5 Tips to Be a Better Parent Advocate for Special Needs

5 Tips to Be a Better Parent Advocate for Special Needs Children

Do you remember the ALS ice bucket challenge? It started when one person turned a fun idea into an opportunity to raise money for ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects muscles. As the ice bucket challenge went viral, it became an opportunity for America to learn more about ALS. The key to overcoming challenges for special needs children in public schools is to turn it into an opportunity for school staff to learn more about your child’s special needs in school. You too can learn how to be a better parent advocate for special needs children.

Challenges Are Opportunities

Special education teachers only receive a general overview on how to educate children with special needs in school. It is important to not assume they know as much as you do about your child’s disability. By being a good parent advocate for your special needs child, you create an opportunity for teachers to understand more about how your child learns. Here are some tips to help!

5 Tips for Parent Advocates of Special Needs Children

  1. Join a support organization with expertise on your child’s primary disability. Examples are Ups for Downs, Autism Speaks, and the Attachment & Trauma Network. You’ll learn from other parents and get lots of support.
  1. Assemble a binder for 504 or IEP meetings to organize documents. Mark sections for copies of the 504/IEP, evaluations, emails from the school, and notes. That way, you can easily access necessary information when you most need it.
  1. Learn the differences between a 504 and an IEP, so that you can get the right services and have procedural safeguards in place. If you understand these two programs, you’ll then be able to effectively communicate your needs.
  1. Take workshops about educational rights. Become familiar with acronyms like FAPE (free and appropriate public education) and other terms that you hear in school meetings.
  1. Write a Parent Letter of Attachment after every 504 and IEP meeting. Detail your understanding of what took place in the meeting in narrative form or put it on a chart. This document becomes a legal document like every other document in an IEP.

You don’t need to throw cold water on your child’s teachers’ heads to be a better parent advocate for special needs children. Accept the challenge to create a warm opportunity to educate school staff about the special needs of your child.

Contact us for a free phone consultation to learn more about supporting your child as a parent advocate for special education services. We serve families of San Diego County, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Escondido and surrounding cities.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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