September 15, 2016
October is usually one of the busiest seasons for FACT Oregon’s support specialists. As the dust starts to settle from the start of school, we get many calls and emails from parents who have questions about their child’s special education services, want to voice concerns, or just need a supportive ear.
With this in mind, we thought it would be interesting to hear from our support specialists about the top three questions they get from families. How do they answer them? Read on for details!
It’s hard to pin down the top three questions from families – many requests and questions are all over the board! We never know what kind of call may come in that day. But we do see some general trends.
Our first and most important response from the support desk to families for all of the topics below would be:
- Educate yourself in the special education process
- Be an active participant on the team
- Prepare and provide your written input
- Have a vision for your child’s future
FACT Oregon is here to support YOU in this active role with tools and resources. Just give us a call at (503) 786-6082 or 1 (888) 988-3228 or send us an email. Please note that it typically takes two business days to get back to you, but in this busy season, it may take a day or two longer. Thank you for your patience!
Okay, specific to the top three questions we receive from families:
1. Questions about addressing negative behaviors in the classroom
Behavior is a form of communication, so determining what the student is trying to communicate (ex., frustration, stress, anxiety, pain, etc.) is most important. Request a Functional Behavior Assessment [FBA] if one has not already been done. Develop a Behavior Support Plan [BSP] with the team, which includes the parent(s)/family and their input. If a BSP is already in place, request a meeting to re-address it, and possibly the IEP, as supports may need to be adjusted. For more information about FBA’s and BSP’s, give us a call or read our publication, Understanding Your Special Education Rights and Procedural Safeguards (available in English and Spanish).
2. Questions or concerns about a student’s educational setting/placement
Placement can get sticky, and many times parents disagree with a school district about their student’s placement. It’s important to remember to do the following when talking about placement with your IEP team: a) share your vision for your child’s future, b) communicate and collaborate with your IEP team, c) really get to know the IEP document and how placement is decided based on your child’s present levels and goals, and d) understand your parent rights and procedural safeguards. A good place to start is by watching our online webinar, Understanding the IEP: Development, Process, and Your Important Role on the Team, or by checking out our publication on the IEP process or person-centered planning and creating a one-page profile (in Spanish).
3. Questions about transitioning to Kindergarten
This is such an important time for families as they transition to school age special education! Learning the transition process and understanding the power of the IEP and how it is developed are most important at this particular stage. Behavior and pre-determined placement can be two topics that come up during the transition to Kindergarten stage (see responses above). Read our booklet, Preparing for a Successful Transition to Kindergarten (in Spanish) to learn more, or just give us a call.
What we like most about being support specialists:
What I like best about my job is that I get to talk directly to families and give them information and share my own personal stories. I love it when I can tell a family, “I totally understand! I felt the same way!” There is nothing better than when a parent says, “ I feel so much better” or “ Thank you so much, I wish I knew this sooner.” I have learned that families really do want to be a part of the IEP process – they just are not sure how to do that effectively. I have also learned that schools really do value a parent’s expertise, but it often gets lost in translation when it is not presented or documented in a way that can be captured on the IEP. Teachers are busy, so the more prepared a parent is, the more likely they are to get their input on the IEP and get things moving in the right direction.
What I like best about this work is having direct contact with families. I enjoy being able to provide support and encouragement as they journey through the special education process. Having “been there, done that” in many of their circumstances, I am able to share my journey and what worked/what didn’t work along the way. It’s quite special to know firsthand what the parent or family member on the other end of the phone is feeling, and be able to encourage them during discouraging times. best of all, I love hearing “I don’t feel so alone now,” and hearing a parent become empowered.