There are so many decisions to be made when it comes to a child with an Individualized Education Plan. Even the littlest of decisions and one inaccurate statement can change the entire trajectory of a child’s education.
Have you ever been told your child doesn’t qualify for Extended School Year (ESY), or that the team has decided something, yet you disagree, or that there isn’t enough money for a service for your child, or even, we don’t have staff for that? Many parents face comments like these as if they are hard no’s and carry on without knowing that not only is this not a hard no, but that children are protected against statements like these and they are all addressed in the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).
As parents we are placed on an IEP team — yes, parents are a part of the team — and it is often believed that the staff members who are a part of this team have more knowledge, experience and training than parents. The reality is that parents cannot depend on any team member other than themselves to understand IDEA and how it was created to benefit a child’s unique needs. No, we are not lawyers, yes, we have full-time jobs… but we have all learned that IEP language is one all its own and it is a fact that parents can conquer IDEA if they look in the right places for information.
There is no doubt the teachers and service providers have acquired, through no small effort, credentials, accreditation, certifications, etc. However, this does not mean parents should blindly accept what they say. Often these professionals are beautifully educated in their specific field, but the statutory requirements of IDEA is not something they have been exposed to and they can make inaccurate statements or decisions about how to serve children, denying the child the protections of IDEA. It is important to understand the difference between what a school has done before, what is convenient for the school, or how team members feel about something and the rights afforded to children with disabilities under IDEA.
There are plenty of horror stories about what has been said and done and opinions about whether it was done intentionally by schools to save money or not. While it’s easy to have opinions about this, it may be more attributed to the fact that people often are misinformed or completely uninformed.
We must protect our children from having needed services and aides based on misinformation, no matter the motivation behind it.
Since we can’t control the type of information and training the team members from the school are provided, we must take it upon ourselves to find the information, to understand it and know how to apply it to our child’s IEP.
Often parents who do not yet know IDEA and have had IEP’s go sideways end up working with an advocate. This can be helpful to get the immediate needs of an IEP met, but more importantly, it is a must to find an advocate that will teach parents to advocate for their own child. When parents are taught to become the fierce inner-advocate we all have within us, our child wins.
Do you know how IDEA protects your child? Do you know how understanding the IEP document relates to your child’s rights? It is a lot to learn for sure and it is going to involve an investment of time and probably a little money, but in the long run your child will benefit from it and you will be able to spot when something isn’t right and eliminate the pitfalls that parents often realize too late in the game.
As a parent of 3 children with disabilities, a dyslexia specialist and a non-attorney advocate, I have learned from many different sources. One of my all-time go-to’s is Pete Wright at WrightsLaw —— as well as the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates. (If you get super motivated, you will see us at the annual COPAA conference in March).
We currently have local workshop in beautiful Sonoma Valley, CA – great time to take a vacation! Click this link to view our upcoming workshops.
We are compiling a list of interested parents who would like to participate in a live, online webinar. If you’d like to be added to this list, please send us a note at info@StrategicEducationAdvocacy.com.