Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Education in the News!!

Some very interesting stories hit the newspapers this past week. The two I was most interested in were in the Union Leader, and hit on two very important points for parents of children with special needs and for those concerned with the needs of “regular ed” kids…..class size and appropriate programming for kids with “emotional disturbance”.

Parents of children with special needs sometimes have difficulty working with schools around “appropriate programming”. The special education law provides for education that meets “the unique needs” of the individual. Too often, children are placed in a certain program in the school based on their identification….ie. kids who are “emotionally disturbed” attend the “ED program” at the school, as is the case in the UL article concerning behavior. But the one size fits all approach is not appropriate…….putting a bunch of kids with different needs and characteristics in a room and using the same teaching and behavioral approach with all of them does not work!!! For students with significant needs, the most appropriate program may be an out of district alternative school that can better individualize services for kids. Parents need to know that they can request that option if their child’s current program is not working and the needs in their IEP (Individual Education Program) aren’t being met.

Better, more appropriate programming benefits not only students in special education programs, but students in regular education programs as well! People always get concerned that the “special ed kids” negatively impact the education offered to the “regular ed kids”……..and that can be the case when appropriate programming is not offered. As the article shows, when a student’s needs are not being met….they will act out, they will get frustrated, and in extreme cases, they can hurt others. This does impact a teacher’s ability to teach, it does scare other students, and it is bad for everyone involved! Parents need to advocate for appropriate programming based on their individual child’s needs and they need to realize that many options exist…….something schools don’t always share!

Playing into all of this is the class size issue. Class size in and of itself is not the most important thing, as good quality teaching is probably more important….but……combine a large class size and inappropriate programming and you will have a disaster on your hands. This overwhelms even the best of teachers and can be detrimental to the learning process for everyone!

What do you think?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who Am I and What Is This Blog All About?

Are you a parent of a student receiving special education? Are you confused? If you answered yes, you should know that you are not alone, and that there is help out there to assist you! That is in fact, the reason that I am developing this blog. I want to help every day people, just like you, who are struggling with the intricacies of special education, if at all possible!!!

I have been involved in special education in the state of NH, in some shape or form, since 1992. I began my journey by receiving my Bachelor's Degree in Communication Disorders from the University of New Hampshire, and then I became a certified special education teacher. I was then awarded my Master's Degree in Special Education, again from UNH. Go Blue!!! I have been a special education teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I worked at a private independent boarding school for many years, and was the Assistant Director of the Instructional Support program there, as well as being a teacher, dorm parent, coach, advisor, and Team Leader. I was the education coordinator at a short term residential shelter for boys involved with the courts in juvenile delinquent cases. I was a Disabilities Services Specialist at a community college, working with adults with learning disabilities, and was an adjunct professor who taught special education courses. For the last few years, I have gained significant experience at the state level while working on behalf of the students involved with the courts in abuse, neglect, delinquency and CHINS (child in need of services) cases. I develop and give trainings all across the state about special education, court involved students, and parental rights. All the while long, I have done private work as a tutor and special education advocate for students and families.

My career has been dedicated to assisting children and families involved in special education, and making sure that the individual needs of each child are met in the most appropriate ways. Over the years, I have found that many school districts work exceptionally hard to do what is appropriate for kids, while there are many others that struggle to provide appropriate services, whether it be due to funding issues, inexperienced or undertrained teachers, or other system wide stressors. Some things have become crystal clear to me over this time.

The first thing is that the special education system is EXTREMELY CONFUSING to the average parent, and most schools do not do enough to assist parents with understanding it. Secondly, many parents and schools simply do not communicate well with each other. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Sometimes, the parents’ own “school phobia” gets in the way. In some instances, schools are not as empathetic as they need to be in dealing with what could be very sensitive issues for parents and their children. Another reason for this lack of communication is that parents are easily intimidated by some school district staff, and are afraid to say anything to them, even when they are in disagreement. Thirdly, many special education teachers in the field do not have a thorough understanding of the special education laws and rules, and albeit unknowingly, do and say things they shouldn’t, or lead the parents down the wrong path, etc.

Because of this, I have decided to try and assist parents and families in navigating this maze of special education, and to also try to get schools and parents to work together more smoothly on behalf of the children involved. This blog is meant to be a place for people to discuss issues, and hopefully learn some helpful hints along the way, as either a parent or a teacher/professional. Future posts will touch on IEP's, evaluations, strategies for at home, sharing resources, etc.

I would love to answer your questions, so if you have any...please send them my way. Drop an email to Also follow me on Twitter at @spedconsultant. Finally, visit my website,