Are you a parent of a student receiving special education? Are you confused? If you answered yes, you should know that you are not alone, and that there is help out there to assist you! That is in fact, the reason that I am developing this blog. I want to help every day people, just like you, who are struggling with the intricacies of special education, if at all possible!!!
I have been involved in special education in the state of NH, in some shape or form, since 1992. I began my journey by receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders from the University of New Hampshire, and then I became a certified special education teacher. I was then awarded my Master’s Degree in Special Education, again from UNH. Go Blue!!! I have been a special education teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I worked at a private independent boarding school for many years, and was the Assistant Director of the Instructional Support program there, as well as being a teacher, dorm parent, coach, advisor, and Team Leader. I was the education coordinator at a short term residential shelter for boys involved with the courts in juvenile delinquent cases. I was a Disabilities Services Specialist at a community college, working with adults with learning disabilities, and was an adjunct professor who taught special education courses. For the last few years, I have gained significant experience at the state level while working on behalf of the students involved with the courts in abuse, neglect, delinquency and CHINS (child in need of services) cases. I develop and give trainings all across the state about special education, court involved students, and parental rights. All the while long, I have done private work as a tutor and special education advocate for students and families.
My career has been dedicated to assisting children and families involved in special education, and making sure that the individual needs of each child are met in the most appropriate ways. Over the years, I have found that many school districts work exceptionally hard to do what is appropriate for kids, while there are many others that struggle to provide appropriate services, whether it be due to funding issues, inexperienced or undertrained teachers, or other system wide stressors. Some things have become crystal clear to me over this time.
The first thing is that the special education system is EXTREMELY CONFUSING to the average parent, and most schools do not do enough to assist parents with understanding it. Secondly, many parents and schools simply do not communicate well with each other. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Sometimes, the parents’ own “school phobia” gets in the way. In some instances, schools are not as empathetic as they need to be in dealing with what could be very sensitive issues for parents and their children. Another reason for this lack of communication is that parents are easily intimidated by some school district staff, and are afraid to say anything to them, even when they are in disagreement. Thirdly, many special education teachers in the field do not have a thorough understanding of the special education laws and rules, and albeit unknowingly, do and say things they shouldn’t, or lead the parents down the wrong path, etc.
Because of this, I have decided to try and assist parents and families in navigating this maze of special education, and to also try to get schools and parents to work together more smoothly on behalf of the children involved. This blog is meant to be a place for people to discuss issues, and hopefully learn some helpful hints along the way, as either a parent or a teacher/professional. Future posts will touch on IEP’s, evaluations, strategies for at home, sharing resources, etc.