It can be difficult for parents to navigate mental health and special education systems. In Parent Connectors, informational support is provided over the phone. However, the resources provided are not limited to conversation. The following resources are often provided by Parent Connectors in an effort to support parents to learn about IEPs, school communication, resolving disagreements, and advocacy.
Special Education & IEPs - Learning about the IEP process
The Individualized Education Program, or IEP, is the cornerstone for documenting a student's behavioral and/or academic supports provided by the school, the student's goals, and his or her progress at school. An IEP is also essential for a student to receive special education services. The IEP is active as long as the child is receiving special education services from the school and is updated at least once a year during an IEP meeting held at the school with teachers and parents, and sometimes the student. Parent Connectors work one-on-one with families to help them understand the IEP process.
There are many resources to help parents better understand the IEP process and special education services. Understood.org has a wide range of resources, including:
Another helpful summary of the IEP can be found on the National Center for Parent Information and Resources website.
This information on IEPs is helpful to revisit throughout your child's educational career, in both elementary and secondary school.
Communicating with Teachers & Schools
It can be difficult to talk with a teacher about concerns you have with your child. There are ways to make the conversation easier by scheduling meetings and making sure you have some "cool-down" time before talking with the school. Our Parent Connectors offer customized strategies for parents to improve communication with schools. The following links provide several good communication strategies that parents find helpful when talking with schools, as well as specific strategies to address emotional or behavioral concerns.
Parents may also find these requests from students regarding how teachers treat their disabilities at school to be helpful in broadening the conversation, especially if your child will be included in the meeting.
Our Parent Connectors recommend that parents keep track of all their communications with the school in a notebook. Find an example of how to organize your child's IEP materials, school-communication records, and contact information here.
Disagreements Between Parents and the School
There are times when parents and teachers/school personnel strongly disagree regarding the best approach for a student. Our Parent Connectors are trained to help parents advocate for their child. There are many approaches for addressing these concerns, including addressing them in an IEP meeting, disputing resolution mediation, or filing written state complaints.
The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) provides a helpful overview of the different dispute resolution processes for parents. Helpful quick-guides covering the dispute resolution process are also available.
At Parent Connectors, we believe that parents supporting parents is essential for our children's success. While our evidence-based Parent Connectors approach is a high-quality option to provide parent-to-parent support for families, there are many other resources available to parents. Further, Parent Connectors is designed to work in collaboration with family-run agencies to train and certify their staff to provide Parent Connectors to their local families through their community school.
Each state has a local parent advocacy organization that specializes in helping parents navigate special education services and law. Find the parent center for your state.
The National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health is run by and for families. It has local chapters across the country and its website has many resources for parents and youth, including parent self-care, helpful resources, and information on specific mental health diagnoses.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has excellent resources for both parents and adolescents. It has local sites that can help link families to support programs. It provides a helpful overview of the treatment of mental health illness in children, along with numerous other resources.
One example of a great parent center site is the PACER Center. It is located in Minnesota, but most of its materials are relevant across the country. A section of the PACER Center's website is focused on youth with emotional and behavioral needs that includes free handouts and online videos on topics such as challenging youth behavior, talking with a youth under stress, and helping youth take charge of their health care.