Feeling Guilty About Asking For Special Ed Services? Remember the Domino Effect
by Pat Howey, Advocate
Many parents feel guilty about asking the school to provide a specific service or device for their child. If your child needs a particular service or device, it is unlikely that he or she is the only child who has this need.
When you achieve a new benefit, program, or related service for your child, the "system" will often find
other children who will also benefit from what it is required
to provide for your child to justify its actions.
I call this the domino effect. Schools call it opening
Lessons from Our Due Process Hearing
In 1987, we requested a due process hearing for our child. During and after the hearing, welearned several important lessons including how it benefitted other children.
when we requested a due process hearing for our child, one issue was whether she needed a laptop computer. (This was before
the term assistive technology was in the law). In
settlement negotiations during the hearing, the school agreed to provide
However, the school did
not purchase one computer - it purchased three computers. Two other children
benefited from what were able to obtain for our child.
After the school crossed that bridge, many other children have received laptop computers to assist
them in their education.
Adapted Physical Education
second issue in our hearing was whether my child required Adapted Physical Education
(APE). At the time of our hearing in 1987, APE was not provided to
any child in the entire county. The hearing officer ruled that my
child did require adapted physical education.
When the next school year began, the school had hired a physical education teacher with a masters
degree in adapted physical education. Since 1988, APE has been provided
to hundreds of children in our county.
Direct Physical Therapy (PT) & Occupational Therapy (OT)
third issue in our due process hearing was whether my child needed direct Physical Therapy
(PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT).
At the time of our due process hearing, the
school contracted with one physical and occupational therapist for six
hours a week. Children who needed PT or OT received these services through a "consultation" model. A
gross motor aide who was paid minimum wage and who was
required to have a General Equivalency (GED) or High School
diploma (but who had no training in PT or OT) provided children with exercises.
The hearing officer ruled
that my child required direct PT and OT services.
As a result, since 1988, hundreds
of children in our county have received direct services from Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA),
and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA).
The school has
at least two full time physical and occupational therapists on staff
during the year.
Many, many children now receive direct PT and
OT services. Some continue to receive "exercises"
from a gross motor aide, probably because their parents do not know
what their children are receiving.
Strong Parent Advocacy Leads to Changes in the System
Our due process hearing was well publicized. It was open to the public, with television cameras and radio reporters in attendance. We invited parents to attend, so they could see what an actual hearing was all about.
After our hearing, six more parents requested hearings. Some cases were settled. Others went to hearing. Many other parents filed successful state and OCR complaints.
The voters in our county elected several new new school board members. Two superintendents eventually retired or resigned. The special ed director chose early retirement
do not recommend that all parents take public stances in their disputes with their schools. This is an individual decision that each parent
must make, based on the issues and facts of their own case.
In 1987, my child was in the second grade. None of her friends read
the paper or watched the news. The publicity had little impact on
her. Had she been older, our decision to go public in our dispute
with the school may have been different to protect her privacy.
For those parents who have strong family support and the courage to publicize
their special ed issues, your bravado can provide a valuable learning experience
for other parents of children with special needs.
You will make some
enemies. You will make some new friends. You will learn who your true friends are.
In the fall of 2000, thirteen years after our due process hearing, I met a retired teacher who recalled our hearing. She thanked me. As a direct result of our hearing, she was able to obtain services for her children she had never been able to obtain before.
parent advocacy does make a systemic impact. Sometimes the impact is greater than you know.
However, individual advocacy is a slow, slow
process. This process has taught me more about patience than any
other experience in my life.
Thats why I continue to go through
life Changing the World One Child at a Time.
Pat Howey is an Indiana advocate
who has helped parents obtain special education services
for their children with disabilities since 1986. She also helps
parents resolve special education disputes with their school districts.
(If Pat cannot assist you, she will refer you to attorneys for legal
advice and assistance.)
Pat is active in several legal and advocacy organizations including The
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. She is the author
of many articles that are featured in Ask the Advocate.
Pat is a member of the Wrightslaw
Speakers Bureau. She provides special education advocacy
training for parents, educators, and others who want to ensure that
children receive quality special education services. Her training programs
are designed to meet the needs of parents, educators, health care
providers, advocates, and attorneys who represent children with
Special Education Consulting
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time."
© 2005 Pat Howey