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Teacher working with student IEP

The number of students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is increasing steadily. When children went back to school in the fall of 2014 (the most recent year statistics are available) 6.5 million qualified for special educational services. Most are enrolled in mainstream classrooms, which means parents, teachers and administrators must work together to ensure the classroom environment is fine-tuned for individual needs.

Challenges for Teachers and Parents

Not every teacher has the skills necessary to balance the individual needs of multiple students effectively, and parents may face obstacles in getting children the support they need. These teacher-approved tips can help smooth the process:

Just the Facts

A fact-based conversation is far more likely to lead to positive results than a highly emotional discussion. Avoid language that sounds accusatory. Instead, state the desired support and how you want the actual situation handled. For example:

My child’s IEP states that when she becomes upset, frustrated or angry, she will be permitted to take a quiet space or movement break. Yesterday, she became frustrated with her work. However, she was not permitted to take a break. Instead, she was required to remain in her seat.

This “just the facts” approach reduces the likelihood of a defensive response from the teacher, and increases the possibility that you can work together on problem-solving.

A Collaborative Approach

When your communications are inclusive of the challenges the teacher is facing, your feedback is more likely to be received with an open mind. In the example above, a teacher may explain that he is aware of the IEP direction. However, the aide responsible for supervising student breaks was not available. Consider framing your response like this:

I understand how challenging it must be to accommodate student breaks when the classroom is short-staffed. What tools and resources would be helpful in preventing this situation in the future?

Escalate With Caution

Under most circumstances, your child will remain in the same classroom for the remainder of the school year. Therefore, if you require intervention from the administration, position your request in a non-threatening manner. This protects your family’s relationship with the teacher. For example:

I would like to get the principal involved so we can be sure you have the resources you need to support my child’s IEP.

As more children struggle with academic, social and/or behavioral disorders, one fact is certain: teachers are facing unprecedented challenges as they balance the needs of individual students with the needs of their classes as a whole. The more effective you can communicate your child's needs, the more likely you are to get the help you need from teachers and school administration.

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