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Do Special Education Success Stories Exist – And How Do I Obtain This for My Child?
As a parent and attorney for over 25 years, I am often frustrated by how long it takes to successfully advocate for a child (even my own children)! Sometimes it feels like I’m banging my head against a wall (giving myself a concussion) with little or no results. It recently occurred to me that advocacy is inherently difficult, but even if it seems like I haven’t done much, or the parent hasn’t done much—the child can actually benefit!
1. I helped parents in another state educate their high school son. Things got really bad for the young man at school and the school wanted to send him to an alternative school. I immediately began working with the mother and educating her about IDEA 2004 and discipline laws. I read letters, helped him write letters, worked on a settlement with the school, and encouraged him to keep fighting despite the bad things. The situation continued to deteriorate and the young man dropped out of school – much to the frustration of his parents and me! Imagine my surprise when a few months later I received an email from his mother with the graduation picture! I am so excited for the young man and realize that if his parents and I had not fought for him, he probably would never have graduated! Great result!
2. I have been advocating for an autistic child for over a year. The young man could not read, was late in all areas of study, and developed a school phobia. During my advocacy, I had to educate school staff a lot about dyslexia; research-based education and extended school year service. Another issue is the school district’s insistence that their attorney come to every IEP meeting; even after they were given a copy of his OSEP policy letter to Clinton discouraging this practice. After a year, we made some progress and the parents (and I) decided to try on our own (with me helping them on the phone, etc.). After I stopped going to the meetings, the school district wouldn’t let their lawyer attend the IEP meetings—and the treatment of the parents is slightly better. The young man is learning academically and is no longer school phobic – fantastic!
There are success stories in special education advocacy; and you can do the following to increase your child’s chances of success:
1. Confident and persistent advocacy for as long as necessary. Advocacy is sometimes a long way rather than a short one! Stick with it and you’ll be glad you did!
2. If your child has reading difficulties, it is very important that you find accurate information about dyslexia that you can use in your advocacy and research-based ways to deal with the disability. Try this link to the International Dyslexia Association (http://www.interdys.org/).
3. Learn about and advocate for best practices in special education for your child with disabilities. For example: ABA is still the best practice for children with autism.
4. Call your states’ PTIC and ask about free or low-cost advocacy training. Not only will you learn a lot, but you will also be able to connect with other parents!
5. Consider using a qualified, experienced lawyer – this can often go a long way in the success of your advocacy! Make sure the attorney has experience with your state’s dispute resolution processes.
6. If the school continues to deny and/or delay needed services, consider using dispute resolution processes (due process, mediation, and state complaints).
Advocacy success stories do exist, and this article presents some examples. Plus, you’ll learn some dragon slaying tips to help you on your way to your own child’s success story! Good luck!
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