back2schoolWith kids heading back to school already (or soon) I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that there are lots of resources available to parents who feel their child may need some special services at school. All children in this country are entitled to a free and appropriate education. It doesn’t always mean best, but sometimes it means schools need to take other steps to give your child and appropriate education. My son falls into this category and now, finally, has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to help him receive that free and appropriate education he is entitled.

 

The problem with the public system though is that many in the administrative areas of school are trained in how to tell parents no to special services. I do understand that they have a budget to stick to and it’s harder than ever right now, but honestly the process can really cause some friction. We really have struggled for a while in getting the school to understand Taylor’s educational needs, but it looks like right now we have a good plan in place that we are hoping will work. During this time of getting the school to recognize these issues and follow the laws that are set up to protect our children I really needed some help and support because they maze of laws are very confusing! The biggest help to me was the state parent information and training center. Here is Missouri it is called MPACT, but every state has their own office. You can find a great list for all states to find your local parent information and training center here. These centers offer FREE help, a great definition of what they do:

Parent centers serve families of children and young adults from birth to age 22 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning. They help families obtain appropriate education and services for their children with disabilities; work to improve education results for all children; train and inform parents and professionals on a variety of topics; resolve problems between families and schools or other agencies; and connect children with disabilities to community resources that address their needs.

school crossingAs a concerned parent I had approached the public school system early on with Taylor, but what I have learned is that the school districts don’t always understand (ok some understand but just opt not to follow unless force) the guidelines set out for them. There is a lot of misinformation out there in the schools even. Also, sometimes there are things that could be done that you have no idea to ask for. This happened to me several years ago. Once I got in touch with MPACT the parent mentors helped me understand what was going on so much more. They even offered several free classes for me to learn more about the process and directed me to certain other sources that were pertinent to our case. All of this made me feel more empowered to deal with the school and to learn to keep asking questions. Don’t just assume that the school knows what is best because they are the professional educators, it’s a tangled web for them on their side too. The other agencies can really help keep things running smoothly and avoid getting into battles which never help the kids at all.

 

If you suspect a problem, first talk with the teachers. The next step may be an evaluation to see if there is an issue that is impacting the child’s education. Then you move on from there. Remember, see guidance from the parent information and training centers and from friends and family who may have experience in dealing with the special services offices in your district. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t feel you have to do it all alone. You need to learn to be the best advocate that you can be for your child and it is hard to do that on your own.