Parents of a child with special needs will do anything they can to make sure their child is happy and in a supportive environment. But without the right knowledge and tools, parents might not realize all the opportunities they can provide to their child to set him/her up for a successful future. When it comes to discussing your child’s education with his/her teachers and the school’s administration, many parents feel they can handle it on their own; however, navigating the special education maze can be overwhelming and confusing. That’s where Brighton Center steps in. One of their qualified special education advocates can help your family.
Here are 10 ways Brighton Center strives to empower parents to be the best advocates possible for their special needs child:
1. Level the playing field. Have you ever been to an Admission, Review, & Dismissal (ARD) meeting for your child and been told by the school district, “We cannot do that”? Did you ever wonder whether that was true? When you work with a Brighton advocate you will be introduced to laws and processes which protect the educational rights of your child. Our goal is to transfer our knowledge to you, so that you may feel empowered to advocate for your child by understanding your rights and the school district’s obligations.
2. Learn the lingo. FAPE, LRE, IDEA, 504, NCLB, IEP, IFSP, CSE, CPSE, EI, etc., etc. In order to effectively advocate for your child, you must know the lingo. This immediately puts you at a disadvantage to contribute in a meaningful way in the education of your child. A Brighton advocate can help you understand how these terms apply in your child’s paperwork so that you are making informed decisions.
3. Understand testing. School psychologists, special education teachers, and other related services professionals have gone to school for many years to understand how to test and interpret results. Most parents are not trained in the language that is used to report data. A Brighton advocate can review your evaluations, progress reports, and other data to help demystify the language in these reports so you may comprehend how they apply to your child, and what services your child may or may not be entitled to based on those results.
4. Find out whether the district forget anything. Do you think your child would benefit from Assistive Technology? Is it time to discuss transition? Is your child’s behavior in school affecting his/her learning, and you believe that the district has not tried everything it could? A Brighton advocate can assist you in ensuring your child’s IEP reflects an appropriate plan for their needs.
5. Set goals. Your child’s goals are one of the most important, yet also one of the most overlooked, components of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Goals need to be measurable and observable, should not be exactly the same from year to year, and should always be individualized. Additionally, goals must be developed with parental input. A Brighton advocate can assist you in understanding the development process, how they impact education and your role in their creating during the ARD meetings.
6. Review your IEP document. Did you receive your child’s IEP and discover that it did not accurately reflect what occurred at your meeting? Your IEP is your “contract” with your school district and if something does not appear in writing, then it makes it difficult to take data or keep the district accountable for the services. A Brighton advocate can help you review the IEP and make sure that all necessary information and services are contained in it along with teaching you how to check the IEP progress report to understand how and progress is being made.
7. Shoulder the burden of your many roles. As a parent of a child with special needs, you have many roles at the ARD meeting. These include being the parent, the listener, the questioner, the active team member, the creative thinker, and an advocate. It is virtually impossible to do all these roles well. You also may not be comfortable with one or more of these roles. Bringing a qualified special education advocate to your ARD meeting takes the burden off of you in having to serve in all of these necessary, yet different, capacities.
8. Take the emotions out of it. Let’s face it: we get emotional when speaking about our children. When you are emotional at an ARD meeting you might not always be able to get your point across due to overwhelming feelings going through your mind. It is difficult to stay focused and objective; most of all to keep in mind that this is a legal meeting were you are discussing the education of your child. A Brighton advocate at your ARD meeting may assist you in keeping focused and on target based on the ‘game plan’ you discussed before ARD. This way nothing is missed!
9. Analyze progress. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. You may feel that your child is not making progress in his/her current program. If this is the case, it is important that you speak with a Brighton advocate to do an analysis of your child’s progress, or lack thereof, and assist you in advocating for the appropriate education your child deserves.
10. Come to an agreement. In a perfect world, we would all come out of an ARD meeting with everything our children are entitled to. However, many parents leave a meeting without obtaining the needed services due to their request being denied by the district. If you feel that your child is not receiving all of the appropriate services from the district, it is extremely important to speak to a Brighton advocate to know what the paperwork states and what your next steps should be.
To learn more about Brighton Center Special Education services, visit their website. Their class calendarincludes helpful courses like Special Education 101, that are free and open to the public, please RSVP by using the links on the calendar. Or for more information, you can contact Pam Ramsey, Special Education Support Services Director, at PRamsey@BrightonSA.org or 210-826-4492 ext 5404.