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Supporting a Special Needs Student
Q: I am very disturbed with the current school my daughter is attending. My daughter is in the resource program and her teachers seem inadequately trained. I have sat through the IEP process and can see little progress. On her 15-week progress report she received all Fs and I never received a call from the teacher. When I addressed this, I was told that she couldn't keep up with the workflow and had low test scores.
Aren't resource students supposed to have additional help to ensure success? What can I do? I can't afford to let my child slip through the cracks. All her teachers ever say is, "She such a nice girl and never gives me any trouble."
A: Although it is difficult to give specific advice without all the details, I will describe some steps you can take to support your daughter:
- Review the IEP to identify what services she is really eligible to receive. Ask the special education supervisor in your child's school to be specific with you about what is available with her classification and level of need.
- In the IEP process, the interventions are described and usually assigned to someone to carry out. A realistic timeline is also part of the plan. Be sure that what is written is being done by asking your child what is happening and asking the teachers for some system of reporting on the activities outlined in the IEP.
- Investigate additional programs that the school may have available for all students, such as after school tutoring, daily assignment sheets to help you at least monitor workflow, and mentor programs which will enable your daughter to get support and encouragement from one more adult.
- Encourage your daughter to ask questions. Have her identify a study-buddy (someone in her class she feels comfortable with who seems to understand the material and who could be her partner). Often small hints during the learning process can speed up the acquisition of new material.
- Find some areas in which your daughter can succeed and let her spend time doing something she can enjoy and succeed at. Balance is important to keep her willing to try to succeed in difficult academic areas.
- Check with the school system to see if they have a parent resource center where you can connect with other parents and find valuable materials that can give you more insight and strategies to help her succeed.
Keep up your level of concern and take small steps to make a huge leap. Make sure your daughter is part of the process and takes responsibility for her own progress, too. If she can push blame away from her own actions onto someone else, she will never take pride in her accomplishments. She must be frustrated and looking for a chance to make things different.
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Judith Lee Ladd is a former president of the American School Counselor Association, a national organization of K-12 and post-secondary school counselors.
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