Advocating for your special needs child in school or as a young adult in their transition years is something just about every special needs parent will have to do. In this episode of Parenting Impossible, Annette talks about how important it is to advocate properly for your loved one.
Her guest this time is Ellen Chambers. Ellen has devoted her career as an advocate by helping families, educators and agencies secure proper special education services for school children with special needs. Ellen is also the founder of SPEDWatch, an organization in Massachusetts that works to make sure all special education students are provided with the education they are legally and morally entitled to.
Ellen talks about IDEA which is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and how it is aimed at ensuring all students with disabilities have a free and appropriate education. Much of her work is based off this law that was passed in 1975. It ensures education as well as extending beyond academics.
Annette and Ellen also discuss that when working with your school system, they should have a plan in place to ensure a proper education and that it should at some point, include post-secondary goals to prepare your student for transition. That includes basic living skills, employment and the training to gain meaningful employment.
Ellen says that there are still some school districts that do not understand their legal obligations and it is up to you as an advocate to be aware.
Ellen and Annette talk about your rights to have an independent evaluation of your student’s program and that you also have the right to choose your own evaluator. You can request that the school district pay for that evaluation as well. But be careful because the school district does not have to agree with the final outcome of that evaluation.
Ellen offers listeners her top tips for advocating for your student and young adult. She says to make sure you understand your child’s abilities and disabilities, strengths and skills that need more attention. Build a strong independent clinical team for your loved one. Also, know how the system works, know your rights and know when to exercise those rights.
She also says it is important to behave in a professional manner when dealing with your school system. Tensions can run high at times, but it is important to stay calm whenever possible.
And she says, let your child develop at their own pace.
If you need some advice on how to advocate for your special needs loved one, this is a great discussion.
You can contact Ellen Chambers at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The IDEA website with many resources can be found here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/