Parents, Advocates and Lawyers, Oh My!
I am not sure why the CSE Meeting or the IEP have become such a battle ground for parents and school district administrators but something needs to change. I have absolutely no doubt that parents, teachers, therapists and administrators have the best interests of the student at heart. Everyone working with the student wants this child to succeed to the best of his or her ability. What I don’t really understand is the lack of real communication between parents and school district staff.
I do not know one teacher or therapist who would not try to incorporate the parents’ requests in a student’s educational plan. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a second evaluation needs to be done. Maybe the first one was conducted on a bad day for the student or even the evaluator and/or did not provide enough recommendations. So the evaluation is performed again by a different evaluator. It is not an insult to anyone. It is just done.
I would assume that parents and district staff take notes during conversations and meetings-it helps us to remember what occurred during a meeting. But we all need to follow the law about what is recommended and how it is recommended. There is a referral process and a procedure that needs to be followed. There are activities that can be performed based on the student’s educational placement. For example: community integration and travel may occur at the alternate assessment level but not at the inclusion or resource room level.
Activities of daily living that include self-care, should be done within the home unless the school is set up and approved to do this type of training [most, if not all, public schools are not]. As a therapist, I can provide some structure to the activities at home by picture prompts [showering, for example], task analysis and rubrics so that together we can get the job done-school staff and parents working together.
The most important thing is that we need to listen to the student. Sometimes the student says, “Enough, no more therapy.” At that point we need to go into consult mode, reduce the therapy sessions to a very low frequency or discontinue therapy. We must respect the student!
The most important thing that I hope anyone reading this blog takes away, is that we all need to communicate with each other with the student’s future in mind. We all need to be able to ask questions and answer them, civilly, without threat of legal ramifications. Unless the situation has degenerated to a point where no communication is occurring, parents and school staff should be able to address all the student’s needs through effective meeting strategies.
We should be able to:
1. Start any meeting in a timely manner [some might be a bit late for whatever reason-participation is the import thing]
2. Set the ground rules. This is often done with a parent receiving a handout of rights and responsibilities. I think that this should go further and an agenda be provided prior to any meeting.
3. Follow that agenda. Agenda should be developed with the parent and possibly the student [if old enough and able] to ensure that all their concerns are addressed.
4. Monitor time spent. Respect the time of the parent, the student and professional staff at the meeting. There is generally another meeting that follows right after.
5. Encourage participation of all those involved, including the student. Both parents and staff should enable the student’s participation by either a portfolio or statement to be read.
6. Approve any new follow-up assessments or actions by both parents and district staff. Referrals need to provide good information about the reason for referral so that all the questions are answered in the report.
7. Read a summary of the minutes taken before the meeting adjourns for clarity.
8. Minutes should be provided to all parties-all district staff and related service providers involved and parents, after the meeting in a timely manner.
The thing that I find that does not occur and should is an agenda. The agenda provides a structure to the meeting and makes sure that all concerns listed are heard and addressed. It limits the potential for disagreement during the meeting. A new meeting can always be scheduled to address any new concerns. It limits the “Uh Oh!” moments for both the parents and the staff.