What should new or young teachers do if parents refuse to acknowledge that their child should be in a special education program?

I recently began teaching 9th grade English. I am 25 years-old and one of my students should be using some of the resources available through the special education department at our school. The student's parents don't believe he has any learning disabilities and I get the impression that they question my judgement because of my age.


Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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There is not much you can do as a teacher except continue to work with the child and hope the parents eventually see what you are seeing. If you can get the guidance counselor--even the school social worker--to speak with the parent, you might have some luck, but legally there is little you can do.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I've struggled with this as a teacher as well. One thing I've realized is that while I might not convince parents of a concern, by mentioning it, I might be one of several voices that encourages them to consider the situation. If enough caring professionals suggest there might be a problem, they will have a harder time ignoring the possibility.

Gina Badalaty, Parent of 2 kids with disabilities, Professional Blogger

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I think Dr. Smith gave you some very good advice here. Do you have some who is more senior (in age and/or experience) that can help make your case to the parents? I know that parents struggle with the stigma of a label. I have been there myself! Sometimes a more senior staff person can help make the argument alongside you.

I have a friend who used to be a former paraprofessional for my child some years back. To this day, she makes recommendations that sometimes can be hard to hear, but my level of trust is high so I rely on them when I think they fit. Are there teachers or staff members there that the parents or the student trusts?

Because your student is a teenager, perhaps he can be involved with this decision as well. Does he know of the tools that he can use? Are there tools you can use outside of special ed that will help him? Are there websites or resources he can access on his own? I know teachers have a lot on their plates, and I commend you for trying to help him.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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This is a very sticky situation. Unfortunately, you have to follow the last IEP signed and until the parent agrees, it has to be followed by the school.

You are doing the right thing by standing up for the child and I applaud you for doing it. I suggest that you get some peer teachers who may have a rapport with the parent to help persuade them to see it from your perspective.

Data also can be a huge help in helping the parent to understand your position. The case manager (special education teacher assigned) should also help in helping the parent understand.

When you have a meeting with them, wait until the right time to ask (and gently) to the effect what concerns them about this accommodation? Do they know enough about the accommodation and how it is implemented? Is there an accommodation similar that work as a substitute.

Good luck. It is not easy being in your position but continue to make a difference! You're doing the right thing.

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