When “Best Practices” Aren’t Good Enough

Recently, my son’s special education teacher assured me that she employs researched “best practices” for his social skills class as well as his transition planning.  When I began to question how effective each of these elements actually are, she reiterated the phrase “best practices,” to shut me down.

What I wanted to say was this: How are these classes and plans actually helping him move forward in gaining the skills he needs to navigate his adult life successfully? How much research actually backs up these “best practices?”  The answer is “Not much.”  

In fact, the ways we are preparing students who have IEPs and/or mental health issues for life as an adult are falling short.  The IES recently conducted a study (not available today because of the government shutdown) that suggests that little is known about the effectiveness of various transition and life skills programs.  As Disability Scoop put it, 

Overall, however, the researchers indicated that a lack of meaningful studies meant they could not make broad assessments about what types of programs are best equipped to help students with disabilities make successful transitions to work, independent living or further training or education after high school.

We know that people with mental health issues and disabilities are less likely to succeed than their peers in post-secondary education and employment environments, so whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working.  So, please, don’t tell me it’s “Best Practices.”  Maybe call it “Best Guess Practices.”  And maybe, just maybe, professionals could be more open to new ideas and the suggestions of parents about better ways to prepare our kids for the world.



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