This past April, when I presented at the Empower Autism Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, I was approached by a woman named Judith Canty Graves. She was one of the attendees of my breakout session. After giving me her compliments, she presented me with a book that she and her husband, Carson Graves, wrote called Parents Have The Power To Make Special Education Work: An Insider Guide.
The authors have truly gone through the full special education process, as their son received special education services for fifteen years. Because of this, they know exactly what types of problems parents may face. Readers are able to better understand the special education process through the authors’ clear and valuable insights. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all parents involved with special education, no matter what age or what condition their child may have!
The book starts out with an introduction into special education, which includes important acronyms and definitions, the history, developing state and federal laws, funding, and the future of special education. This is a truly interesting preface to the content that follows.
While reading the first chapter there was one quote that popped out at me, which happened to foreshadow the overarching book theme: “Understanding the special education cycle and knowing your rights and responsibilities within this cycle are key to making the special education experience work for the benefit of your child.” I absolutely agree. The world of special education is one filled with complexity. Due to the fact that most people are not attorneys, many confusing (but extremely important) factors tend to be overlooked. Written without all of the legal lingo, this book clears up many of those unnoticed details.
Another thing that was extensively covered was the variety of professionals, both inside and outside of educational settings, that often work with special education students. The administration team, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, case managers, advocates, and learning specialists were a few of the many different professionals that were explained by job titles and duties. I never knew that there could be so many people working together toward a common goal! In addition, the different credentials and education etiquettes mentioned provided me with more helpful insight.
Furthermore, the book discussed IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) in detail. Generally, an IEP is the one document that brings everything together. The authors asked a compelling question: Is an IEP a powerful tool or worthless paper? My answer (and I hope everyone’s answer) to this question is that the IEP is a remarkably powerful tool! Some of the most informative parts of this section include what keeps an IEP from being effective, the development of an IEP, essential parts, writing measurable goals, team meetings, and the paper trail. I already knew that my IEP is an important and legal document, however, I didn’t know how many components to an IEP there really are! One part within the IEP section that gave me a laugh was a subchapter titled “IEP Goal Hall of Shame,” which consisted of ridiculous IEP goals that the authors have seen in the past. They’re too funny!
There is one thing that I have not already mentioned: the “What Can Parents Do” sections. At the end of each chapter, the authors give a list of suggestions on how parents can use the information from that respective chapter. This part (in my opinion) is the most valuable because it’s one thing to learn about something and another to actually act upon it.
After reading this book, my eyes were opened to some of the difficulties and potential problems that may arise within the special education system. My parents and I have been lucky enough to have only met minor challenges along the IEP process thus far. I now have a better understanding of some of the major issues that special education teams struggle with, and I feel that I am now a bit more prepared to successfully and peacefully deal with them should they arise.
I recommend Parents Have The Power To Make Special Education Work: An Insider Guide to all parents and guardians of children within the special education system. I also believe that educators can gain a new (parental) perspective of special education as well, which may help them better understand parents during IEP meetings. By reading this book, I have learned valuable knowledge regarding special education. Thank you, Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves, for sharing your special knowledge with me and the greater Autism community!