A special post for our special needs kids: We’re in the middle of summer break and next week I need to order my kids’ school supplies. I remember going to Staples or Office Max (if one or the other was sold out of the blue denim binder or perfect pencil case) two days before school opened. Nowadays, schools send home a list of supplies to be purchased online. Your child’s bundle will be delivered to his classroom for the first day of school if you order by a specific date. As I was making a note to remember to place my order for paper and markers, I made an additional notation. This note reminds me to check my son’s IEP date and make sure that my copies of his paperwork are in order. This marks my first step in advocating for my son in the upcoming school year.
Navigating the twists and turns of the special education department within a public school system can cause a parent to feel like a hamster running in circles in a little cage. I have sat on both sides of the conference room table, as a special educator and as a parent, and unless you speak up and advocate for your child and for yourself, and learn the ins and outs of special education. you will feel the insecurity of that little hamster. When I know of my child’s IEP review date , I organize my paperwork and prepare a list of questions in advance of the meeting.
Being prepared for and attending the IEP meeting is just one step in advocating for yourself and your child. Frequent communication with teachers and therapists and participating in school and PTO events are others ways to support your child with special needs. As a teacher, I always found it difficult to meet with parents between classes. As tempting as it may be to catch the teacher or therapist at pick-up, it is a time-saver to drop an email or leave a message with a question or concern. This is more productive as it provides the teacher with more time to respond and give you undivided attention to which you are entitled. Understand your child‘s special needs and keep abreast of current research and practices. I frequently reviewed my students’ IEP’s to check on progress. This is also important for parents to do so as to ensure that goals are up-to-date and are being met.
There are numerous ways to advocate for your child. The bottom line is that YOU know your child best. Be informed, be involved, and be heard. You have a voice. Let it roar sometimes!
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