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Advocacy: Parent's To Do List

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School is stressful for most kids with disabilities. Parents feel the stress too. By spring, many parents and children are counting the days - and the hours - until school ends for the summer.

School-related pressure is off! Maybe things will be better next year.

Not yet! Here is your Summer To Do List.

Join a Parent Group or Start a FETA Study Group

When you join a parent support group, you meet other parents who have traveled down this road. They will provide you with emotional support and will teach you the rules of the game. Learn from them.

As you look for a parent group, think about your interests and needs.

Do you want emotional support?
Do you want to meet other families who have a child with a disability?
Do you want advocacy training?
Do you want to learn more about your child’s disability?
Do you want to learn about special education issues?
Do you want to get involved in school reform issues?

The answers to these questions will help you decide what type of group to join.

Look for an active parent group that exists to meet the needs of their members. You may find groups that were established to meet the needs of children who have different disabilities than your child. Do not rule these groups out. Parents of children with all disabilities share common interests and want to get good special education services for their children.

To find a support group, check your state Yellow Pages on our Fetaweb.com site.

* Organize Your Child's File

Very few parents have a complete copy of their child's file. Because special education generates so much paper, folks toss documents into cardboard boxes or bags. If you do this, you will not be able to find what you need.

Get copies of all evaluations, IEPs, correspondence, medical reports, and other information about your child. Read How to Organize Your Child's File.

You should organize your child's' file in chronological order. File all documents in reverse order. When you finish, the oldest document will be on top, most recent document will be at the end.

Our book, From Emotions to Advocacy, gives you step-by-step directions about how to do this.

Note: You are entitled to a complete copy of your child's file from the school. The school may charge a "reasonable" photocopying fee.

* Learn to Measure Your Child's Educational Progress

Is your child making progress? Is the child falling further behind? Do you have objective evidence to support your position?

Read our article, Understanding Tests and Measurements. To master this information, you should expect to read this article several times.

* Chart Out Your Child's Test Scores

You need to chart out your child's test scores. If you use a software program like MS Excel, Word or Access, this is easy. After you plug in your child's test scores, the program will make charts of your child's progress or lack of progress.

TIP: Use the Wizard in your software program to help you create graphs of educational progress.

Here is a short slide show about how to chart educational progress.

* Learn About Rights and Responsibilities

Read the special education law and regulations. Portions of the IDEA statute with Pete's comments are available on the Wrightslaw site. https://www.wrightslaw.com/law/code_regs/20USC1400MyOverview.html

Click here for the "IDEA Regs Page"

Our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, includes the full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and implementing regulations, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and FERPA and implementing regs.

Tip: Use a highlighter when you read the law. You should expect to read and re-read the law several times.

What do you know about the No Child Left Behind Act?

No Child Left Behind has many benefits for children who attend schools that receive Title I funds. If your child attends a "needs improvement" school, your child may be able to transfer to a better school or receive free supplemental educational services, including tutoring and after school programs.

Read A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind
by Sue Heath, co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind.

Learn about NCLB
: https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/nclb.index.htm

* Learn to Touch-Type

If your child has a disability, the child needs to learn to touch type. The process of writing by hand (or handwriting) is extremely difficult for most children with disabilities. One neurologist told us, "Writing is the most complicated neurological process that a human being must perform."

Children learn from their parents. If you "hunt and peck," will your child want to learn how to touch type? Probably not. But, if you use a typing software program like Mavis Beacon Teaching Typingfor 10 minutes three times a day, you will be typing 30 words a minute in no time.

Your goal is to touch type at a rate of 30 wpm or more by the end of the summer. If you are learning to touch type, you can expect and require your children to learn too. After a week or two, they will begin to compete with you - and will try to increase their speed over yours.

Your children will thank you for being such a great role model - in about 10 years!

* Be An Educated Consumer

Spend time this summer doing research on your child's disability and how your child learns. Visit web sites for educational and legal information.

Monitor your state department of education website. You may be surprised at the interesting information you can pick up.

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