Every IEP has a section called "Supports for School Personnel and Parent Training".
Maybe yours is titled just a little bit different because of the IEP program your district uses to write the IEP, but I promise you, it's there.
I love this section of the IEP. It can bring us together as a team. It can make sure that nobody fails a student due to "not knowing". It's the one place where we can truly be proactive in a child's education to make sure everything is as accessible as possible.
We can use this area in many different ways. From healthcare training for students who have special diets to helping a team fully understand how a diagnosis of ADHD might effect a child in a general education classroom.
We can also use this area for safety and behavior training, which is top of mind for me right now as I lead Master IEP Coaches® in how to support students going back to school in the Fall.
We've been out of school for way too long. So much is going to be changed when we go back. New rules for what we have to wear (Masks?), where we need to sit (hello, social distancing) and how we interact (goodbye extra high fives in the hallway).
The section for Supports for School Personnel and Parent Training exists to do a few things for every student:
- Help advance appropriately toward attaining annual goals
- Help to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum
- Help to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities
- Help to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and non-disabled children in activities
- Provide Parent Counseling and Training as needed to help parents acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child's IEP
In 1999 the courts gave some clarification of what this section can do for a child. They said: "Supports for school personnel could also include special training for a child's teacher. However, in order for the training to meet the requirements, 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".
So here's what this means for you. Whether you are a parent or teacher or you have another role on the IEP team, YOU don't have to be at the mercy of not being educated to help your child or students access their education.
So let's go back to the topic of behavior plans. Does your child or student have one? Is the entire team clear on how to use the plan? This means everyone who might need training, from the lunch supervisor to the front office staff.
This section in IDEA law does not say "teachers" get training. It states school "personnel". This is big because many of the things that go wrong in a child's day happen because not everyone was in the loop of how to support a child.
Just do a simple google search of the key words "child with autism in handcuffs at school". You'll be sad to see all the articles pop up. If you read through most of the stories, the child was not being supported properly before an incident escalated. Police were called. Most police are not trained on how to work with children with disabilities. The situations continue get out of control and damage is done by scaring a child with handcuffs.
I personally had a family that I worked with for over 10 years and just when you thought we made it to the finish line, Senior year, the police were almost called. The student had just turned 18 and this made the situation even more intense. This young man has an extremely high IQ, he's on the Autism spectrum, and has a temper that is quick to go into overdrive. I can't remember exactly what triggered the incident on this day, but I remember frantic calls and texts from this boy's mother telling me that her son made a statement out of anger about hurting students and the school. Her son was legally an adult and Autism doesn't get him any passes when it comes to the law.
Thank goodness we had worked together closely with the school for years. The staff knew her son and that includes the office staff. Think about it. Many times when students are misbehaving or in trouble, they have to go to the office, but the people in the office aren't trained to help the student.
So when this student was ranting in the office, the staff knew who to call and how to help deescalate the situation. Cops weren't called. His most trusted team members were brought in immediately. His mom was called. His private psychiatrist was called. He was surrounded by people who could help.
This is the plan that can be put into your child's or student's IEP. Whether your child is known to elope, speak bad words, or just flat out refuse to follow the rules and routines, we can work together to make sure your child is safe and supported.
We can make sure their unique needs are looked at through a microscope to make sure they don't miss out on their education because we weren't prepared.
We can build a support plan that does everything possible to make sure that police are not called for an outburst or because your child has runaway from campus.
A child cannot receive an appropriate education if they are not safe first.
First and foremost, this means everyone needs to know how to communicate effectively with your child.
Second, school personnel must know if there are specific rewards, motivators or resources that need to be used if they are interacting with a child in both a positive and negative situation.
Third, they need to be informed on what to do in times of crisis. Does chasing the child when they elope make the child run faster? Does threatening to call home for breaking the rules fuel the child to break more rules? Everyone needs to know. It's critical.
And last, if you don't know what to do, it's time to get someone into the school that has the expertise that you need. This section for School Personnel and Parents to be trained is NOT limited to the district's current resources. If you need help from a trained Behavior Expert to work on the plan or a trained Communication Expert (speech therapist or AAC expert) to help everyone understand how to communicate with a child, speak up. You can help make this happen.
Do you need help getting a plan in writing or getting an expert into your district to help with training? Do you want to fix this for your own children or students and then help others? Join me in the next Master IEP Coach mentorship at www.masterIEPcoach.com
NOTE: Catherine is not a lawyer and is not giving legal advice. She is sharing with you her experiences and her understanding of how special education law can be used to support a student. All decisions are your own.