Lessons From Our Favorite Special Education Coordinators

In our work with families, Navigators communicate with a lot of special education teams. Here are 5 things they wish every SPED coordinator would do.

Special education (SPED) teams have a big job—and an incredibly challenging one. Through our work with families, our Navigators have seen first-hand how hard special education coordinators work, how thin their teams are often stretched, and just how important their jobs are.

Along the way, our Navigators have also encountered some special education teams that are knocking their work out of the ballpark for kids and families every day. 

Here are 5 best practices they’ve observed among their favorite special education coordinators—and the things they wish every SPED team would do:


Communicate in the family’s preferred language.

Families have the legal right to have special education documentation, like IEPs and evaluation results, presented in their preferred language. They also have the right to an interpreter for meetings about their child’s support. Navigator Ivette Rubio says it makes a big difference when special education teams take the time to ensure families can understand key information about their child’s services.


Reach out in the family’s preferred format, too.

Navigator Isabel Romero notes that language isn’t the only barrier for families to be included in conversations about their child’s services: sometimes they’re left off communications altogether, or communication happens in a format they aren’t using regularly. She appreciates when a SPED coordinator follows up with a parent in their preferred format, which isn’t always email—sometimes phone, text, or the school’s communication app is a better way to reach busy families.


Stick to the timeline—or communicate about delays.

Special education timelines are also dictated by law. But delays happen. Our Navigators particularly appreciate when special education coordinators proactively reach out to a family to let them know about any possible delays. Navigator Gabriela Corsa says, “My hope is that coordinators don't put off communicating important information to families about challenging topics like delays in testing or short staffing. I know how terrible it can feel to deliver bad news to a family, but often families are understanding and provide grace if you keep them updated and informed.”


Inform families about next steps in the process.

Not every family has a Navigator to help them understand the process of getting their child support services. Navigator Ashly Marmol explains that some SPED coordinators “will confirm when they received the consent form and then provide the family with a list of steps the school will take.” The extra step to explain the process makes it easier for families to plan ahead and to know when they need to advocate for their child.


Be clear about what services will look like in school for the child.

Ashly also explains that parents often know what services their child is receiving, but don't necessarily know how these services will be implemented during the school day, or how a specific service is addressing the development of certain skills. When SPED coordinators offer families more clarity about what those services look like in school, parents are better able to support their child at home, too.

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