How Special Education Teachers Can Advocate for Their Students

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How Special Education Teachers Can Advocate for Their Students

special education

Students with disabilities face an uphill battle in many areas of their lives, and school is no different. Despite laws and policies that assist special education students, they sometimes face a resistant culture, lack of appropriate programming, and insufficient funding in their school building. Special education teachers are uniquely situated to advocate for these students and ensure they receive the accommodations that they are legally and ethically entitled to.

Common Roadblocks

Organizations tend to defend the status quo and resist change, even if the change is beneficial or even mandated. Special education teachers who strive to advocate for their students with disabilities frequently encounter the following obstacles:

  • Commitment to a standardized approach with resistance to individualizing instruction
  • Insufficient funding/staffing
  • Resistance to making “exceptions” for certain students
  • Lack of knowledge, understanding, or training in the following areas:
    • Legal requirements
    • Instructional strategies
    • Needs of students with particular disabilities

Advocating Through Collaboration

Here are some suggestions for special education professionals to collaborate within their school communities to gather support for their students with special needs:

  • Solicit the support of the administrative team. They can help to provide special education teachers with the time and backing needed to run meetings and create individualized plans to address student needs.
  • Work with general education teachers to create a full-inclusion model at school. This allows special education teachers to serve as a full partner in the regular education classroom alongside the subject-matter teacher, creating an inclusive environment for students with disabilities.
  • Present strategies at professional development meetings to help all teachers learn how to implement appropriate accommodations and scaffold for learners who need extra assistance.
  • Conduct a home visit to help understand students in their comfortable home environment. This enables the teacher to learn about student interests and abilities outside the classroom and connects with the family, which is essential in partnering for students’ best interests.

Persuasive Techniques

Persuasion is the key to getting other teachers to support and assist students with disabilities. Here are some basic steps to help persuade colleagues:

  • Be prepared for objections. Think ahead for potential contradictions and have responses ready.
  • Admit mistakes. Be prepared to say that another idea has merit or that another particular option had not been considered. This garners trust and shows flexibility.
  • Demonstrate the advantages of the ideas. Show how the student, teacher, and school will benefit.
  • Be agreeable, even when there is a lack of agreement. Acknowledge the other person’s point, encourage compromise, and suggest ongoing conversation before reaching a final decision.

Special education teachers often feel isolated or unheard because their jobs require them to fight for the needs of their students, sometimes against the pushes of other teachers in the school. However, it’s important for these teachers to understand that their advocacy is important and makes a difference in the lives of their special students.

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