Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: "Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work"

As a long-time special education professional-turned-advocate I simply cannot say enough about the value of this book for parents. I recommend it to anyone who is going through the special education process for the first, or fiftieth, time.

Readers will quickly learn that Judith and Carson Graves' book, Parents Have The Power To Make Special Education Work: An Insider's Guide, stands in refreshing contrast to the ubiquitous jargon and bureaucratic double-speak that too many parents encounter during their special education journey.

With a robust Foreword by the well-regarded Robert K. Crabtree, Esq., this accessible gem gives beginner and veteran parents alike a simple, straightforward overview of federal and state special education laws and their relevance to common situations parents may encounter. More immediately, this book offers practical strategies for parents navigating the seemingly never-ending maze that has become special education in the United States. Main chapter topics include: understanding the perspective of school personnel and how and why conflicts of interest arise, understanding evaluation reports, writing measurable IEP goals, handling Team meetings, why keeping good written records is essential, the legal process, and planning for transition to adulthood.

Given the Graves' at times maddening experiences with fighting for services for their now-grown son over many years, they could be forgiven for being bitter. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. To the contrary they have taken their experience as a family and turned it into something truly compelling and constructive and from which other parents, caregivers, and professionals can learn.

Chapter 7: Writing Effective IEP Goals in particular had me enthusiastically nodding with each paragraph and marking up the margins. With real examples of IEP goals and benchmarks this chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. Additionally I have not seen a better discussion elsewhere specifically for parents on the relevance of writing specific, measurable goals as it relates to tracking a child's progress over time. I think parents will also find chapters 8 and 9 especially useful as they speak to the daily realities of meetings and paperwork and how to handle these situations effectively and productively.

I expect this book will be on my shelf for years to come not only as a go-to reference and strategy manual but as an eloquent reminder of an important and perhaps overlooked truth: Parents do indeed have the power to make special education work!

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By Christie C. White, M.Ed.
Special Education Advocate & Consultant

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