Communication

 

TIPS TO HELP YOU ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CHILD

Take someone to the meeting with you.  It helps to have another person to listen and take notes for you.  You can tape record the meeting to review later or share with your spouse, a relative, friend, or your child’s private service provider. Notify team members that you are taping the meeting and get their approval on tape.

 

Go to the team meeting (or any conference about your child) prepared.  Take information about your child’s strengths and needs and what you see at home or in other settings.

 

The image you project makes a difference;

    • Carry written information in a file folder, notebook, or expandable file to the meeting.
    • Arrive promptly.  Being on time shows that you think this is an important meeting and that you are ready to conduct business.
    • Shake hands and/or acknowledge other people at the meeting as you are introduced to them.  If no one else begins the introductions, you do it.
    • Sit with other team members.  This shows that you are part of the decision-making team.  Sitting between the people with power makes the statement that you are an equal in the process.
    • Speak clearly and look at the other team members while you are talking.

 

Make positive statements, such as “I expect”, “I understand”, and “my child needs”.

 

Ask questions and ask for clarification of anything you do not understand. Who/what/when/ where/why questions gain more information than yes/no questions.

 

Remain as friendly as possible.  Separate the people from the problems.   Do not allow yourself (or others) to deal in personalities.

 

Focus on the issue at hand.  Do not be sidetracked by other issues such as past experiences, the district’s lack of funds, or what “all the other children” are doing.

 

Make your proposal and expect to get what your child needs.  Be flexible enough to accept minor revisions but be firm about the major issues.

 

Feel confident enough to end the meeting if it seems that no more progress can be made.  Tell the other team members that you would like to continue working with them and set an appointment for a fresh start.

 

Sometimes necessary team members begin leaving the meeting before decisions have been made.  If this happens, stop the meeting and reschedule a time when all team members can attend and finish the negotiations.

 

Follow up with a letter. If you are satisfied, state what the agreements were.  If you are not satisfied, explain your position, your understanding of their position, the next course of action, and your timelines.

 

Remember that you are advocating for your child.  If you do not do it, no one else will.

 

 

BEING ASSERTIVE,  NOT AGRESSIVE

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 use them;
    • documenting what your child needs and all supporting facts;
    • treating professionals as partners;
    • using effective communication;
    • conveying your feelings of self confidence in your communication with others;
    • advocating effectively on your own behalf;
    • demonstrating self reliance and independence;
    • persisting until you get the services your child needs;
    • analyzing problems and pinpointing areas of responsibility before you act;
    • organizing to facilitate change;
    • maintaining a positive attitude;
    • asking for documentation of what people are telling you.

 

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 is best”;
    • having ignorance about your rights and how to use them;
    • leaving advocacy for your child to others because “they know how to do these things”;
    • apologizing when asking for what is rightfully yours;
    • using ineffective communication;
    • begging for what is your child’s legal right;
    • depending on others to assume your responsibilities;
    • giving up when you run into red tape;
    • acting impulsively before learning the facts;
    • having a powerless attitude.

 

 

CREATIVE USE OF OPPOSITION

 

In life we often find two kinds of responses to our work or our ideas.  One kind is supportive; the other is opposition, resistance, differences or correction.  If we offer an idea for action or make a statement, the response may be agreeing, supporting, or building on what we have said.  However, it may be opposing, pointing out faults or errors, or resisting what we have said.

Supportive:

    • “I think what you said is a good idea.”
    • “I think you are right, and I would like to add…”

Opposing:

    • “I cannot agree with that.”
    • “Can’t you see how wrong you are?”
    • “I hear what you are saying, BUT……

Both the supportive and opposing are real forces in life.  However, many times we do not use the real value of forces which are in opposition.

 

Ideas are expressed by persons, and, therefore, when one person’s idea is opposing another person’s idea, the person is also opposing the other person.  How we then see the other person’s idea is not always clear, so hostility is often present, because ideas which seem very sound and logical also have a personal feeling behind them.  For example, if someone opposed my idea, I might receive the opposition as if it is directed to me personally, with the result of mistaking a strong challenger as an enemy when that person may be an ally.

 

We can approach opposition in three ways:

  1. We can resist and fight it.  This is the most usual way.  Hostility is met with hostility; anger is met with anger.
  2. We can avoid or deny it.  We can simply pay no attention to what they say.  Another way to avoid opposition is to submit or give in to the opposing idea.  Opposition can be seen as correction.
  3. We can use the opposition.  We need what our opposition has to offer.  Opposition can help us come to better ideas.

 

The third approach involves us more.  It means we need to turn towards that person, neither avoiding nor resisting, but truly turning towards that person.  It means we must see the other person as a human being, and because they are human, they have dignity and worth.

The other person has feelings,

has the possibility of changing,

does not have the whole truth,

just like us!

 

Therefore, if we can listen to and learn from the other person’s opposing ideas and actions, we can grow.

 

In this turning towards the other person, we attempt to feel what the situation means to that person, to accept the other’s way of seeing the situation.  Such a way of feeling acceptance of the other can lead us to the necessary step of encouraging freedom for both people to express opposition.  When the real points are brought into the open, talked about and evaluated, then opposition can be used more creatively.

 

Something else also takes place:  we risk failure.  We have seen how difficult it is to actually turn towards another person, especially when we see the other person opposing us in some way.  Sometimes we–for lack of courage—do not turn towards the other person first.  Remember, when opposition is not a form of systematic blocking, when it arises from a different vision, it can only enrich us.

 

The opposition from another may be due to our own behavior and not our ideas at all.  We need to be willing to compromise.  Opposition then becomes a positive force for improvement and advancement of our own growth.

 

Sample steps in dealing with opposition:

  1. What is the other person really saying?
  2. What is the other person’s investment in the idea?  What does it really mean to him/her?
  3. What are my feelings?  What are the other person’s feelings?  What are the other person’s feelings about me?  What are my feelings about the other person?
  4. What are the strengths of the other person’s ideas or position?
  5. How might they be applied to my ideas?

 

Happy are they who understand the words,

“If you disagree with me, you have something to give me”.

SAMPLE RECORDS REVIEW REQUEST

 

Date

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

I would like to review any and all educational records held in any form and in any location by       (Name)                School District for my son/daughter,      (Name)         , birth date.  This request is made pursuant to IDEA 311.613; WAC 392-172A-05190; and FERPA.

 

I understand that someone will be available to answer any questions I may have regarding my son’s/daughter’s school records and that I can have copies of the information in these records.

 

I look forward to meeting with you in the near future.  If you have any questions, please contact me by phone or email.

 

Sincerely,

Signature

Typed Name
Address
Phone Number
Email

 

Be sure a written request is sent certified or hand carried and receipt received.

(Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)

 

 

SAMPLE REQUEST TO CORRECT OR REMOVE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN RECORDS

 

Date

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

Upon review of my son/daughter, (Name), ________birth date, _______, records, I find a need to request that (Name) School District remove or correct the information dealing with (give specific area) found in (give document, date and person responsible for document; (i.e., psychological evaluation dated 6-7-97 by Dr. Paul Doe).  I am making this request pursuant to IDEA 300.618; WAC 392-172A; and FERPA.

 

I will expect to hear from you, in writing, within five (5) working days regarding this matter.

 

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Signature

Typed Name
Address
Phone Number
Email

 

 

Send by certified mail or hand carry and get a date/time receipt.

(Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)

SAMPLE EVALUATION REQUEST

 

Date

Street Address

 

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

I am requesting a full and individual evaluation for my son/daughter (Name, Date of Birth) for assessment as a special education student as stipulated in IDEA 300.15 and WAC 392-172A-01070 and under Section 504.

 

I understand that the evaluation is to be in all areas of suspected disability, and that the school district is to provide this evaluation at no charge to me.  My reasons for requesting this procedure are: ____________________________________________________.

 

I understand that I am an equal member of the IEP team, and will be involved in any meetings regarding the identification, evaluation, provision of services, placement or decisions regarding a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). I would appreciate meeting with each person who will be doing the evaluation before he/she tests my child so that I might share information about  (child’s name) with him/her.  I will also expect a copy of the written report generated by each evaluator so that I might review it before the team meeting.

 

I understand you must have my written permission for these tests to be administered and I will be happy to provide that upon receipt of the proper forms.

 

I appreciate your help in this matter. If you have any questions, please contact me by phone or email.

 

Sincerely,

Signature

Typed Name
Address
Phone Number
Email

 

Send it by certified mail or hand carry and get a date/time receipt.  (Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)

 

                                         

SAMPLE RE-EVALUATION REQUEST

 

Date

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

We are requesting a total re-evaluation of our son/daughter, (Name, birth date)________,

under IDEA 300.303 and WAC 392-172A-03015.  We understand that this testing process will be done in compliance with IDEA 300.303-300.305 and WAC 392-172A-03015-03025.

 

We are requesting this re-evaluation because  __________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________.

 

We appreciate your help and will be expecting to hear from you soon regarding the results of this re-evaluation.

 

Sincerely,

Signature

Typed Name
Address
Phone Number
Email

 

Send this by certified mail or hand carry and get a receipt.

(Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)

 

 

SAMPLE INDEPENDENT EVALUATION REQUEST

 

Date

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

I am requesting an independent assessment at public expense for my son/daughter, (Name), (birthdate), This request is made pursuant to IDEA 300.502 and WAC 392-172A-05005.

 

I am requesting this independent assessment in the area of (stipulate academics, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vocational, vision therapy or other areas).  I am requesting this independent assessment because I do not agree with the district results in this area.  (Explain briefly with what you disagree; i.e., not accurate, no test available in district, not complete, etc).

 

I understand that a response to my request must be provided in writing by the school district within fifteen (15) days.

 

I appreciate your help.  If you have any questions, please contact me by phone or email.

 

Sincerely,

(Signature)

Typed Name
Address
Phone Number
Email

 

Send this by certified mail or hand carry and get a receipt.

(Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies by “cc” at bottom of letter.)

SAMPLE IEP MEETING REQUEST

 

Date

Special Education Director or Program Coordinator
School District
Street Address
City, State, Zip

 

Dear (Name):

 

I am requesting an IEP meeting regarding the program/placement for my son/daughter,  (Student’s Name), (birth date). As a member of (Student’s Name)’s IEP team, I have some concerns that I believe must be addressed by the entire team.

 

These are my concerns:

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters. Please contact me, if you have questions and/or to schedule the IEP meeting. My phone number is: ________________. My e-mail address is:________________________.

 

Sincerely,

(Your Signature)

Print or type your name
Street Address
City, State, Zip
Phone Number
Email

 

 

SAMPLE COMPLAINT TO SPECIAL EDUCATION DIRECTOR

 

Date

Name
Director of Special Education
Name of School District
Address

 

Dear (Name of Special Education Director):

 

We are the parents of   (Your Child’s Name & birth date)).  S/he attends  (Name of School)in the  (Grade or class).

 

 (Your Child’s Name)’s education program concerns us.  (Briefly, state your concerns).We have discussed these issues with (Names of people).

 

We have proposed the following ideas to resolve the situation: (List your ideas for ways to improve the program for the child).  Our concerns have not been resolved.

 

We have not been able to reach an agreement with the school.  We want to work this out so (Child’s Name) can get the services s/he needs to insure her Free Appropriate Public Education.

 

Please work with us to resolve these issues as soon as possible.  We are willing to meet with you to discuss our child’s program. Feel free to call us to set up a meeting.  We can be reached at:  (Phone numbers and times available at each).

 

Sincerely,

Your signature

Your typed /printed name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone Number
Email

 

(Remember to keep a copy for your file and indicate to whom you are sending copies with cc at the bottom.)

 

 

LETTER OF UNDERSTANDING

 

When you have had a conversation or meeting with school personnel and nothing has been put in writing, sending a letter of understanding helps document what was said or agreed upon. Three elements are important to include:

  1. thanks or acknowledgement for their time and efforts;
  2. your perception of the conversation;
  3. request for their perception of the conversation in written response within 10 business days.

It is vital that you send the letter by certified mail with return receipt requested or hand deliver it and have the person receiving it sign and date your copy as a receipt. ALWAYS keep a copy for your files.

 

SAMPLE LETTER

 

Date

Name of person to whom letter is directed
Position/title

 

Dear ________________:

 

Thank you for speaking with me on (date and time) about my child, (child’s name). I appreciate your concern and input about (his/her) school situation.

 

My understanding of our conversation is (list the areas that were covered and what you think was said or agreed/disagreed upon for each area—be complete in explaining your understanding).

 

If I have misunderstood any part of our conversation, please clarify your position on these issues by responding to me in writing within 10 business days. Again, thank you for your time, as it is so important that we work cooperatively as team members for (child’s name)’s  education.

 

Sincerely,

Name
Address
Phone number
Email

If the person calls you to discuss your letter, remind the person that you asked for/need his/her response in writing

 

 

Five Steps for Being Your Child’s Best Advocate

  1. You are an equal partner in your child’s education.
  2. Acquire Knowledge. You don’t have to memorize everything. Listen to other partners and ask questions.
  3. Accept that as a parent of a child with special needs you have feelings and perceptions that will have impact on your decisions.
  4. Develop and strengthen your skills:
    1. Communication
    2. Documentation/Letter Writing
    3. Record Keeping
  5. PARTICIPATION is the most important thing you can do for your child.  Participate in:
    1. Your child’s IEP development – Give your ideas, share your concerns, attend the meeting.
    2. Parent/Teacher conferences.
    3. Parent Group meetings.
    4. Any meeting regarding the identification, evaluation, provision of services and placement as a part of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child.
    5. Building-wide planning committees and other decision making boards.

Recognize that the process can be intimidating – Stay pro-active and involved.

  • Learn about IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
  • Remember not all issues are controlled at the building or District level; they must comply with State and Federal Regulations and Laws.
  • Know the people you will be working with in planning for your child.
  • Learn how the system works.

 

 

You have the tools, you have the desire, you have the responsibility!

 

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The PAVE Parent Training and Information Program may include information on State or Federal laws regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. While this is provided to inform or make one aware of these rights, legal definitions, or laws/regulations, it is not providing legal representation or legal advice. The recipient understands that this is information is to educate them not to provide them with legal representation.