What Are Special Education Dragons, and 4 Tips to Deal With Them to Benefit Your Child’s Education!

Are you a parent with a child with autism or learning disabilities that receive special education services? Have you been trying to advocate that your child receive needed services to no avail? Then you may be dealing with a special education dragon!

When my first book came out in 2007, I included a section about why some educators lied to parents.

These reasons are:

1. Some lie or provide misinformation because they do not know the law (or pretend they do not know the law).
2. Some lie because they want parents to believe that the law gives them more power than it actually does.
3. Some lie because they believe the parent may be vulnerable in some way (divorce, single parent, etc.)
4. Some lie about a child’s progress (overstating such progress) so that they can deny intensive services.
5. Some lie, and state that they do not pay for certain services so that they do not set a precedent of paying for those services (Applied Behavioral Analysis, private tutoring, etc.).

An educator that would lie to a parent for any reason is a special education dragon, in my opinion.

A few more characteristics are:

1. They blame the child and/or the parent for the child’s disabilities and lack of educational progress (rather than blaming themselves for the child not learning).
2. They act as a gatekeeper to prevent children from receiving vital needed educational services (even when proven by an independent educational evaluation-IEE).
3. They intimidate, scream, manipulate the school team (and the parent) so that the parent gives up and goes away (I have seen this activity many times for my children and in my advocacy).
4. They retaliate against the child and the parent when the parent is advocating for their child (which is a protected activity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act).

If you are dealing with a special education dragon, here are a few tips to deal with them:

1. Dragons can be overcome by assertive and persistent advocacy for as long as it takes for your child to receive an appropriate education!
2. Knowledge of federal and state special education and disability laws (IDEA 2004, ADAAA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act—and your states laws), and use of those laws in your advocacy, will go a long way in overcoming dragons.
3. Using a well-trained advocate to attend IEP meetings, can also help overcome these school personnel’s tactics.
4. Become familiar and willing to use the dispute resolution processes that are available to you (State complaints, Mediation, Due Process, OCR complaints).

I have been dealing with special education dragons for a long time, and am amazed at their insistence that they are right, even when they are proven wrong. One time at a meeting I was frustrated with a school person who kept stating something over and over. I picked up my IDEA 2004 regulations, opened it up and read the section about the issue we were discussing and then preceded to say “There it is read-em-and-weep!” I would not suggest getting upset but they seemed to get it! Good luck—never give up fighting these dragons for the good of your child’s education!

Educators – Dealing With a Toxic Environment

“Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

In the unfortunate instance where you have found yourself working in a toxic environment, the negative ramifications are countless. You have some choices about what you can do…and not a single one of them is easy to do….However, neither is it easy (nor healthy) to try to work day in and day out in an environment that is eating you up. The ideas in this article are not listed in any particular order. Since you are a teacher, I will assume you are smart and can figure out which one you haven’t tried yet–and try that one.

  1. Get out. Leave. Find a different school or a different school district where you can work. This is ALWAYS an option. It may not be the easiest option, but unless you spend your days in prison (as a prisoner, that is), you can leave. You could also leave education altogether, but that is a tragedy if you choose that option because toxic colleagues drove you out.
  2. If you CHOOSE to stay, consider every way possible to alert management (short of tattling) about the problems that exist. If the administration is the problem (and I know this is often the case) then you may have to go higher. It depends on how bad you consider the situation to be.
  3. One of my favorite quotes (and the basis for a workshop I do entitled “Conciliating the Tiger: Do You Have a Choice)?” is this one by Konrad Adenauer: “An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured.” Buy and read the book, The No-Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workpace and Surviving One that Isn’t, by Robert I. Sutton. It’s fabulous!
  4. Identify the source of the toxicity. Is it a person with whom you work? Is it the language that is used at school? Is it the politics, back-biting, or gossiping? Is it parents who berate teachers and no one does anything about it? I don’t know what it is for you, but if you’ve identified your place of work as a toxic environment, you first need to figure out what the source is.
  5. Once you identify the source of the toxicity, determine if you can have any effect on eliminating that toxin. For example, if the people around you constantly tell racist jokes or make unconscionable statements, is there a way to get them to stop or will it take something from a legal standpoint to eliminate the toxic situation?
  6. If the toxin can/should be removed, take steps to make that happen. If you know it can be, then take action. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but I go back to my original statement–it’s unbearable to spend 8 – 10 hours each day in a setting that you find unbearable. Do something about it. It’s not just affecting you, it’s affecting other adults–and it’s having a negative impact on the children or teenagers at your school.
  7. Draw attention, in a professional and assertive manner, to what is happening–to you and to others in the school. The cost of losing great employees is usually (although not always) of concern for a principal, superintendent, parents, school board members, and others with a vested interest in the success of an organization. Think through carefully what you want to say to someone in this role and then bravely present your thoughts.
  8. Buy and read the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. There is no better book anywhere to help you think through how to have honest, direct, meaningful conversations–as well as to consider the cost when you don’t. It’s in paperback and is a bargain.
  9. Boldly deal with the toxic situation head on. A bad day or week at work is not a toxic situation. It’s a bad day or week. Something doesn’t become identified as toxic until it has been continuing for weeks, months….years. When it’s taking a toll on your health, productivity, relationships outside of work, and so forth, then you need to do something about it.
  10. Here’s a question: Are you adding to the toxic environment? If so, take immediate measures to communicate more professionally on the job. Most of us can look at ourselves and realize that we have a few areas of our lives where we can improve, too. Just check it out with yourself and see if, by any chance, you are contributing to–or exacerbating–the toxic situation.

Note: For the purposes of this article, I am referring to a psychologically toxic environment vs. a physically toxic one, i.e., one filled with hazardous chemicals and the like. If you are in that type of environment, you need to be calling OSHA or some other agency.

I hope these ideas help you if you’re in this situation. I’ve been there…and I needed a kick in the ____ to get moving on making changes. If you, thankfully, aren’t in this situation, but have a friend or colleague who is, send this article along to that person.

Career in Early Childhood Education

The need for child-care professionals and educators has never been greater than it is today. While teachers continue to retire, school enrollment is always on the increase creating a perpetual need for top-quality educators. Parents too are recognizing that a solid foundation in early childhood learning is connected to their children’s future success and educational growth. The need of the hour is for trained educators to provide high-quality education to the younger generation. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there is a favorable growth expected in the field of early childhood education over the next decade.

Before you embark on a career in early childhood education, a healthy dose of soul searching is recommended. A career in early childhood education is not to be taken lightly. It may involve a whole lot of play and fun, but there is a serious responsibility attached to the molding of minds and shaping the lives of little children. If you are thinking of an early childhood education degree, you need to ask yourself if you truly love children and have an aptitude to continually impart patient loving care. There can be no middle ground here. You will be spending the better part of your day with them so you will need a great deal of patience and love to truly succeed. In addition to this, you need to be creative with excellent communication skills. It will open up multiple opportunities for you.

Early childhood educators deal with children from infancy to eight years of age. As a teacher to these youngsters, you will be training and developing their physical, emotional and intellectual skills in a variety of challenging ways. There will be a whole lot of creative expression and hands-on activities involved such as games, artwork, story time, music, role-playing in order to nurture the child’s imagination and learning.

An Associate degree in Early Childhood Education is an effective stepping-stone leading to a wider scope in the field of education. Normally, this is an extensive program that will lead to a broad range of career options and advancement after graduation. Approximately, two years are required to complete an AOS degree in Early Childhood Education. This degree provides all the necessary training you would require for teaching young children. It includes functional knowledge and understanding of early childhood education through the completion of courses covering curriculum, child development, child center administration, health and safety, and related fields. A general knowledge of science, social science and language arts is generally part of the curriculum as well.

There are a number of career options available to graduates with an Early Childhood Education degree. You can be an elementary school teacher, pre-school teacher, a school counselor or administrator. This will also prepare you to work in areas such as education policy or advocacy. As an educator you can find employment in nursery or elementary schools, as specialists for children with disabilities or learning disorders, as program supervisors and directors in schools and as family childcare home providers.

Equipped with a childhood education degree, you will be ready to invest your life in the future generation. You’ll find educating children, molding and shaping their lives, challenging them for the life ahead, an extremely rewarding experience!

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