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Support For School Personnel and Parent Training:
Often Overlooked Keys To Success

by Susan J. Bardet, Esq.

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It's time for your son Ryan's annual IEP review, and you can't understand why Ryan is still receiving failing grades. Ryan is a 7th grader with ADHD. He receives pull-out resource help in math and language arts for one period a day.

Ms. White, the RSP teacher, chairs the IEP meeting and reports that Ryan is failing math, despite his extra assistance in resource.  Ms. Brown, the regular education math teacher, is attending her first IEP meeting for Ryan.  She tells the team that despite her desire to help Ryan, he just doesn’t look motivated, and seems to be daydreaming.  She sounds a bit irritated when she explains that she has many other students who seem to want her help, and that Ryan would do better if he just tried harder.

You start to panic and want to defend Ryan and lash out at Ms. Brown.  But all of a sudden it dawns on you that this young teacher doesn’t know a thing about ADHD.  You also realize that you could use some extra help.  After all, you and your husband are the ones who struggle with Ryan at night by helping him with math homework, and end up fighting out of frustration. 

Isn't there a better way?

Yes, there is. Pull out your copy of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition and turn to two important sections: support for school personnel and parent training (p.100, 201, 246).

Supports for School Personnel and Parent Training

20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(A) sets forth the components that must be included in an IEP.  The fourth section provides:

“(IV) a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child—
(aa) to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;
(bb) to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with subclause (I) and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and
(cc) to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this subparagraph;...”

Regulation 34 C.F.R. 300.320(a)(4) contains almost identical language.

In another regulation, 34 C.F.R. 300.34, different types of related services are defined.

Subsection (c)(8) defines parent counseling and training as:

“(i)… assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child;
(ii) Providing parents with information about child development; and

(iii) Helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP.”

What do these words mean?

The Official Comments to the Federal Regulations under IDEA, published in the March 12, 1999 Federal Register, (Volume 64, No. 48, at p. 12,406 et seq.), provide some insight.  Because both subsections in the 2006 Federal Regulations are virtually identical to the 1999 subsections, we look to the 1999 explanations for guidance.

Services to Parents & Teachers to Help Them Work More Effectively With the Child

Both subsections envision "services that are provided to the parents or teachers of a child with a disability to help them to more effectively work with the child" (at p. 12,593).

What kind of services does this include?

The Official Comments from 1999 state: "Supports for school personnel could also include special training for a child's teacher. However, in order for the training to meet the requirements of [former regulation] §300.347(a)(3) [now renumbered as 34 C.F.R.300.320], it would normally be targeted directly on assisting the teacher to meet a unique and specific need of the child, and not simply to participate in an inservice training program that is generally available within a public agency" (at p. 12,593).

The Official Comments to the Federal Regulations under IDEA 2004, published in the August 14, 2006 Federal Register (Volume 71, No. 156, at p. 46,539 et seq.), emphasize the importance of retaining the former language of the parent counseling and training regulations from 1999.  The Department of Education states that there should be “no question that parent counseling and training include helping parents acquire skills that will help them support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP” (at p. 46,573).

In other words, Ryan’s math teacher, Ms. Brown, needs support; specifically, training by the resource teacher or the school psychologist, in ADHD, how ADHD affects Ryan, and how Ryan can learn more effectively.

Communication Between Special Ed and Regular Ed Teacher

Regular communication between the resource teacher and the regular education teacher is important to make sure that these strategies are both properly implemented and effective for Ryan.  Support for Ms. Brown, and collaboration between Ms. White and Ms. Brown, are important services to benefit Ryan, and to enable Ryan to progress on his IEP goals and have access to the general curriculum.  Both services should be written into Ryan’s IEP, and be specific as to amount, frequency, and duration.

And what about you?

Parent Training: Learn to Be a More Active Participant in Your Child's Education

Think about how much more satisfying and effective your homework sessions would be if you could implement the strategies that the school finds successful! Initial and ongoing training for parents should also be written into Ryan's IEP. You may find that you will be helping Ryan translate word problems into more concrete, step-by-step math problems.

The Official Comments from 1999 also state: "The definition of 'parent counseling and training' should be changed to recognize the more active role acknowledged for parents under the IDEA Amendments of 1997 as participants in the education of their children.

" Parents of children with disabilities are very important participants in the education process for their children. Helping them gain the skills that will enable them to help their children meet the goals and objectives of the IEP or IFSP will be a positive change for parents, will assist in furthering the education of their children, and will aid the schools as it will create opportunities to build reinforcing relationships between each child's educational program and out-of-school learning" (emphasis added)(at p. 12,549).

Let's look at some other examples to see how these IEP services can be implemented.

Annie

Annie is a third grader who is developmentally delayed with a severe language impairment. She receives 1:1 pullout services from a speech and language therapist for 30 minutes, two times per week.

Her special day class teacher reports that Annie won't follow directions, and seems oppositional. What can you do?

Write to request an IEP meeting with the teacher and the speech and language therapist. Open a discussion about Annie's problems, and request parent training and collaboration between Annie's teacher and the speech and language therapist (not to replace direct speech services).

For example, the speech and language therapist could observe Annie in class and then work with the special day class teacher, for a set amount of time each week. The special day class teacher may be instructed to use fewer words, state clear one-step directions, speak more slowly, and allow sufficient time for Annie to process the directions. Using those guidelines, the teacher finds that Annie's behavior improves dramatically.

Has Annie changed?

No, not really--she now is able to understand what the teacher expects of her. The teacher has learned to change her approach, based upon training from an expert in communication.

If Annie has a 1:1 aide, the aide may receive support from the speech and language therapist by attending at least 1 therapy session weekly. Again, this should be included in the IEP.

You ask for and receive 30 minutes per month in parent training from the speech and language therapist. You review the speech exercises Annie is working on in speech therapy. In this way, you are able to practice and reinforce the receptive and expressive language exercises in the home environment.

John

John is eligible for special education under the category of other health impaired, due to a traumatic brain injury suffered when he was hit by a car. He has frontal lobe damage, which affects his impulsivity, judgment, organization, ability to process language and make inferences, skill integration, attention and memory.

John attends 8th grade regular education classes, with one period of resource help per day. His IEP looks comprehensive; it provides for resource support, assistance from a 1:1 aide to help him with attention during class, speech and language therapy, and a behavior plan. John's teachers don't understand why he is doing so poorly, as he "looks normal" and has an aide. John is sent to the office regularly for behavior problems. The real problem is that "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing".

What would help John?

Support for school personnel, along with parent training.

Fortunately, traumatic brain injury is not common. However, this means that many districts do not have the expertise in-house to teach the child's teachers about the disability and effective instructional techniques. In this case, support for school personnel may mean bringing in an outside expert in traumatic brain injury to train the staff in the nature of the disability and how it affects John. Who should be trained? John's regular education teachers, resource teacher, 1:1 aide, and others who would likely interact with John, such as the principal, vice principal in charge of discipline, and yard duty personnel (after all, John has problems with judgment and impulsivity).

After the initial training, someone needs to be in charge to pull together John's program. Depending upon the training and experience of personnel, either the resource teacher or the outside expert could be John's case manager. John has problems with skill integration, which means that although he may respond well 1:1, he has difficulty with new information presented in class.

Accordingly, responsibilities of the case manager could include:

1. Verifying that the speech and language therapist receives new vocabulary words from the regular education teachers so that the new words may be pre-taught.

2. Monitoring the work of the 1:1 aide, so that the aide is collaborating weekly with each regular education teacher to review the proposed curriculum, and to determine if adaptations need to be made for John.

3. Consulting weekly with RSP staff to make sure that John is using assignment sheets and developing checklists to help him with organization and homework.

4. Consulting with regular education teachers weekly at first, then fading to monthly, to make sure that instructional techniques of teachers and the 1:1 aide are effective for John, and if not, to modify them appropriately.

5. Consulting monthly with the school psychologist to review and evaluate behavior data, modify the behavior plan as needed, and coordinate the behavior plan with appropriate school personnel.

6. Collaborating with the mental health service provider so that John understands the nature of his disability.

7. Arranging for backup plans if assigned staff is absent. Also, as John misses school due to medical problems associated with his injury, coordinating with the assigned temporary home teacher so that John stays current with his school work.

8. Consulting monthly with parents so that parents can understand the nature of John's disability and be consistent with the behavioral approaches used by the school.

John's parents could also receive mental health counseling and/or family therapy to help them understand John's disability, and to acquire the communication and behavioral management skills necessary to help John achieve his IEP goals.

Lisa

Lisa is 12 years old. She is learning disabled in the area of reading and writing and has auditory processing problems. Lisa takes "Resource English", but she can't seem to keep up with her 6th grade social studies and science classes.

What kind of supports and supplementary services would help Lisa be successful?

Because Lisa has auditory processing problems, she has difficulty following the orally presented material in social studies and science. Her regular education teachers may need training in how Lisa's auditory processing difficulties affect her in the classroom, and how Lisa can learn more effectively.

The IEP should clearly designate who is responsible for the training. Just as important, the teacher may need help preparing visual cues so that Lisa has the visual prompts prior to or simultaneous with the presentation of the material to the class. When Lisa is in class, she will have a visual cue, such as an outline or a template, to follow along when the new material is presented to the class. The IEP must assign responsibility for preparation of these "supplementary aids and services". If the regular education teacher can't do this alone, he needs support, perhaps from the special education department. However, the task must be allocated, so all personnel will know who is responsible, the school will be accountable, and Lisa will have the materials she needs to be successful.

Parent training may also be useful, even for 10 minutes per month, so Lisa's parents know what techniques are being used, and can monitor Lisa's progress in all her classes, and carry over the techniques outside of school.

Ray

Ray is a high school sophomore who is emotionally disturbed. He attends a therapeutic day program, and is mainstreamed for art and science, with the help of a 1:1 aide. A functional analysis has been performed, and a behavior plan is in place.

The need for support for school personnel is clear: the IEP should provide for the behavioral case manager to train the 1:1 aide, the special day class teacher, and mainstream class teachers in Ray's behavior plan. In this way, they will be familiar with the antecedents to Ray's target behaviors and learn the proper positive interventions to encourage development of the positive replacement behaviors. The aide will also receive training in data collection in several settings, so that the behavioral case manager will have the necessary data to evaluate the behavior plan.

Ray's parents would benefit from parent training in the behavior plan, and have clear guidelines to follow in the event they see Ray's target behaviors in the home setting. Ray will benefit by having consistent behavioral approaches and feedback at school and at home. In addition, Ray's parents would likely participate in parent counseling regarding Ray's emotional disturbance.

Cindy

Cindy is an eight year old girl who has epilepsy. Due to the nature of her seizures, she is considered medically fragile. She has an individual health plan as part of her IEP.

Cindy is fully included. Although her anti-seizure medicine is kept at school with clear instructions, the classroom teacher is very uncomfortable because she really doesn't know much about seizures. The teacher just wishes Cindy would transfer to a "county class" or stay at home with home instruction.

Cindy's parents become aware that the teacher, due to her own discomfort, wants the IEP team to change Cindy's placement. At the IEP meeting, the team discusses the need for support for Cindy's teacher. The special education director invites the Epilepsy Foundation to conduct a training session for Cindy's teacher, school administrators, and a new classroom aide, who will be present so that two adults are always in the classroom. Because of the supports put in place, Cindy is able to remain in the least restrictive environment.

As parents of a medically fragile child, Cindy's parents may need parent training and counseling to balance the demands of a medically fragile child with the child's need for normalcy.

Conclusion

By making sufficient use of support for school personnel and parent training, IEP teams can use the tools provided by IDEA to help children succeed. Teachers, special education personnel, service providers, and parents need to work closely together to understand the child's disability, recognize how the disability affects the child's educational performance, and collaborate to meet the child's educational needs.

Note: The complete text of IDEA 2004 and the special education regulations are in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition.

The complete text of the commentary to the special education regulations can be found at http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/commentary.htm

Copyright © 2008 Susan J. Bardet, Attorney at Law. Please do not reprint without permission.

 

Revised 04/21/10

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Meet Susan J. Bardet

Susan J. Bardet is a private attorney in San Mateo, California, who represents families in special education matters in Northern California.

A member of the State Bar of California since 1978, Ms. Bardet is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a national special education advocacy organization, and secretary of the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy (CAPCA), a California special education advocacy organization. She also leads her local special education association, Northern California Attorneys and Advocates.

She lectures to parent groups about special education law, as well as conducts trainings in special education law to professionals who perform assessments or provide services on behalf of special needs children.

Ms. Bardet received her B.A. in 1973 from Reed College (Phi Beta Kappa) and her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1978, graduating with honors. She has served on the board of directors of a number of nonprofit organizations, including one devoted to providing services to mentally disabled individuals and one which focuses on mediation and community engagement. She has been recognized several times by the San Francisco Bar Association for her special education advocacy.

Contact Information

Susan J. Bardet, Esq.
15 N. Ellsworth Avenue, Suite #211
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 340-9243



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