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I heard a parent say…”I know I have responsibilities as a parent, but how is that different from my responsibilities as a special needs parent?”
Parenting can be challenging and with special needs children, it can be difficult. And then when you add to the fact that you have to somehow find your way through the web of special education, the word difficult can be an understatement. This is why it is important that you know your role as a special needs parent while you are navigating your way through the system.
Your first responsibility as a special needs parent is to know your rights. Remember, if you do not know your rights, then you will not know what to advocate for. Click here and here for information on important rights that your should know. In addition to this important responsibility, here are a few more responsibilities to remember…
Keep organized records. It is very easy to forget information and to lose information that you have not put away in a safe place. You should have a contact log to keep track of when you are in contact with members of the IEP team and your should have an electronic file or binder to keep all important documents.
Try to resolve all issues at the school level. Sometimes this can be difficult, but if you have an issue you should always address it with your child’s teacher or case manager first. If you are unable to resolve the problem, then you should call an IEP meeting and address the issue with IEP team, including the principal and/or special education director. If you are still having an issue, then you should file a complaint. There are times when you should file a complaint immediately, but most of the time you can address your issues at the school level.
Monitor your child’s progress and IEP regularly. At the very least you should be looking at your child’s progress every quarter. If your child is not progressing, then you can discuss with your child’s teacher what changes need to be made early in the school year.
Opt for inclusive activities. Try to include your child in as many activities with their general education peers as much as possible. This will build their social skills, friendships and confidence. Within your child’s school, make sure they are included during lunch, recess and any specials (i.e. art, music, PE).
Get involved with the school. Try to stay involved in school activities as much as possible. Observing your child in the school setting can be an invaluable resource.
Make sure your child’s goals and objectives are accurate. This will ensure that your child is getting the educational programming that they need.
and last but not least…
If your do not know something, ASK! Remember, no question is too dumb, too small or too big.
So remember, parents are instrumental in the special education process. It is your responsibility as a special needs parent to make sure your child is getting the right services that they need in order for them to be successful in the future. This is the key to effective advocacy!
Are you on track with your responsibilities? What are you struggling with?