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Fighting the Good Fight: How to Advocate for Your Special Needs Child

Fighting the Good Fight: How to Advocate for Your Special Needs Child

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Updated on Jan 18, 2008

Parents of children with learning disabilities want their children to have the support and services that will help them succeed. Public schools have the responsibility of educating large numbers of children with limited financial resources. How can parents make sure their child gets the help he needs?

Get to know your child’s teacher. He or she is the key to a successful, productive school year. When possible, offer to help in the classroom. You will learn a great deal about how she teaches and how your child learns and interacts with other children.
 
Understand your child’s needs. Learn what you can about the specific learning problems your child faces. Know what strategies have been proven to help children with these issues and what works best for your child.

Keep records. Keep a notebook or file with your notes of every meeting with a teacher, every telephone call from someone in the school, every meeting of your school’s special education committee. Make sure to include the date, who made the call or attended the meeting, and any commitments made or follow up required.

Know what you can’t get. The IDEA¹ (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and its state counterparts require only that your child be provided an appropriate education, not an ideal one. You should also be aware that special education laws apply only to public schools. Private schools have no obligation to provide special education services, although you may be able to get services for your private school student from your public school district.

Know when you need an advocate.  You may need to work with an attorney specializing in special education or with a special education advocate if:

  • Your child’s IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is not appropriate or is not being followed by his school.
  • Your child’s school is unable to meet her needs but your district won’t agree to place her in a suitable private school.

Resources:
www.wrightslaw.com  includes numerous articles on advocacy and special education laws.

http://www.napas.org – The National Disability Rights Network has links to Protection and Advocacy Programs in each state.

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