Special Needs

Hello, I am John Funk, the Manager of Education Programs at Discount School Supply. My job is to help create products that are developmentally appropriate for early childhood. I was a classroom teacher for over 25 years, working with PreK, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

In 1975, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 94-142, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A central component of IDEA was the Free and Public Education (FAPE) provision, which guarantees a free public education for all students with exceptionalities. One of my favorite parts of this law is that it guarantees the opportunity for schools and families to hold each other accountable for a student’s education.

Involving the family members in a child’s education plan is critical. I think it is important for all children to have that family involvement. We know through research that parental involvement creates a higher level of school success for a child. As educators, we have a responsibility to help parents develop skills as well as their child. Through my years of teaching I found that unsupportive parents usually lack parenting skills. If I gave them certain activities to do at home, most families followed through and completed those activities. Parents want their children to succeed. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to make that happen.

The law insists that parents of children with exceptionalities be involved in the education plan. Every parent should be involved in an educational plan.

Here are few suggestions for training and involving family members:

**Give the parent the responsibility of one of the development guidelines (outcomes) appropriate for their child. For example, one preschool standard is: “The child shows interest in reading-related activities.” Assign the family to document for a couple of weeks every time the child wants to read a story or shows any other interest in reading activities. Have the parent report back to you the results.
**Host a family night where you demonstrate simple activities to do at home to support learning.
**ALWAYS answer notes and requests from parents the day you receive them. Parents feel disconnected when the teacher doesn’t respond in a timely manner.
**Never send homework unless there is a clear explanation on how it is to be done. Parents feel discouraged when they can’t help the child complete a task. Don’t assume parents have all the information needed.
I loved training and involving the parents in my classroom. Family members feel more confidence and have a healthier attitude toward their child’s school when they are involved with the process.
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