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Successful Advocacy from a Special Ed Teacher

by Wrightslaw

We often hear success stories from parents. But here’s a good one from a special ed teacher that we wanted to share with you.

I am a very busy special education teacher in a private school. I attend all conferences with parents so that the district knows we are informed and won’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

Recently, I attended a meeting for one of my private students. The district had previously denied resource room services to this student, although he was receiving occupational therapy and counseling.

This mother, following my very specific instructions, had kept an excellent record of all correspondence with the district. Request for evaluation had been made in early October. The conference took place in late February, after I had called and informed them that the district was out of compliance.

Strike 1: The day of the scheduled meeting was very rainy and windy. A district representative called the mother and told her that she shouldn’t bother to come because they weren’t going to give the child services anyway. The mother called me, hysterical, and I assured her we were going to the meeting, and that the district had just gotten on my bad side. I had about an hour before the meeting, so I got out my handy IDEA handbook and did a quick read through looking for points that I might need to bring out during the conference.

Strike 2: We were kept waiting for more than an hour while the team that had been assigned to us got everything back together after believing that we weren’t coming.

Once we were called into the conference room, the team had to scrounge around to locate a parent member that was free, and took out their paperwork. I noted that the page of the IEP stating that no Resource Room intervention was being offered had already been filled out. Hmmm…I recall that the parent is supposed to have a say in things……and that brings us to strike three.

Strike 3: Reports were read, and occupational therapy and resource room services were denied. The school psychologist, trying to play “good guy”, turned to me and said that I should give him any reason….any reason at all….that this child should receive services…and he would try to help. Very calmly, I stated that just because the child performed at what they considered an adequate level when in a 1:1 situation didn’t mean that he was performing in a classroom setting. So I asked to hear the results of the classroom observation.

Side out! Everyone looked at each other as if someone was hiding the observation in his or her back pocket. It had never been done. At that point, I gather my things together and informed the team that the parent and I would be happy to return when the evaluation was complete.

Almost six weeks later, we attended another meeting with a different team. Not only did we receive resource room services, we were also given occupational therapy and counseling services as well.

Being that the district was so out of compliance, we have now requested summer make-up sessions for counseling and occupational therapy.

Thank you for teaching me to have a cool head and a perceptive ear.


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13 Comments on "Successful Advocacy from a Special Ed Teacher"

Sharon L.

Lorraine – The only way I know of a special ed child being able to get services from a private school is if the IEP team believes that that is the correct placement for your child to meet the child’s IEP goals. In other words, if the school cannot meet specific IEP goals but the private school can and is one of the only options to do that than the school would have to pay for that option. You have to prove that this is the best option for your son. I would have to say that for the most part this would have to be done via a due process lawsuit and you may still not get the private school placement even if you prevail. This is a tough situation because in my experience private placement has always provided better education than any public school.


Enjoyed your article and have a couple of questions. My son has dyslexia and also attends private school. I was informed by our school district that since my son attends private school that they would not provide him any services at all and that I would put him in public school before anything else would be considered. I was therefore surprised to read from you that you are a special ed teacher in a private school and yet you are able to get services from the school district. I would love to get more information as to what section in the law states that a district must provide services even when the child is in private school. Everything I have read in the IDEA specifically says that children in private school are not entitled to public services. Your thoughts and comments and ideas would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Lorraine


I have a dyslexia child and their reading on a 4th grade level and his is in the 7th grade with accommodations. He is receiving READ 180 (RTI) program and is still behind. I requested in writing a classroom observation, which was done by the superintendent of secondary education. Here’s the catch the class was watching a movie so you could not possibly had done a proper observation if you do not view them doing the Read 180 program. My child needs a one on one Orton-Gillingham program so that we could close the gap. Who could I request from the outside to do a classroom observation. I have been reading An incurable disease by Robert W. Sweet Jr. Should I file a complaint with the state. What could I do? He is progress of receiving a laptop, with the following software Mavis Beacon, Word Q, Speak Q, inspiration.


i am thinking about becoming a special ed teacher when i grow up. and im doing a report about this career chose right now.


I really loved this article. The teacher showed knowledge of the special education law, calmness under stress, and was helpful to the parent. I wanted to share an article on the same topic titled “Fighting the Good Fight: How to Advocate for Your Student Without Losing Your Job” by Rick Lavoie. I thought he made some good points too.

“Successful Advocacy by a Special Education Teacher” was especially enjoyable to read because she kept a sense of humor throughout the tough process.