My wife and I feel we should respond to some of the negative experiences with IEPs expressed by some parents in your pages. We have a student who is a junior at OPRF and has been involved with the special education professionals since two years before kindergarten at Whittier.

We discovered, thankfully very early, that it takes not only effort to make sure your child gets what they are to receive in terms of accommodation, but it requires attention and effort to create a team comprised of the teachers, special education professionals, and the parents. This concept of team is not a given, and should not be expected to by handed to a parent.

Our son is a success story in terms of the OPRF school system, but it required us to be assertive as his advocates. He is only one son to us, but one of so many students to the teachers and case managers. In conversations over the years, we’ve discovered the difficulties special education professionals encounter with some teachers, particularly those teachers who feel they cannot learn anything more in terms of how to teach. Some very gifted teachers struggle with the patience required to teach a special needs child. When my wife and I would worry that our constant attention to the processes involving our son was beginning to become “over-the-top” and that we might be coming across as pushy parents, the response we got from the wonderful people in the school system along the way was, “If you only knew how many parents just drop their child off and say ‘Fix him!'” That is sad.

My wife and I applaud those special education professionals, and we support their difficult work in not only helping a child but trying to “educate” the classroom teachers themselves who may not take the extra time required by a student with special needs.

If an IEP turns into a debate that some parents think require a lawyer, I cannot but wonder how it got that way. I do not know any of the specific issues for some of the parents who’ve had negative experiences, but I can say that our IEPs reach easy consensus because we’ve been talking to or e-mailing everyone involved from day one on almost a weekly basis. There are no surprises when we attend an IEP. That’s how it should be, and that is how the professionals in the school system wish parents would contribute.

It’s not easy, but no one ever said parenting and love is.

D. Neil Bremer
Oak Park

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