Effective communication is important to good working relationships between parents and schools. This is especially true when it comes to communication about special education. Parents are often the first to express concerns about their child’s development or learning. Parents are also required members of any group that makes decisions about special education evaluation, eligibility or development of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for an eligible student with disability. Whether you are at the beginning of the special education process or an IEP team veteran, it is important to use words that express your thoughts accurately.
Remember that communication is a 2-way street. There is a message that is sent and a message that is received. Unfortunately, they are not always the same thing. The chart below gives examples of words or expressions that may seem similar, but could mean something very different when used in special education-related conversations. Using the wrong term can lead to confusion, frustration and/or an unintended result.
|Asking for extra help or tutoring for a struggling student.
This could lead to adjustments by the general education teacher, a referral to the school’s intervention team, or the parent might be told about tutoring available through the school or how they can find a private tutor.
|Request for a special education evaluation or special education services.
This will trigger a formal process to gather information and determine if the student is eligible for special education services.
The student is enrolled in a public school that typically provides limited educational services either in the home or another community setting.
In N.C., home schools are considered private schools. Public school systems are not required to provide instruction except under certain circumstances.
|Revoke consent for special education services.
All special education services will stop. Parents cannot hold school system responsible for providing FAPE.
|Refuse a specific special education service while keeping other services and supports.
IEP Team must consider options and decide how to ensure that the student receives FAPE. There should not be an automatic “all-or-nothing” threat.
Student is improving their academic or functional skills.
Student is improving at an accelerated rate that will close the skill gap with typical peers over time.
If you are communicating with others and the response is not what you expect, check to make sure that they understood you correctly. It may be necessary to clarify what you mean. Consider using different words or giving an example. Words do matter!
I have loved to watch plants grow, going back at least to age 7 when I laid on the ground to look up, with pure appreciation, at a spindly young tree in front of my family’s apartment in Baltimore. Beginning with bulbs and flower seeds there, I have grown houseplants and/or vegetables in just about every place that I’ve lived since that time. While I personally find gardening very therapeutic, it is also a natural laboratory and a place where children can learn all sorts of valuable skills and life lessons.
Here are just a few of the things that children can learn in a garden:
- The life cycle of plants and insects how they are able to transform over time without changing their identity. (Biology)
- How energy is neither created or destroyed; it just changes form. (Physics)
- That all soils are not the same. They have a history. (Geology)
- That fertilizer and Ph make a difference. (Chemistry)
- Fine motor skills: crumbling soil, seed handling, tying plants to a support, using hand tools, etc.
- Gross motor skills: digging, reaching, balancing, pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, etc.
- Math: measurement (space, distance, volume, height, weight, time), counting, geometry (e.g. how shadows will be cast), estimation, etc.
- Veggies always taste better when you grow them yourself. (Nutrition; Self-confidence)
- Plants do best when they are put in location where their needs for sun, water and space can best be met. (Analysis; Organization)
- There is a very close relationship between the effort that you put in and the success of the garden. (Cause/Effect; Work Ethic)
- Things will happen in their own time. (Patience; Delayed gratification)
- Sometimes your plants are damaged by forces you have no control over, like weather, disease and pests. (Resilience; Humility)
- Next year things will be even better! (Planning; Optimism; Self-determination)
There must also be studies out there showing that gardening has mental health benefits, even though they may be more difficult to measure. It’s never too early or too late to introduce children to gardening, whether at home, school or in a community garden. If you are a gardener, share your love and experience with some young people. It’s education, nature style!