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The Special Education Resolution Center of OSU (SERC) has been collaborating with the Oklahoma State Department of Education for over 10 years to help families and school district resolve conflicts at the earliest stage possible. SERC provides services for children from birth to 3 in SoonerStart and for students 3 through 21 in public schools.
What Does SERC provide to schools, SoonerStart sites and families at no cost…?
Engaging Parents In Productive Partnerships
Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (2015).
There are things we can do to communicate more effectively when disagreements occur, opinions diverge and strong emotions are present. The following strategies can go a long way toward resolving disagreements, improving relationships and producing positive outcomes for students with disabilities:
(Each topic will be fully discussed in a newsletter this year!)
Get to the Bottom of the Concern
When we find ourselves stuck because someone is rigidly expressing a non-negotiable demand, our tendency may be to respond with our own non-negotiable position. This pattern of interaction reduces creativity, discourages cooperation, and might result in a compromise that describes the midpoint between the two positions, but which does not fully address the student’s needs.
The statement, “I want Bill’s speech to improve,” is an expression of a concern about Bill’s articulation or communication skills, while the demand, “Bill must have 4 hours of speech therapy a week,” is the speaker’s perception of how that goal must be met. Likely both parents and educators agree on the goal of improved speech for Bill, but may not agree on the method(s) to achieve that goal. Asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers usually reveals desires, needs, goals, and motivations that can form the basis for exploring a variety of options. Questions like: “How might Bill’s progress differ if he had 4 hours of speech therapy a week?” can uncover unexpected information and may open the path to alternate solutions that will address the underlying concerns and needs that fuel the demand. While the original demand will likely continue to be under consideration, other, more mutually agreeable, options may be discovered. A question such as, “What is your best thinking on this?” may help identify additional approaches that can contribute to an acceptable solution to a problem.
The intensity with which some parents object to a program or plan that they think will not work can be surprising to other team members. This objection is easier to understand if we consider the lifetime commitment that parents have to their children. Parents may fear that they will one day look back and wish they had advocated more strongly for a position that might have profoundly improved their child’s life. Acknowledging this perspective and commitment may be helpful when a parent’s advocacy seems strident.
IEP Facilitation is a process provided by SERC when there is high conflict between the parents and the school during an IEP meeting. Sometimes, when emotions are strong, it is difficult to stay focused on working together to solve the issues of a student. An IEP facilitation just might be the solution to a difficult situation. If your situation qualifies for IEP facilitation, the process is of no cost to the parent or the school.
The IEP facilitator is a neutral person. The facilitator is not an advocate for either side – but a facilitator can help the parties build safety in a meeting, keep the discussion focused on problem solving and assist with communication. The facilitator can assist the parties in having a full discussion of the issues from different points of view. When issues are fully discussed, the underlying interest of the parent and the school are revealed. Problem solving can focus on what can be done to address the interests of both parties in the education of the student.
If this is a process you would like to know more about, please read information provided by the Consortium of Appropriate Dispute Resolution.
Please join us!
Analysis shows that race-related patterns of differential treatment in special education exist in Oklahoma. Of note:
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING ABOUT IT:
To address these inequities, Oklahoma is gathering stakeholders’ input into how to measure and define race-based differential treatment at the district level in identification, educational setting, and discipline. With this information, the state, local districts, and community supporters can respond more effectively.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Attend a community or district meeting in your area to discuss the revised federal regulations and Oklahoma’s equity challenges in schools. This is your chance to voice your opinion on how differential treatment (“significant disproportionality”) should be measured and defined in special education in Oklahoma. Help us answer this question: When does a district with inequity need to take action? A few months from now, we will begin to discuss what we can do about it.
We hope you will join us in these critical conversations about special education in Oklahoma. Attached is a flyer with details of all upcoming meetings. Please share with colleagues and concerned citizens in your organization, your region, and around the state. We want to hear from a wide variety of perspectives in all communities and districts.
Please direct questions to Ginger Elliott-Teague: 405-521-4871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) authorizes formula grants to states and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.
OSEP Policy Letters provide information, guidance and clarification regarding implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through two types of issuances: OSEP Memos and Dear Colleague Letters. Below is the link to the policy letters on line and a listing of the last 11 guidance documents issues and one on dispute resolution.
The link below will take you to guidance issued since 2001.
When schools and families talk about children with Learning Disabilities – a lot can be lost in translation by the language people use. Schools address issues with children regarding learning disabilities and they have a specific language for that discussion. Parents will often interject other types of language descriptors that confuse teams who are taught to use another language. Something so simple creates a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding that is not helpful for effective communication.
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) which is an agency over the OSEP office, sent out a Dear Colleague Letter in October 2015 to try and bridge the gap of the use of different terminology. The problem with terminology continues to create issues for communication so national parent and education groups have issued a Guide to help educators and parents talk about learning disabilities.
The 12 national participating groups were the National Center for Learning Disabilities, AIM Institute for Learning and Research, CASE, Council for Exceptional Children, Council for Learning Disabilities, Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children, Eye to Eye, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Association of School Psychologist, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center, and Understood.
On October 20, 2017 OSERS announced that it has immediately rescinded a list of 63 guidance documents. All of the guidance documents that were rescinded were issued prior to the year of 2015. Executive Order 13777 required federal agencies to review outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective guidance for consideration of repeal, replacement, or modification.
Archived Webinar - "Mediating in the Context of Broken Trust" from September 12, 2017
Trainings - "Adressing Equity in Special Education"
• Community Meetings
• District Meetings:
- Oklahoma City, November 2nd & 3rd
- Woordward, November 14th & Lawton November 17th
- Tulsa, November 15th & McAlester, November 16th