No one cares more about your child, than the ones who love them? You are the mother, the father, the counselor, the nurse, the list goes on. As a parent, your are your child’s best advocate. You know their needs and wants. Until your precious child is able to speak up for themselves, they trust you to be the one to give them that strong voice. But how do you do this without being an overbearing mother. Here a list of tips to help guide you through being a educational advocate for your little one with a disability.
First of all, what is an advocate?
An advocate ensures that the school provides your child with a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) that includes “specially designed instruction . . . to meet the [child’s] unique needs . . .” (20 U.S.C. §1401,IDEA)
What do advocates do?
Advocates gather and organize information. Advocates know and understand student rights and responsibilities. Learn the laws and regulations for special education. Don’t wait for the school to tell you, be prepared and know it for yourself. Get to know your child’s disability. If there is a need to dispute the educational decisions made about your child, always use facts and documentation to resolve disagreements.
Where do you get started?
Get a 3 ring binder to gather the paper trail that has been created on your child. In the binder, you will have a file on the following: your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP), information about your child’s disability, report cards, contact log between you and the teachers, behavior log, if necessary, work samples, etc. Compile any documentation about your child’s educational history. As a parent, you will want to keep all of your child’s written records.
During the IEP meetings, ask a lot of questions. If you are unclear about anything at all, ask for clarity. Take good notes. Identify any child’s strengths and weaknesses, then come up with some possible solutions. You are an active member of the IEP team, there is no time for bystanders. Before the end of the meeting, agree to have everything in writing.
Be emotionally prepared…
Stay calm. As a parent, you want the best for your child and it can get emotional. Keeping a leveled head during disagreements shows professionalism. You can get much more accomplished this way.
You are on your way to being your child’s best advocate.