March 14, 2012
by Adina Genn
It starts with "don't worry.. he or she is young"... " he or she will catch up"… "he or she has a different style of learning." You know in your heart that it is more.
On playdates and with family get togethers your child is just different. They don't play well, relax well, listen well, etc. Every child is unique and is entitled to a free, appropriate public education. That is the basis of what special education is all about. As parents, we are always doubting ourselves. This is the failsafe that keeps us in line. When you think as a result of a parent-teacher conference, open school night or a note from a teacher that your child might need more, it is time to begin the process and request testing. If you are wrong, and all the testing shows that your child falls within the normal range, all you have lost is a few hours. If in fact there is an issue, it will be addressed on a timely basis. Remember time is always of the essence when it comes to the education of a child.
What will happen once you ask for testing? Your best next step is to start a binder with all correspondence and records. Write a letter to the teacher/school social worker/school psychologist requesting testing for the issues you see as significant. It is important that you educate yourself to use the same language that your school is using. So express in your letter the reasons you are requesting the evaluation. Say clearly "my child can not complete tasks/ sit still/ express him/herself/write full sentences." Once you ask for testing, you will be asked to sign releases. It is a good idea to prepare your child by saying that they might be taken out of the classroom. Explain that this is not because something he or she did is wrong but that you and the school want more information on their learning style. It is important to discuss this to prepare your child, showing you endorse this next step in his or her educational career.
What should you do next? Collect data. If handwriting is the problem, take some of your child's sheets of homework/classwork etc. and put it in the binder. If your child has a problem in an outside of school activity, ask the person in charge – the soccer coach, religious school teacher etc. – for a letter to that effect. And then all you can do is educate yourself by visiting websites such as copaa.org and wrightslaw.com. These are websites which educate parents on their rights in obtaining an appropriate education for their child.
When is it time to call for outside help? There are several different routes to follow in this endeavor. There are educational enrichment programs, after-school seminars and of course tutoring. These are all outside the school. These are all very feasible alternatives to working with and partnering with the school in learning more about your child's learning style and differences.
As an advocate who works with attorneys, occupational therapists, speech therapists, neuropsychologists and psychologists, I know that once the parent (the child's best advocate) requests the evaluation process in the school setting, the truth will emerge. The teachers are your best barometers of your child's ranking in the class, and their feedback is essential to a true understanding of your child's needs. By requesting an in-school evaluation, you can start the process of partnering with the district in navigating the educational system. Part of what an educational advocate will offer is the guidance in this navigation process. As each child is unique, so are the concerns of each parent. That is why your learning process as a parent needs to start sooner rather than later. Looking at the websites, talking to other parents and if necessary, working with an advocate or special education attorney is your ticket to achieving your child's pathway to reaching his or her own potential.
"When You Think Special Education Will Help Your Child" Port Washington Patch.com