And I don’t know what that means!
By Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach
You know your child is a little behind. “Give it time” they said, “Each child grows on their own. It will come.” Maybe your child needs just a little more than the average child. There is nothing wrong with that. NOTHING. And then you hear, “We want to test your child for Special Education.” What does that mean? How does this work? What is wrong with my child?
Important Message About Special Education
There is nothing WRONG with your child. Your child is absolutely wonderful, but does have some disabilities that make it difficult for them to handle academics or the pressures of the world around them. They need some help. Special Education is not just a label to tell you what your child can’t do.
It raises up everything they CAN DO! And it gives your child the support they need to succeed.
If your school determines that they want to do Special Education testing for your child, they will call you in for a meeting. There is quite a bit of paperwork that goes into Special Education, so don’t hesitate to stop and ask questions at any point.
Your school should explain the interventions that they have already tried to support your child. There is a wide range of academic interventions such as extra reading time with another teacher, or behavior interventions such as a special behavior chart where you child monitors how well they are doing at specific times throughout the day.
With these interventions, your child may not be making enough growth, therefore, they need extra support, with written goals that need to be monitored.
If your child is being referred for Special Education testing, they will first explain what tests will need to be administered. Different tests are administered based on what areas your child is struggling in. There may be cognitive tests, IQ testing, observations, surveys, checklists, etc.
All of these tests correlate to different categories in Special Education. There are 13 categories of Special education as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impaired
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
Testing takes place at school, with your child sometimes being pulled from class to complete different sections. You as a parent will have lots of paperwork to fill out. Usually a family history is completed, with other checklists of what you may see at home. Take your time with these checklists and be very open and honest about what you are seeing at home. It is difficult to be completely open with the school so you may downplay some of the things that you experience with your child at home. Unfortunately, I have seen students not get the help that they need because the parent felt ashamed, or didn’t want to be completely open and honest with the forms.
A large team meeting will be called, with you as parents, and many school personnel. Everyone who is at the meeting, may have had a different role in the testing. Generally there is a case manager, or main contact that helps put the entire report together, and sometimes a school psychologist will sit at the meeting to help interpret the results of the report.
Long story short…they speak about the results of each individual test, which takes awhile, but gives the full picture of where your child is at. It is not until the end that they will let you know if your child qualifies or not.
Writing of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
There are many pieces of the IEP, but here are the three main pieces that you will want to take note of.
- Goals – Once you know if your child qualifies, it is important for the team to decide on what goals would be appropriate for your child. Remember that these goals are steps to lead to the overall goal of having them be successful independently. As a parent, you are part of the team and should weigh in on what these goals should be. Your voice needs to be heard at the table.
- Services – This piece of the IEP should tell you what services your child will be receiving and the amount of time. For example, your child may have small group reading instruction for 20 minutes every day, or may meet with a behavior teacher 3 times a week for 30 minutes. It is important to understand what these services are and if they will take place in your child’s classroom (push in) or if they will be pulled out of the classroom to another location to receive these services (pull out). Work with the team to determine what is best for your child.
- Accommodations & Modifications – In this section, it will be determined what your child may need in the regular education classroom to be successful. It may include assistive technology, or special paper for students with fine motor issues. For learning disabilities, you may find accommodations such as extra time to complete work or shortened assignments. For behavior, it may include time for extra breaks for your child to process through an issue. Here is where you as a parent have the most say. You will often seen these accommodations and modifications change, and you can best support your child by knowing what works for them, and making sure it is documented on this page and that ALL of your child’s teachers are adhering to these.
If the school writes up an IEP, and you agree with it all, you sign and return this document. Services should start immediately. You as a parent have many rights. You can at any time, call a team meeting to discuss your child. Don’t wait too long if you have questions or concerns about what is happening. You are your child’s best advocate. Your child’s team is there to support them so a successful partnership will really see your child soar.
Special Education is not meant to be a label to single your child out. It is a way for your child to get everything they need. It is an individualized plan so it can look so many different ways. Our special education teachers have meant the world to my child and our family. My son would not be where he is without them. There were many tears at those meetings, and even times of frustration on both sides, but we overcame that to be the support my son needs. And I can’t even tell you the growth that he has made and continues to make. Your child can find the same success.
Do not consider yourself alone. Many families have children receiving services of one type or another. Find others who have children with similar disabilities, or learn about other support groups you can join. As always, we are hear for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need help going through this process.