Tag Archives: administrator

Preventing SpEd Jargon from Impeding Agreements

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this post.

Source: Bob Cotter via Flickr

All too often in special education, those of us who have been working at it professionally for more than a few years have increased our vocabularies to include terms of art, acronyms, and legally significant phrases that mean a whole lot to us, but not a whole lot to professionals new to the field and parents. I find that a lot of my job as a lay advocate is translating SpEd-Speak into plain language.

It was actually during a case I’ve been working with a family that moved to the U.S. from Thailand that brought this point home for me. I found that by simplifying my language for the benefit of the translator, who knew nothing of special education, I made it lot easier for everyone else in the room to follow the logic of what I was saying. The meeting was also attended by the school district’s lawyer, who was actually pretty awesome once she realized what was going on. It was one of the most amicable and constructive IEP meetings in which I’ve participated in a while.

What I found worked best was to use simple language to communicate with most of the IEP team members, then sum up my point to counsel for the district in language she would appreciate in light of the regulations and the applicable science, if needed. In the end, what we figured out was that our 9th grade client qualified for special education as having autistic-like behaviors pursuant to 5 CCR Sec. 3030(g) and that his speech-language impairments for which he had originally been found eligible were features of his autistic-like tendencies as well as bilingualism coming from an Eastern tonal language to English.

I already knew from experience that throwing a bunch of jargon at people during a meeting where you’re trying to make things happen is not particularly constructive if any of them are unfamiliar with the lingo. Having non-English speaking clients only made the point more vivid. But, then I ran across an article in an old issue of Entrepreneur magazine that drove the point home even more, and, combined with my prior knowledge, inspired this blog post and corresponding podcast.

Click to Tweet: Throwing jargon around in IEP meetings is not constructive if the other people are unfamiliar with the lingo. #kps4parents

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20 Important Tips to Good Advocacy

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I’ve recently had to come to the terms with the reality that’s there is only one me, there are only 24 hours in a day, and each lifetime is a unique thing that will never happen again once it has ended. I realized that I had made so many personal sacrifices to single-handedly pursue KPS4Parents’s mission with very little hands-on support (though tons of emotional support, the value of which I truly appreciate) because of our limited resources, that I was going to eventually put myself in harm’s way if things didn’t change.

This organization was never meant to be a “one-man band.” It started out with two of us; our founder, Nyanza Cook, and me. However, in 2006, Nyanza became ill and I took over her caseload. She remained ill and I took over the organization. She’s okay now and remains the chair of our board of directors.

In 2006, I had 40 kids on my caseload and several of their cases went to due process and on to federal court appeals after that. My daughter was in 5th grade and I was involved with Girl Scouts. I have no idea how I survived the 2006-07 school year. My pace was frenetic at the time, something I just can’t do anymore.

KPS4Parents is now undergoing a reorganization to account for the changes that have happened since we first opened our virtual doors in 2003. Next fiscal year (starting July 1, 2012) will begin our tenth year of operations, which is hard to believe.

The changes we’re making are necessary to adapt to the changing needs of our clients, blog followers, and the public education system as its evolution starts to finally build some momentum. It’s only a matter of time, now, until technology finally takes hold of public education the way it revolutionized large-scale business and industry 30 years ago.

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Smiling Assassins, Lawless Renegades, and Pseudo-Psychologists

Smiling AssassinConnecticut special education attorney, Jennifer Laviano, posted some excellent content on her blog, titled, “Unseemly IEP Team Members,” in an effort to educate parents about some of the negative types of personalities they can encounter from their local school districts at IEP meetings. As Ms. Laviano states in her post, these descriptions do not account for all district personnel; just those who engage in inappropriate conduct.

Even though the personalities she describes only account for a handful of “bad guys,” the non-compliant and/or substantively inappropriate actions of one district employee is often enough to derail the best efforts being made by the ethical district members of the team. To make things worse, most parents don’t know enough about the science or the law of special education to always know when they’re getting shafted. This makes it important for parents to educate themselves.

I want to focus on three particular personality types that Ms. Laviano describes in her posting because I’ve encountered individuals such as these relatively recently and have had to deal with each in a particular manner. One thing to note is that it is possible for a single individual to fit more than one of these negative personality types.
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Teachers Who Cheat & Why They Do It

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The whole country has been watching the shameful activities that have been going on in Atlanta, GA, for weeks now and my point in today’s posting isn’t to repeat what’s already been said ad nauseam about the Atlanta achievement score cheating scandal. My point today is to acknowledge the reality that people from all walks of life cheat and that public education is not exempt from this sordid side of human nature.

That’s not anything I haven’t said before, but I’m hoping that the enormity of what has been identified in Atlanta thanks to tenacious investigative journalism will help drive this point home for the people who have heard me over the years but didn’t really believe that things can get that bad, much less on such a huge scale. In a way, I feel kind of vindicated, though this is totally the kind of thing about which I wish I could be proven wrong. The world would be a much better place if I was just a hysterical nut-ball falsely accusing the sky of falling instead of the truth being what it really is.

And, the truth is that there are lots of teachers who cheat. Granted, I don’t think they make up the majority of teachers. Even in Atlanta Public Schools, which is a huge school district with thousands of employees, it was only about 250 educators who were implicated in the achievement score fraud, which dates back to at least 2001.

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Brilliant Parody of What Really Goes On!

Wrightslaw posted this video on their Facebook page and my nervous system went haywire when I saw it. I didn’t know whether to laugh or retch, so I was wracked with spasms as I watched it.

Created by the special ed law firm Frankel & Kershenbaum (http://davefrankel.com), this video is “A satirical and slightly sarcastic look at a typical conversation between the parent of a child with special needs and an official from the school district who isn’t quite getting it.”

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Special Ed: A Career or a Cause?

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Today’s post title poses a question, but I have to admit it’s rhetorical. Special education is a cause, not a career path. That isn’t to say that careers don’t evolve during the pursuit of the cause, but career-building actions are taken because they are appropriate to see the cause served, not specifically because of the career-building potential that taking such actions serve. Basically, it’s a matter of doing what is right because it’s the right thing to do and the accolades and compensations will automatically follow.

Working in any helping industry is about rendering the appropriate kinds of help to see the needs of one’s constituents served. You provide an appropriate behavior intervention plan to a child because it will help that child become a more successful human being, which directly benefits the child and society as a whole. Do it consistently enough with enough children and before long, people regard you as a behavior expert.

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