Special Education: Tips for Parents
If I had a penny for every time a parent said to me: “I trusted the school” or “I didn’t know.”
Parents cannot rely on the school alone to protect their children and provide what they need for their education. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and often do not have the training to recognize when a child needs special education. School districts are desperately trying to manage their resources on a dwindling budget. A school’s lack of resources or knowledge may be at odds with the needs of your child. A recent study reported in the LA Times showed that “warrior” parents who advocated for their children received better services. Your child deserves that too. When you have a child with special needs, you need to be organized, know your rights, and be an advocate. Here are some tips to help you:
1. Be a good historian: put everything in writing, use emails instead of phone calls, record IEP meetings, and keep a chronological log of your actions (date, who, what happened).
2. Keep organized records: use a 3 ring binder for everything from the school (cum file, correspondence), the doctors and therapists (reports, receipts, correspondence), your observations and concerns.
3. Educate yourself: speak to other parents, join organizations specific to your child’s disability, get on list serves, go to parent trainings, read books, research the web, talk to your pediatrician.
4. Check your health insurance benefits: many services are covered. Supplement school services because the district does not have to provide the best for your child, but you should.
5. Be an active participant and advocate for your child. You will get better results.
6. Stay professional, even when you are emotional. If you can’t stay professional, hire one.
7. Ask questions. Lots of questions. Insist on answers.
8. Don’t assume the school is right. You know your child better than anyone.
9. Listen, you may learn something. You have one child, the school deals with thousands.
10. If in doubt, get a second opinion and ask for help.
Educate yourself. Don’t assume others know or care what is best for your child.
Participate in your child’s education plan. You are an integral part of the team.
Advocate. No one cares more about your child than you.