What Your Child's Special Ed Teacher Won't Tell You

What They Know About Costs of Services and Effectiveness of Advocates

Special education teachers keep secrets from parents about the cost of services, how effective advocates are and other matters because at times it would be inappropriate to discuss these matters. Learn 10 of the top secrets your special education teacher wish you knew and how you can use the information to better advocate for your child.


Your Advocate Is Not Helping You

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Tutoring a child with a learning disibility. Nina Shannon/E+/Getty Images

Special education teachers and administrators will rarely tell parents when their advocates are not helping their case. There are some excellent special education advocates out there. There are also some who don't help and can actually make things worse for you. Despite this, special education staff usually will not tell you. Why?

  • Special education teachers may see you as unapproachable once an advocate is involved.
  • They believe you will not listen to them or that the advocate will use their words against them.

By avoiding common advocacy mistakes you can avoid this problem.


The Cost of Services

Special education staff will rarely tell you that they can't pay for what you're asking. The IDEA mandates that services cannot be denied on the basis of cost, but special educators know the federal government has never provided sufficient funds to implement that requirement.

Special education staff wishes you knew that they have little, if any, say in the budget process. Knowing they can meet your child's needs in other ways, special education teachers often try to steer parents away from costly alternatives because they have to. IDEA requires schools to provide an appropriate education—not the best possible services.


An IEP Is a Snapshot of Your Child's Program

Special education teachers teach your child much more than what is on the IEP. The IEP includes specially designed instruction to address needs identified by the IEP team. Those important skills are just a small part of your child's overall program. To the maximum extent appropriate, special education teachers and mainstream education teachers will also work on the district's core curriculum standards in addition to the IEP.


The Mainstream Classroom Can't Do It All

Special education teachers often agree that most children can benefit from experiences in mainstream classrooms regardless of their disability. However, some children need to be educated in an environment where there are a lower student-teacher ratio and more flexibility. Special education classrooms can:

  • Provide more one-on-one attention;
  • Give your child a more private place to work on personal care skills;
  • Help avoid negative comments from peers who bully special education students about their academic weaknesses; and
  • Provide basic skills instruction in the higher grade levels when regular education classes cannot provide it.

Private Providers May Not Be Helpful

Most special education teachers listen to private practitioners and evaluate the information they provide. In some cases, however, private practitioners offer suggestions that special education teachers do not agree with. Here are some reasons advice is rejected:

  • The special education teachers believe they are already meeting your child's needs.
  • The provider's recommendations are not based on research.
  • The provider has no experience working in a classroom situation and lacks credibility.
  • The provider's recommendations may be inconsistent with state or local school board standards.

We Advocate for Your Child

Many special education teachers advocate for their students every day. Behind the scenes, they continually work to get the support your child needs to make it through the day.

Special education teachers negotiate with other teachers to get your child placed in the right classrooms and to ensure your child's needs are met. Special education teachers often buy materials with their own money and use their own time studying to find better ways to help your child and the school as a whole.


Special Education Teachers Are Experts

Special education teachers rarely brag about themselves. Most probably won't tell you that they have advanced degrees in their profession or participate in ongoing professional development training. Special education teachers won't tell you that they have the same level of training as teachers in private schools, and maybe more.

Special education teachers in many states are required to earn master's degrees. Teachers also must continue their professional development throughout their careers to maintain their certification. Many teachers are over-achievers and routinely earn more professional development hours than needed and voluntarily earn national certification, although it may not be required.


Teachers Believe Parents Are Important

Special education teachers know how critically important parents are in educating children with disabilities. All children benefit from parent involvement, and this is especially true for children with disabilities. Your opinions and support are vital to your child's success.

Special education teachers want and need your input and want to keep communication lines open between home and school. They also need your follow through on things they ask you to do at home to support your child. It will take both of you working diligently to help your child with a disability succeed.


Meetings Can Be Tough for Everyone

Special education teachers know that many parents are uncomfortable in IEP team meetings. Meetings can be difficult for special education teachers as well. Teachers know that team members are evaluating their work as they discuss the student's progress, and this can be uncomfortable. The number one rule for helping everyone cope with a difficult IEP team meeting is to focus on the child and his needs rather than the teacher.


Teachers Want Your Child to Succeed Too

Special education teachers really care about their students and want to see them succeed. They often choose their profession because they are compassionate people who want to make a difference in the lives of children. Teachers try to provide just enough support for their students to become successful.

They also know that too much support can impede a student's progress. Special education teachers try to balance this level of support and recognize that healthy challenges are important for a child's growth. Your child will struggle, and that is a necessary part of the learning process.

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