Dear Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities

About Tracie Happel

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

Dear Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities,

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat in an IEP and watched your faces as the team discusses the strengths and weaknesses of your child from an academic viewpoint. I can see the fear, confusion, worry, and sometimes, anger on your face. I can feel your tension from the minute you walk into the room, until the time you resign yourself to the fact that you have no idea what is going on and it seems “the team” is describing someone else’s child.

Granted, not every parent I have interacted with fits this description, but most do. And if that is you, this is for you.

Please know, as your child’s special education teacher, I see your child for who he is. I see his abilities much more than his weaknesses. And when I ask you to tell me about your child’s strengths, I know you are overwhelmed and intimidated, and are grasping for words to feel like you’re being fair and adequate to your baby. Please know, I know your child to be caring because I see him sharing his pencils and notebook paper with his friends. I see how tech-savvy he is because when YouTube is not working, he’s the first one to pop up and offer to problem solve. I get to experience your daughter’s tenacity when she spells the same word wrong again and again, but comes up with new ways to memorize the correct way to spell it. I see her heart when her friend asks her in the hallway why she goes to a “special” class and she tells her friend it’s because she learns differently and it’s okay (plus, she’s got the “coolest teacher in the school!” – her words).

I would love to help you through the IEP process, but unfortunately, in my district, we are not allowed to help you because then you may want more for your child, and that would cost the district money. So here I am, not in that district anymore, and not in your district and telling you what you can do to make the process easier for your and better for your child.

First of all, please believe that you know your child better than ANY ONE in that meeting. Any one. Do not forget that, and do not back down. You’re the one who hears your child’s fears, hopes, and dreams and you’re the one who knows his every move that drives you nuts at the same time you love him for it. You held him while sick, you yelled at him while he was stupid. You know your child, you know what is best for her, and we are just there to support you. That belief alone will get you far. I’m not saying you have to go into the meeting on the defense, I’m saying go in there knowing you more about your child than we do.

You know your child, you know what is best for her Click To Tweet

When you’re asked what you want to see your child doing in school, what goals you want, be real. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, remember you know your child. Maybe you don’t know the language the people around the table are using, but you know what your child can and can’t do. Be honest, up front, and real. We will listen. We want to listen; we want to make learning as close to his abilities as possible. When someone on the team talks about achieving a learning goal, ask how someone is going to prove to you he’s on track with it. Make it real. Make it work for your child, and for you.

The hard part is the law. Schools and teachers have to follow VERY strict federal laws when it comes to IEPs. I’ll be honest, a lot of administrators aren’t very up on what the law actually means and how it may affect your child. But in the end, you are the parent, you get to control the meeting and the goals for your child. Please do not be afraid, overwhelmed, confused, worried, or angry. Just be yourself, and be your child’s advocate. Ask questions. We are there for you. Your tax dollars pay our salary; we work for you. We want your child to have a great learning experience and we want your child to succeed. We need you in the mix to make that happen.

you are the parent, you get to control the meeting and the goals for your child. Click To Tweet

If you have any questions about the paper work we send you prior ot the meeting, call me and ask. If you have any questions during the meeting, ask. We want you to understand. If you have questions after the meeting, call or come back to school to ask. I want to help you, I want to make sure you feel okay about everything we talked about and decided on. I am always there for you, and your child.

Very kind regards,
Your Child’s Special Education Teacher

 

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By | 2016-11-06T21:38:35+00:00 November 10th, 2016|Featured, Parents, Special Education|1 Comment

About the Author:

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

One Comment

  1. Marita November 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    In California it is against the law to prevent a teacher from advocating for what is best for special education students. We are supposed to assist parents, including helping to write letters, but cannot use instruction time, only time that is otherwise available. That said, there will be repercussions if you speak up – but you can fight it. When told that I must “act appropriately at IEP meetings” in a write-up, I filed a Civil Rights complaint. I am now left alone and I continue to speak up.

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