Educational advocacy, learning disabilities advocacy     Internet Special Education Resources
Special Education & Learning Disabilities Resources: A Nationwide Directory

Navigating the Storm: Advocating for your Special Needs Child (continued, p. 2)

by Amie Borst
P. 2

My heart broke when I learned of my child's auditory processing disorders, short term memory deficiencies, speech and language shortcomings and her ADHD. I wondered what it must have felt like for her to drown daily in a classroom full of noise, commotion and activity. To try to focus her attention despite the background clamor that incapacitated her ability to listen effectively. To try to sit still and be obedient when her body and brain were screaming to move. To try to remember the lesson discussed but the information seemed just beyond grasp. I wondered how she managed to pass through four years of school with these distractions. I wondered how these disabilities went completely undetected by the school system. I wondered why, when I brought them to the attention of the school staff, they offered only band-aid solutions instead of services designed specifically for her needs.

The school seemed, to put it kindly, reluctant to offer special education services, even going so far as to say family history and the private evaluations were insignificant and insufficient information. But, despite their insistence and lack of interest, I followed my gut instinct. The one thing I knew: they were wrong. The one thing I didn't know: how very wrong they were. Thankfully, we had resources from the very beginning that aided us. I believe everyone advocating for a child should have these same tools.

#1 Know your rights

Your greatest weapon of defense in dealing with the school system is being familiar with the special education law; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). www.IDEA.ED.Gov Each state has their own set of special education rights, but ultimately they have to follow and implement the laws outlined in IDEA. To obtain a copy of the special education guidelines for your state, or for more information, check your local school or your state's Department of Education. Schools are unprepared for parents who have taken the time to educate themselves. While initially, they may feel threatened by your comprehension and knowledge of the rights entitled to your child, in the end it will demand their respect.

#2 Hire an advocate

While not every family is in a financial position to afford this, every family should at least have a parent advocate at their disposal. A terrific link about advocates is found here Our advocate, Dr. Judith Greenberg, PhD at was an invaluable resource to my husband and me. She provided information and instruction that otherwise would have been unknown to us. Her wisdom and emotional support were limitless and a precious reserve when our tanks were empty. She gave us hope and direction to navigate through the system.

#3 Learn the Lingo

RTI, SERT, IEE, IEP – What? This is only a portion of the jargon and lingo that you will quickly become accustomed to hearing. While the acronyms may be different in each state, typically the process, and what they accomplish, will be similar. I've outlined a few for you.

Because of the recent changes made to IDEA, schools now have the option to try Response to Intervention (RTI) before anything else. RTI may work well for some children, particularly children who struggle in the classroom that do not have a learning disability (LD). RTI's might include, but are not limited to: preferential desk placement, desk “buddies” and positive reinforcement and feedback from teachers.

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Amie Borst is a mom advocating successfully on behalf of her child. You can reach her at: See her web site at:

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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