Advocating for Your Special Needs Child
Parents spend countless thankless hours providing for their children, and even more hours worrying if they are doing enough. Being a parent is hard work and advocating effectively for your special needs child may seem like a daunting task on your endless to-do list. Here are my tips and tricks to be a better advocate:
- Be organized. At meetings to determine eligibility, develop an IEP, or create a 504 Plan, you need to quickly access data. Keep evaluations from the school and private providers, prior IEPs and 504 Plans, report cards, and communications (like emails) with teachers and administrators on hand so you can easily reference them during a meeting. Some parents prefer binders, others prefer folders. Use a system that makes sense to you and keep it up to date.
- Be kind and listen. Most people who pursue a career in education genuinely care about children. However, long days and low budgets can make even the most generous person grumpy. Treat everyone at the meeting with kindness and respect, and listen to suggestions and recommendations with an open mind.
- Be prepared. Know your rights before you walk into a meeting. The school should provide you with a Notice of Parental Rights. Read it. Ask questions about it. Seek out help when needed. Ask for draft reports and the results of evaluations before the meeting, and come to the meeting with your questions prepared. Learn the rules for recording meetings in your state. If you can record the meeting legally, you should. Know what options you have if you do not like the outcome of a meeting.
Sometimes, you need help advocating for your child, and you can bring a private advocate or an attorney with you. If you think you need an attorney advocate to help you, please contact me (phone: 678-217-5555; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your needs.