child for doing what is right."
13. A. "Our school district has severe financial problems, but I intend to ask for the services my child needs which he has the right to by law. He'll never get services if I don't. And the schools will never get the money they need if I don't insist.'' 13. B. "Our school district has such financial problems, I can't possibly ask for the services my child needs. They'll say 'no' for sure.''
14. A. ''I'm qualified to handle this. I'm the parent." 14. B. "I'm too emotional to deal with this. After all, I'm a parent.''
15. A. ''Those parents are so pushy. They're making enemies everywhere.'' 15. B. ''Those parents are really getting things done.''
Answer key: The assertive statements are: 1. B., 2. A., 3. A., 4, B., 5. A., 6. A., 7. B., 8. B., 9. A., 10. A., 11. B., 12. B., 13. A., 14. A., 15. B.
Once you have checked your answers, consider these following discussion questions? 1. How assertive are you as a parent in the school system? 2. What keeps you from being more assertive? 3. Knowing that it is your right by law to promote your child's needs in the exceptional education process, what do you need to learn or change in order to become more assertive for your child's welfare? 4. How can the other parents who have children in the exceptional education system assist you in your assertive advocating for your child? Are there parent support groups available in your community? How could a parent support group help you to become more assertive? 5. What is the difference between being assertive and being aggressive? Which behavior achieves more?
B. Aggressive vs. Assertive Aggressive Behavior is the act of a parent emotionally over reacting or becoming defensive in a situation. Assertive Behavior is the act of a parent declaring this is what I am, what I think and feel and what I want. In order to help you identify the difference between aggressive and assertive parental behaviors, do the following exercise: Exercise 2 Which is the Aggressive or Assertive Parent? Read each pair of statements. Decide which is assertive and which is aggressive. Put a check in the Box in front of the one that it is assertive. The answer key follows this exercise. 1. A. "What do you me an my child has a learning problem? If he has trouble learning it's because you're not teaching him.'' 1. B. "Thank you for letting me know about my child's learning problem. I'd like to know more. Could we set up an evaluation?" 2. A. "If you suspect my child is emotionally disturbed, I'd like to discuss this with you and other school personnel. Could we have a meeting on next Monday?" 2. B. "My child is NOT emotionally disturbed. It's your fault that he's behaving the way he does."
3. A. "If you don't provide the services my child needs within the legally required deadline I will institute a due process hearing." 3. B. "If you don't give me what I want right away, I'm going to go to the newspapers."
4. A. "I expect that you took this job partly because of your concern for these children. Therefore, I hope you will . . ." 4. B. "You really don't care about these children. All you care about is your paycheck." 5. A. "You haven't done a single thing to help my child. Why don't you get off your duff and do something? You're certainly getting paid enough." 5. B. "Nothing has been done in this case. The legally required deadline for services is__________ and I expect you to meet the deadline." 6. A. "If there is no money for service, it is because you're overpaid!" 6. B. "If there's no money for services it's because this school district has set other priorities. I must remind you that PL 94-142 requires these services and that federal funds will be withdrawn if you do not provide them, through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act."
7. A. "Why do you keep blaming me for everything? It's your fault my child is having problems." 7. B. "I feel like I'm being blamed for my child's problems. Our focus should be on getting the services my child needs - not on placing blame." 8. A. "What I do at home with my child is none of your business." 8. B. "If you believe my home situation is aggravating my child's problem I'll think about it. Right now, I'm not sure about this."
9. A. "I don't think you understand everything that's involved in parenting a child like mine." 9. B. "How do you know what I'm going through, and all the problems that I have. YOU'RE NOT A PARENT!
10. A. "I don't care if you have a program in the public schools. I went my child a private school. Everybody knows how rotten the public schools are.'' 10. B. ''I'm willing to visit the program in the public school and document the services it offers before I decide wether or not it is an appropriate program for my child.''
11. A. "It seems that some new , innovative methods are needed to work with my child. Where can we get special education information and consultation regarding his specific problems?'' 11. B."The people working with my child are incompetent and lazy.''
12. A. "Why does it always have to be the parents who get things done?" 12. B. "We parents have worked hard to get laws passed and intend to see that they are implemented.''
Answer key to: The assertive statements are: 1. B., 2. A., 3. A., 4. A., 5. B., 6. B., 7. B., 8. B., 9. A., 10. B., 11. A., 12. B. Once you have checked your answers, consider these following discussion questions: 1. What usually happens if parents become aggressive or defensive with professionals working with their children? Who ends losing in the long run? 2. What are some reasons why parents become defensive or aggressive? 3. Aggressive or defensive parents are often ill informed or not educated in the process of the school system. What do you need to learn more about in order to not become an aggressive or defensive parent? 4. What is the best way to handle a person who is aggressive or defensive? What if this person is a teacher or professional working with your child? 5. What are some ways you can improve communication between you and your child's school program?