Successful Advocacy from a Special Ed Teacher

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. What is resource room? Is it same as being taken out of regular class to meet with reading specialist for 40 minutes?

    Joshua is in 6th grade and reads at about a 1-2 grade level. He has TBI and receives Special Education Services.

  7. I am a new Special Education Resource Room teacher. Recently at an IEP the team informed the parent that her child in CI and that we do not have a self-contained classroom for her therefore she must transfer to a district. We wrote the IEP for the new district, the parents took it home to review, and called to say that they were not going to sign it. The administrator, who was at all the meetings, decided to offer the child 15 hours of resource room services. Is this legal? Should we have provided the child other services? Can we legally tell a parent to send child to another district?

  8. As a special ed teacher, and an advocate, I frequently receive frantic phone calls from parents who have been told things at IEP meetings that are absolutely nonsensical. Last week, a parent called me in tears because her son, who is in a self-contained public school program, had an IEP meeting at which the parent was told that when a child goes into junior high, all related services are automatically cut back!

    The team proceeded to enforce the new limitations before the parent even signed the new IEP. I asked the parent to make a phone call and find out where this “new” policy was written so we could read it. Naturally, there was no response to this request.

    I then had mom call another district with a self-contained junior high class and inquire if that district (in the same city) had such a policy. Of course not. I then called a local junior high and spoke with an assistant principal in the special ed department. No such policy.

    I am happy to report that all services have been restored and the new IEP has been signed. If they can’t show it to you in writing – it isn’t policy – it’s just a way to decrease services by intimidation.

    Thanks, Pete and Pam. I never could have done it without you.

  9. Veronica, you write , “I will be servicing this child as a Reading Interventionist under 504, and not as a Special Educator.” Does this mean you wear two hats? Are you a “reading interventionist” for children who will receive instruction under 504 and a special educator for children who receive instruction under IDEA? What specialized training have you had in a research based reading program?

    If this little boy has an IQ of 76 or 126, he needs to learn to read.
    He spent two years in Kindergarten and is failing 1st grade.

    How many red flags have to go off before the adults stop quibbling about categories and put their energy into finding a good reading teacher who can teach this child to read?

    I have a few more questions.

    What research based method is being used to teach him to read?

    How much training has the reading teacher had in that research based reading method?

    How much supervision does the reading teacher have in that research based reading method?

    How much training has the supervisor had in that research based reading method?

    If you want to learn more about these issues, please read the articles about reading by Sue Whitney Heath in Doing Your Homework:

    This little boy CAN learn to read if he is taught by a highly skilled reading teacher. Teaching him to read will be more difficult as he gets older. He will lose confidence in himself and in teachers. The window of opportunity in learning to read will lose in a few more years.

    This child can learn to read. Is anyone willing to expend the effort necessary to teach him?

  10. I am a special educator in an independent school district. I attended a meeting for a student who will receive 504 services in Reading/Language Arts.

    The child was retained and repeated Kindergarten, He failed the first six weeks of first grade. When he was evaluated for special education, he had an IQ of 76 which is within the range of where he is performing.

    He was not eligible to receive special education
    services for Reading/Language Arts. He receives speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy from the special ed department.

    I will be servicing this child as a Reading Interventionist under 504, and not as a special educator. What are my responsibilities?

  11. PT: Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you mentioned that educators are frustrated by these same issues, and how limitations in finances and resources affect your work. And thanks for being so open-minded in wanting to know parents’ concerns. ~ Pam

  12. I have been a special educator for 30 years. I just found Wrightslaw this year. I find it so useful to be able to read and hear about what parents of children with special needs are thinking and feeling. As educators we are often frustrated by the budget and resource limitations that stand in the way of providing innovative individualized educational programs for students. I know this is frustrating for the parents as well. Often parents don’t share with us things that they might share with other parents. This forum has opened that door for me. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *