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Help! My Child's Rights are Being Violated! What Can I Do?

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"Although I read your newsletter, I am at a loss about how to get my child the services he needs. He is is nine years old and has been diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and Bipolar Depression."

"I am fighting a losing battle with the special educators about providing my son with the services he is entitled to. After many confrontations and my persistent insistence, they placed him in a self contained class for emotionally disturbed children for one hour a day. The teacher disagrees that he needs these services."

I have been told by friends that my son's rights are being violated. I am very frustrated. What can I do?"

From Wrightslaw

You need to get out of the loop! (More about this in a minute)

You need to have your child evaluated by an expert in the private sector who is knowledgeable about neuro-behavioral conditions like ADHD and Tourette Syndrome AND special education. A comprehensive evaluation will give you invaluable information about your child's unique needs and the educational services he needs.

Ask the evaluator to make recommendations about an appropriate program that will meet your child's needs. Ask the evaluator to attend the next IEP meeting to explain your son's needs. (This will help you get 'out of the loop').

Relations between you and school personnel are polarized. You push. The school digs in. You demand. The school places your son in a self contained class for emotionally disturbed children. Conflict increases. No one wins. Your child is caught in the middle. He is likely to be the ultimate loser.

Conflict and disagreements between parents and school staff are normal, predictable events. These problems are not unique to you, your child, special education, or your school district - this is the nature of the parent-school relationship.

You say "I have been told that my child's rights are being violated." From the information you sent, it's impossible to know if this statement is accurate.

As a parent, you negotiate for services. To be a good negotiator, you need to know the other side's perceptions and position better than you know your own.

You need to learn how to persuade others to hear your concerns and want to help.

Complaining that your child's rights have been violated will not cause the school (or anyone else) to provide better services.

You need to learn advocacy skills. Visit the Parent Advocacy page - you will find dozens of articles and resources that will help you.

Emergency! Crisis! Help! You need to realize that you can damage your child's case by reacting emotionally, acting impulsively, or believing the school must DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!

While you are waiting for your appointment with the private sector evaluator, read our articles about creating paper trails and how to write effective letters.

Read the "Letter to the Stranger." After you read this article, you will feel differently about writing letters.

Next, read "The Art of Writing Letters." Are you Bob Bombastic or Mike Manners?

Our book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide includes a chapter about paper trails (why and how to use logs, calendars, journals).

We also included two chapters about how to write letters, and "Letter Writing Tips", "Nuts and Bolts of Letter Writing", and "Frequently Asked Questions about Business Letters".

Appendix I of FETA includes many sample letters that you can use or tailor to your circumstances.

Your child is young, you have a long road ahead of you. I strongly suggest that you spend time learning how to advocate. You will find that this is time well-spent.

Good luck to you!

Pete & Pam

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