A guest post from writer Felicity Dryer.
Children are not able to advocate for themselves. Teachers are bestowed with the vast privilege and responsibility to ensure that children are receiving the best education possible to prepare them for their place in the world.
There are many ways that teachers can make sure that their special needs students are receiving the best possible education, as well as strategies for parents to work with their children’s teachers to guarantee attentive and effective instruction.
Face the Challenge Head-On
As the people who spend the most time with children aside from their parents, teachers are the best sources of information about the needs of their children. Teachers are often the first line of defense, able to detect whether or not there might be a developmental delay, learning disability, or special need that needs identification.
It’s a good idea to start advocating for the child right away, visiting doctors and developmental specialists to get professional opinions and get your questions answered.
Start as Early as Possible
School districts often provide services for children with special needs who live in their area whether or not they are already attending school.
Identifying and evaluating for special needs when kids are younger can help set them up for more success through early intervention services. There will also already be a procedure in place for the transition into school for your child.
Like each of the other steps of this process, active involvement will guarantee that this is done effectively. While these services are helpful, communication is key to ensuring their efficacy.
Navigate the IEP System
As readers are probably aware, formal public education is divided into two general categories: Regular Education and Special Education. With the diverse and varied needs of today’s students, an argument can be made that the gap between these categories is getting smaller every day.
Regardless, there are formal procedures in place for identifying, evaluating and providing for students who have special needs, which results in a personalized IEPs.
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program for children who have been identified and evaluated as special needs under a specific set of criteria.
Once a child is found eligible for services, a meeting is scheduled to decide what will be on the IEP based on the child’s current needs. Parents are invited to IEP meetings to offer insight into the child’s needs and consent for the plan presented to address these needs in the school setting.
These meetings are held at least once a year to review progress and set new goals, and can be a great resource for parents unsure of how to best communicate with their children’s instructors.
Know Your Rights
Children have rights in our educational system, especially in the Special Education arena. At the beginning of each formal IEP meeting, school administrators and teachers, a small booklet is handed out to parents detailing their rights.
There will be no time to go over those rights in detail during that meeting. To be prepared with this information beforehand, request a booklet from the school’s counselor or special education teacher.
Go through the booklet so that you know what rights are afforded to both you and your children . Highlight important points so that you can review them before each IEP meeting.
Preparation is essential to the process of advocating for your special needs child at school. How many times have you gone to the grocery store for eggs and milk only to walk out with unrelated items because you didn’t make a grocery list first? The truth is that it is easy to become distracted in our busy world and forget important issues and questions.
Making a simple list of questions and concerns can go a long way toward helping you feel more confident and ready for meeting with teachers and school administrators. Use this list to also take notes about the answers to the questions and discussions about issues you bring up to help process through the information after the meeting.
Continue to Advocate
The responsibility to advocate for a child does not end with one IEP meeting. Continue to monitor your child’s progress, working with teachers and school administrators to make sure that everyone is following the IEP. If something is not working, address the issues and any questions with the special education teacher and the principal if necessary.
Whether or not your child has already been identified and/or evaluated as qualifying for special needs, it is imperative to connect with the special education teachers and staff in your child’s school. The partnership opportunities between teachers and caregivers can provide the best possible environment for your child to learn and grow to his or her potential.
Felicity Dryer is a freelance writer who currently lives in Southern California. She currently writes for several health blogs. When she isn’t writing she loves to stay active and lead a healthy lifestyle.