You may not be aware of some rights you have as the parent of a child with special needs. It is crucial to be aware of these rights and to advocate for a quality education for your child. Effective advocacy is something that parents may not know is an important part of obtaining a quality education for a child with an IEP or a 504 plan. Your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). This means that your child must be placed in the least restricted setting possible and provided with resources for successes.
First and foremost, no one knows a child better or has their welfare more at heart than their parents. As the representatives of a child’s interests, it can be a bit intimidating to attend an IEP meeting. However, setting goals beforehand can allow parents to give input on what works for their child in all settings. Additionally, it is important for parents to know the laws. Without that knowledge, it is difficult to navigate a child’s IEP. Otherwise, parents may be dependent on school personnel for advice and legal information. And while it may seem to be a given that these officials have a responsibility to know the laws as well, many times they do not. There are times they may give generalized recommendations that do not meet the total and unique needs of the child.
Resources for Learning
There can be challenges finding the right resources to help parents advocate for a quality education for their child. Thankfully, there are also several great places to look for support.
Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA): IDEA is a great resource that indicates specific, federally mandated guidelines and expectations that schools must provide.
Accommodations, Interventions, and Placement: In accordance with IDEA sections §§300.304 through 300.311, the child must be evaluated appropriately and the “content of the child’s IEP, including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum.”
State Department of Education: Your individual state will provide guidance to the development of IEP and 504 plans. It is important to know that an IEP and a 504 plan should have measurable goals, meaning the goals can either be counted or observed.
Other Parents: One of the best ways to receive support and information is from fellow parents of children who have special needs or disabilities. There are parent blogs and support groups in all areas across the country that work to offer support in this way.
Going Beyond School
According to Education Week, children with disabilities were the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was hard for teachers and school districts to accommodate their students with special needs and disabilities as well as fulfilling their IEP and 504 plans. Searching out programs for after school enrichment that offer small class sizes gives students an opportunity to participate in class activities, interact with peers, and further develop their social skills. Although after school enrichment programs are not one-size-fits-all, they can help children find proper placement within the program and, from there, support academic needs. The A Grade Ahead program offers small class sizes, focuses on student participation, and provides a fun learning environment.
Other options for students with or without special needs and disabilities are summer camps. Reach out to your school district or local enrichment program to check if there are summer camps in your area! These can help avoid summer learning loss. A Grade Ahead offers summer camps such as MathVenture Jr., MathVenture, Eco-Explorers, and Time Traveler Tales!
What has been mentioned here is only a small bit of what can be done to advocate for a quality education for a child with special needs or disabilities. Remember, you as the parent, know what is best for your child and are their biggest advocate!
Author: Pamela Crum, Lead Teacher at A Grade Ahead, Inc.