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Ten Possible Ways to Advocate for Your Child Who has Special Needs

Ten Possible Ways to Advocate for Your Child

Who has Special Needs

1. Know Your Rights Go to Team Advocates for Special Kids (TASK) and learn free about all the rights that you have under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004. TASK will empower you to know your rights and to understand what must be done to enforce them. TASK however does not participate in enforcing your rights to have your child receive necessary resources or to have your child be educated appropriately.

2. Be Very Nice at IEP Team Meetings When you go to the IEP team meetings, take cookies or treats to the school district’s team members and be polite to everyone. When you see the IEP team members, take time to get to know them. Later, when your school district refuses to provide necessary resources to your child, you will know it was not because the school district members did not like you.

3. Worry About What Others Think of You By maintaining a collaborative and cordial relationship with your child’s teachers and all school officials, you will be well liked and respected by the school establishment. By listening to what the school’s IEP team members believe is best for your child and accepting it, without question, you will ensure many warm relationships with your child’s school officials. The only person who will not come out well with this approach is your child, who will fall farther and farther behind every year of his or her schooling.

4. Ask for Everything That You Want Have no regrets about not asking for what you believe your child needs in order to receive educational benefit. If you think your child needs more speech therapy, then ask for more speech therapy. If your child does not learn well in larger groups, then ask for one-to-one tutoring. If your child has negative or disruptive behaviors, then ask the school district for an Intensive Behavioral Interventionist (IBI) to help extinguish all your child’s disruptive behaviors. After you have asked for everything you want for your child and the school district has refused to provide the services that you believe are necessary for your child, then you will have a clear conscience that you have given the school district a fair opportunity to provide the necessary services for your child.

5. Bring Friends and Supporters to IEP Meetings Bring friends and supporters to your IEP meetings so that they can give you feedback about the school team members present at the meetings. Parents often feel that they themselves are out of line by the reaction that the parents get from their children’s IEP school district representatives. By having others with you, you can do a reality test of whether it is you or the school district IEP team members who do not seem to understand your child. When you conclude that the school district’s IEP team members are out of line and not responsive to your child’s needs, then you will be able to respond in an appropriate manner to your unresponsive school district.

6. Spend Lots of Money on Private Testing You can spend lots of money on private evaluators for your child. You can take the private assessment reports from your private evaluators to the school district and show the school district members what your child really needs to receive educational benefit. After the school district IEP team members “consider” your private evaluators recommendations, then the school district’s IEP team members will tell you that their original offer of services is still appropriate and that you have wasted your money. This experience will convince you that your school district’s IEP team members cannot be persuaded with data or evaluations to give your child the necessary resources. You will now begin to understand that your child’s school district IEP team members never seriously considered what you had to say to them. You will realize that the best private educational experts cannot persuade your child’s school district IEP team members.

7. Know Your Limitations After having gone through this process for a couple of years, you will understand that your personal ability to influence your school district with regard to your child’s IEP and the allocation of important educational resources is very limited. Some parents take longer than others to come to this full realization.

8. Review Your Alternatives At this point, it is important to review your viable alternatives. Moving to another school district is usually both expensive and futile. Becoming grim and angry usually only makes things worse with your child’s school district IEP team members. Threatening the school district with legal action is usually futile because only one out of every 200 parents ever gets an attorney to enforce their child’s special education rights. Mere legal threats will not intimidate your child’s school district. Many parents, at this point, hire private tutors and therapists, and no longer waste their time trying to get more resources for their child out of their child’s school district.

9. Throw Money at the Problem Some parents become so angry that they spend great amounts of money attempting to punish their child’s school district. These parents hire expensive lawyers to file lawsuits called “Requests for Due Process Hearing” with the idea that they will get their money back and their child will get compensatory services. Parents quickly realize that they can spend a small fortune and receive very little benefit, if any, by taking this approach. School districts know that most parents will abandon their legal efforts after a short period as bills mount and the slow legal progress grinds on.

10. The Best Way to Advocate It is usually best to look forward rather than backward with regard to receiving necessary resources for your child’s special education needs. We recommend that you hire an attorney to go with you to every IEP team meeting, to help create a great IEP plan, to handle all your IEP-related paperwork, to interface between you and the school district, to enforce your child’s rights today (and sue them if necessary), to force the school district to pay for needed private evaluations, to continuously monitor the great IEP plan that you create and to monitor that your child is making satisfactory progress in receiving educational benefit.

How much does all this cost? If you hire a flat rate special education law firm that only provides special education legal services (as opposed to a high-powered general law firm) to represent you and your child, it generally costs between $1,800 and $3,000 annually (everything included) depending on your location and other considerations. It is not right that you have to pay that kind of money to ensure your child receives educational benefit. It is, however, necessary because of the ways in which your child’s school district applies our current state and federal special education laws to your child’s situation.

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