"As a former Special Education teacher, I truly believe that the best way to ensure your child is getting the best possible education is to be a strong advocate for your child. Think of the vision you have for your child in their living, their learning and working environments. Navigating the world of IEP’s, 504 Plans, IDEA and other special education jargon can be scary. Here are a few tips to help you get started on what can be a very rewarding journey.
- First, learn all that you can about your child’s disability. Information is power. It is crucial that you understand your child’s limitations but most importantly of what your child is capable. Focus on what your child can do. Understanding their disability will help you understand what special needs they have. This information will arm you with the knowledge you need to move forward on this journey.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your doctors, teachers, other parents and State agencies for help. Ask them any questions or concerns you may have. There are no “dumb” questions. Feel free to ask anything that is on your mind. Be prepared to listen, you may not always like the answers you are given, so do the research so you know if this is advice that works and applies to your child.
- Keep communication open between you and your child’s teacher. Let the teacher know you are there to assist in your child’s learning process. Help solve problems together. Listen to advice and tips that they give you. However, if you truly feel your child is not getting the services or education they need then don’t settle. Remember no one knows your child as well as you do!
- This next step is the most difficult, but in my opinion, THE MOST IMPORTANT! Educate yourself on special education law. Learn the details behind the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This information will help you begin to understand the IEP or 504 plan. These are the documents that plan your child’s education based on their needs. Learn how many students with special needs can be in one classroom for effective learning. Figure out if your child can have an associate. Know your child’s rights! This will ensure that they are getting all their needs met.
- Talk with your child about their long-term goals. Help them get into programs that will teach them skills to accomplish these goals. You cheer for your child on the soccer field or the stage. Cheer them on in their academic career too. A good friend of mine with Cerebral Palsy always says “I am just differently-abled not disabled.”
See your child first and their disability last. Knowing they have a strong advocate in their corner will help them succeed in accomplishing their goals.
Submitted by Springfield Moms contributor Lauren Coleman. Lauren is a former Chicago Public Schools, Special Education teacher turned stay at home mom/domestic engineer. She is wife to Christopher Coleman and mother to Isabelle and Baby Ireland.