Roles of Families & Students
IDEA '04 stresses the importance of involving families of students with disabilities in the IEP process. The IEP process itself can help develop partnerships among parents and extended family members, schools, and professionals (Sopko, 2003). The importance of these partnerships cannot be overestimated (Dabkowski, 2004).
When parent involvement is high, student alienation is lower and student achievement is enhanced (Brown, Paulsen, & Higgins, 2003; Dworetzky, 2004). Educators need to recognize, however, that many parents believe the schools control the special education process. Too many families feel disenfranchised or confused about rules, regulations, and the purpose of special education (Cartledge, Kea, & Ida, 2000). Most parents want to participate in their children's education, but sometimes they do not understand the educational system.
Also, families often need help to participate effectively in IEP meetings and in the resulting individualized programs (Tornatzky, Pachon, & Torres, 2003). Here are some tips teachers can give parents to help them be better prepared for participation in IEP meetings (Buehler, 2004):
- Make a list of important questions to ask IEP team members.
- Outline points to make about your child's strengths.
- Bring records regarding your child's needs.
- Ask for clarification.
- Be assertive and proactive, but not aggressive or reactive.
- Listen and compromise.
- Remain involved with professionals.
- Know about placement and service options, and explore each with the team.
For families who do not speak English well enough to understand the complicated language used to talk about special education issues, participation may seem impossible (Hughes, Valle-Riestra, & Arguelles, 2002). In such instances, schools must welcome family members and people from the community who are fluent in the family's native language and also knowledgeable about the special education process and procedural safeguards guaranteed them through IDEA '04. The law encourages the family's maximal participation, so it requires schools to find interpreters to the extent possible. Remember, it is the obligation of educators to include parents and students and to inform them about the efforts that will be made on their behalf.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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