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"All of this is new. I'm overwhelmed. Where do I start?"
Charles writes, “My son Daniel is 8 years old and in the second grade. After several evaluations, he was diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD. Daniel has an IEP. He is in a self- contained reading class because he cannot read or spell.”
“Although Daniel has been receiving special education services for a year and a half, his progress is minimal at best. We shared our concerns with the school and asked for additional services. We are not optimistic.”
“All of this is new to us. A friend told us about your site – this is why I’m writing you. What information should I read to become a better advocate for Daniel?”
Charles speaks for many parents who have questions about special education.
There is an old saying, "Prior planning prevents problems." This is especially true for parents who want to ensure that their child gets effective, appropriate special education services.
As a parent, you negotiate with the school for services. To be a successful negotiator, you must understand the system and how it works. Many parents don’t realize that school systems are bureaucracies. Parents often don’t know how important decisions are made - or by whom.
Until now, parents have been barred from effective advocacy by lack of information and isolation. The Internet is changing the status quo. Parents who are knowledgeable about their children’s rights (and their own rights and responsibilities) and know how to use tactics and strategies are far more likely to succeed.
If you are a “new parent,” this Game Plan will help you get started.
As a new parent, you need to go through a period of self-study. Your first step is to download, print, and read these articles from our Advocacy Library.
1. Crisis! Emergency! HELP! will help you devise short-term solutions and do long range planning.
2. From Emotions to Advocacy: The Parents’ Journey helps parents understand their emotions and how to use emotions as a source of energy and strength.
3. Your Child Has School Problems: Whose Fault Is It? teaches you about “school culture” and how this hidden factor affects educational decision-making.
4. The Art of Writing Letters will teach you how to write letters that get results, and how to avoid common pitfalls.
5. Understanding Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Advocate and Attorney teaches you how to measure your child’s progress in special education.
6. Your Child's IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents & Advocates teaches you about the legal requirements for your child’s IEP and how to develop good IEPs.
Visit the the Advocacy Library to find dozens of articles that will help you become a more effective advocate for your child.
1. Go to our Law Library and download the IDEA Statute that includes Pete's commentary.
2. Contact your State Department of Education – ask them to send you ALL their publications about special education.
4. Contact your State Parent Training and Information Center or your State Community Parent Resource Center for help,information, and resources in your area.
Get a private sector expert involved who can evaluate your son, test him to measure educational progress, and make recommendations to the IEP team about the services he needs.
Try to read one book a month. Select books in areas where you feel least knowledgeable. You’ll find more information about our “Book a Month” plan in the Advocate’s Bookstore.
If your child has reading problems, you need to learn about effective practices in reading instruction.
An excellent book is Straight Talk About Reading Problems by Susan Hall, Louisa Moats, and Reid Lyon. In Straight Talk, you’ll learn research-based methods of reading instruction.
You can order Straight Talk from the Advocate’s Library
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Visit our Blog, The Wrightslaw Way... a unique, helpful online community. You can read recent posts and comments from others. If you have questions or need help, go to the Community Helpline where you can ask questions or help others.
Download the Wrightslaw Advocacy Game Plan Checklist PDF
"From Emotions to Advocacy is the best, practical, informative, empathetic book on the market. It's amazing and thrilling to be an advocate for 15 years, to read FETA, and feel the thrill of 'Oh, my God! that is so true', and to be able to sharpen my skills." Fran, New Hampshire
"You have given me the courage and strength to get an appropriate program for my autistic son. Your law book is my bible!" -- Susan
If you are a parent who is advocating for your child, read our book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition- The Special Education Survival Guide.
Wrightslaw: Special Education Law
How do you learn about “rights and responsibilities”? Where can you look up information about rights and responsibilities?
Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition includes the full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act with extensive commentary by Pete. The book also includes Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and a casebook of special education decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court.
In addition to resources from Wrightslaw, here are some incredibly useful sites:
National Center for Learning Disabilities includes nationwide listing of schools, summer programs, assessment and treatment centers, and parent support groups that serve individuals with learning disabilities. NCLD is working to create a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work and in life.
Understood for Learning and Attention Issues provides support to those parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey.
LDOnline. LD Online is a good source of information for parents of children with disabilities.
International Dyslexia Association (IDA).
From your description of your son's reading problems, it sounds like he may have a language learning disability that is affecting his ability to read, write and spell. For information about educational methods and techniques designed to help children with language learning problems, contact the International Dyslexia Association (formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society).
Margaret Kay. Margaret Kay is a Pennsylvania psychologist in private practice. You will find valuable information about reading, writing, and spelling problems on her site. Read the Disabilities Fact Sheets from Dr. Kay’s site.
Last revised: 03/16/2016