Working to get children with special needs the education they need can be a challenge for parents. It often requires parents to become fierce advocates for their children. After all, parents know what is in their children’s best interests better than anyone.
Even so, it can be difficult to be both a parent and an advocate. Here are a few helpful guidelines parents should remember to help protect their child’s needs and advocate for their education.
1. Research and learn as much as you can
Simply raising one’s child can help parents understand their child’s special needs. However, it is still helpful for parents to learn as much as they can about:
- The child’s disability and needs
- The special education resources in California
- Parents’ and children’s rights under the law
The more information that parents have at their disposal, the better they can support their child and their best interests.
Parents can conduct research on their own, and connect with other advocates and professionals – both legal and medical – to expand their knowledge or even build a team of advocates.
2. Keep a record of everything
As parents go about the process of securing special education services for their child, they should make sure they keep their own organized record of:
- Their observations about their child’s progress
- Examples of their child’s schoolwork
- Medical or other official records
Having this information on hand can be incredibly helpful during the process of obtaining an IEP and advocating for one’s child effectively.
3. Communicate with teachers and the IEP team
Parental advocacy does not stop once their child obtains an individualized education plan (IEP). Parents are an active part of their child’s IEP team. Therefore, it is important for them to get and stay involved in their child’s education and progress.
It often helps to speak with the child’s special education teacher and other members of the IEP team regularly – not just during official IEP meetings or conferences. That way, both parents and the IEP team are up to date and on the same page regarding the child’s educational needs.