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Pamela Darr Wright, M.A., M.S.W.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
School is stressful for kids with disabilities. Parents feel the stress too. Read our new article, “Seven Steps to Effective Parent Advocacy.” When you take these steps – which include planning and preparation – you’ll increase your power with your child’s IEP team and your school district. You'll also increase the odds that next year, things will be better.
Step 1. Join Disabilities Organizations
our workshops and seminars about "How Advocate for Your Child," we tell
parents they need to join three disabilities organizations for
one year. Why do we make this recommendation?
These newsletters are an excellent source of information about advocacy, educational, medical, and legal issues. When parents join these groups - and read these newsletters - they learn new ways to help their child.
Step 2. Organize Your Child’s File
you have a complete copy of your child's entire file? Are all documents
filed in reverse chronological order? Because special education generates
so much paper, many parents throw documents away, or toss them away
in boxes. If you don’t have a system to manage paper, you won’t be able
to find important information when you need it!
You’ll find specific instructions about how to organize your child’s file in Chapter 8 of the WRIGHTSLAW TACTICS & STRATEGY MANUAL. (and download a free chapter)
(Read what others are saying about the Tactics & Strategy Manual)
TIP: You are entitled to a complete copy of your child's file from the school. The school may charge a "reasonable" photocopying fee.
Step 3. Learn to Measure Educational Progress
your child is benefiting from special education? Is your child progressing?
What objective evidence do you have that supports your position? To
learn how to measure educational progress, download and read “Understanding
Tests and Measurements" –
Step 4. Chart Your Child's Test Scores
you measure your child’s educational progress, it’s helpful to chart
the test scores. It’s easy to do this with a spreadsheet program like
MS Excel. When you plug in your child's test scores, you can make charts
of your child's progress or lack of progress.
Step 5. Learn About Your Rights and Responsibilities
need to read the special education statute and regulations. You can
download portions of the statute, along with Pete's comments, from the
Wrightslaw site at
The special education regulations are available on the Wrightslaw site too. The main "Regs Page" is at
TIP: Use a highlighter when you read the law. Expect to read and re-read
the law several times.
* The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997;
* Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act;
* The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act;
* Implementing regulations; and
Casebook of special education decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court.
If your child has a disability, the child will need to learn to touch type. Handwriting is incredibly difficult for many children with disabilities. One neurologist said, "Writing is the most complicated neurological process that a human being must perform."
Children learn from their parents and model their parent’s actions. If you "hunt and peck," do you think your child will want to learn to touch type? No way! If you “hunt and peck,” get a typing software program like "Mavis Beacon Teaching Typing." If you use Mavis Beacon for 5 - 10 minutes, two or three times a day, you’ll be touch typing at a rate of 30-40 words a minute in three months or less.
TIP: Mavis Beacon is available through the Advocate’s Bookstore at Wrightslaw – just follow this link:
When YOU learn to touch type, you can
require your children to learn too. After a week or two, your children
will begin to compete with you - and try to increase their speed over
yours. Your children will thank you for being such a great role model
- in about 10 years!
the summer, visit web sites that provide good quality educational and
legal information. We suggest that you begin with the LD Online site
Psychologist Margaret Kay’s site is a good source of information about language learning disabilities: http://www.margaretkay.com
Check out the EdLaw site at- http://www.edlaw.net
Explore your state's Department of Education
website. You may be surprised at the interesting information you can
“When I read the Tactics & Strategy Manual, I saw our situation on every page. Although we have shot ourselves in the foot more than once, I also learned that we’ve done some things right.”