On this episode of Parenting Impossible, The Special Needs Survival Podcast, Annette talks with Leslie M. Leslie of The Federation for Children with Special Needs to discuss how to be more involved in the education process as a special needs parent. Leslie serves as the Project Director for the MassPAC and APPLE projects at the Federation for Children with Special Needs. She provides technical assistance to both Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (SEPACs) and school district special education administrators.
Leslie and Annette discuss how emotions can and do run high when it comes to advocating for your special needs loved one in the education system. The makeup of families has changed over time and language barriers can sometimes be just one of many issues in the way of effective communications with a school district.
Leslie speaks to the power of parent advisory groups and how collectively, the groups can inform administrators what they feel is working for special needs students and what they feel could be improved on. But she feels that more states need to get help to set these groups up in school districts.
Leslie and her team help parent volunteers set these groups up, advise them on how to formally advise a school district and also advise them on open meeting laws as well as other ways to improve the networks. These groups she says bring an important voice to the table.
She wants to ultimately have parent groups build trust with the school administrators while respecting the role of the educators.
Leslie also takes time to discuss what should be discussed through these groups and what needs to be addressed in private. General topics of student services should be private while issues concerning bullying, transportation or other systemic issues can be addressed through the group to the district.
Leslie takes time to walk listeners through a few basic tips on how to start a parent advisory group. She says you need to start a conversation with the school system, sit down with other groups such as school committees and follow other states that have had success in this area. Educate yourself on special education laws and make sure the school district understands the importance of inviting parents to the table for these discussions.
You can learn about the Federation for Children with Special Needs here: https://fcsn.org/
To find your local state parent center
National Guide to Local Special Education Parent Advisory Councils