B. Gindis, Ph.D.
Wrong Assumptions about
Educational Planning Conference
I would like to share with you my experience as an Educational
(EPC) "insider" who was in the position to observe "from
both sides of the table"
hundreds of nervous and frustrated parents during their EPCs. Being
a school psychologist, I conducted countless EPCs as a school representative;
as a private practitioner, I participated in countless EPCs, representing
Here are the most damaging wrong assumptions adoptive
parents may have entering
the EPC room.
1. "They" (school personnel) know everything
and "we" (the parents) do
not know much. It is just not true! Having knowledge and skills
in their respective
areas of expertise (teaching, counseling, remediation, etc.) school
fail to apply their knowledge and skills to your child. You may not
professional jargon and the specifics of their trade, but you have a
special interest in
and unique understanding of your child. You know what works and what
your child. You know how she reacted to certain remediation in the past.
Trust your instincts: argue generalizations of the professionals with
you empirical, "hands-on" understanding of your child's needs.
The majority of internationally adopting parents
are well-educated, middle class, mature (early 40s and older) individuals.
participate in support groups and parents' organizations. Most of you
have undergone some kind of training before adoption and are well aware
of educational needs of your children and of their rights for appropriate
educational services. In many instances,
school districts just cannot match adoptive parents in their preparedness.
Although schools have resources and skilled staff, little training,
if any, was provided to school personnel to better understand this category
of students and promote various
techniques and methodologies of physical, emotional, and cognitive remediation
for internationally adopted children.
2. We will have to accept the results of school assessment.
Not true! Especially when no services have been recommended. If the
school assessment was not
adequate, you may have the right for an Independent Educational Evaluation
The law (IDEA, 34 CFR 300.352) says that the parents of a child with
the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they
the results of the school's assessment. When the parent requests an
independent evaluation the school has one of 3 choices to agree for:
a) An IEE by a professional of their choice;
b) An IEE by a professional of your choice;
c) A due process hearing that will finalize the decision about the IEE.
In any case, remember to request the school district's
guidelines on examiners' qualifications. The examiner chosen by you
should have the same qualifications at a minimum and, hopefully, more
expertise with internationally adopted children and their respective
cultural background and language. Also keep in mind that this examiner
cannot be an employee of this school district.
3. We are "taking their time". No way:
your school personnel is there to serve
you. Therefore, take your time and ask your questions. Do not allow
a person who
runs the EPC to tell you that you have only 40 minutes and another family
You must have enough time to discuss your child's educational needs
and means of addressing them. It is crucial for you to present your
Teachers and remedial specialists usually use terms and
acronyms, specific to their
field of special education. You may become confused when these terms
during your EPC meeting. It is important to ask what the terms or acronyms
informed decision cannot be made if the parents do not fully understand
what is being discussed. Parents are entitled to have their child's
assessment information explained
to them before this meeting. In many states there is a provision that
receive a copy of the report and meet with the professional(s) who completed
the evaluation before the meeting takes place. This enables the parents
to think through
the information before making decisions for their child.
4. It does not matter if I communicate with the school
personnel orally or
in writing. Wrong! All communications are to be documented. This
includes ongoing correspondence, requests for assessments, EPC meetings,
related services, etc.
Written requests are important because they create a timeline that the
must follow in response to your request. They will also create a paper
trail. When you write a letter to the school, be sure to send it by
a certified mail. When you have a discussion by phone with a school
official, write a letter that briefly outlines what you
had been talking about. Documenting your conversations helps prevent
miscommunication. Have the EPC committee record the written request
as part of the
IEP minutes. If the committee denies your request for a placement and/or
then they must follow the procedural safeguards in IDEA and provide
a written notice
of why they are denying the parents' request. This method makes it difficult
for an EPC committee to tell parents "no" without thinking
through the options. If the request is
not written down, the school district is not obligated to provide the
service or even the response. Remember, you are not asking for favors
from the school personnel, rather
this procedure is a part of the educational law called IDEA; it is known
as Prior Notice
of the Procedural Safeguards (34 CFR 300.503). By making all requests
in writing and
by requiring the EPC team to provide a Prior Notice, the parents make
accountable for its decisions and take the emotional aspects of any
of the way.
5. I cannot do much about the specific goals spelled
in my child's Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Wrong! IEP goals
formulated during the EPC meeting are
one of the most important parts of your child's remediation. The goals
your child is expected to accomplish by the end of the year or a semester.
measurable goals and objectives, it is difficult to determine if your
child has had a successful school year. Most goals should be based on
the assessment data. If you receive an assessment report that does not
give recommendations for measurable
goals and objectives, the assessment is not complete, to say the least.
IEP goals are developed by an EPC team, and you are a part of this team,
so you have a say in
that too. Most parents feel overwhelmed by a special education process.
Do not be discouraged in your pursuit to obtain support and services
your child, be
your child's advocate.