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Navigating the Storm: Advocating for your Special Needs Child (continued, p. 4)

by Amie Borst
P. 4

#7 Dissenting Opinion
You have the right to disagree with the school pertaining to any determination regarding your child. If a test result seems off, tell them. If a proposed program is not appropriate, speak up. If the team agrees on something, but you don't, just because you are a part of that team doesn't mean you have to silently suffer, or sign the paperwork according to their terms. Instead, in most cases, you will fill out a form with your dissenting opinion. Don't be afraid to make your voice known, get a second opinion or even approach other professionals on the matter. When you stand strong, rest assured, you are doing everything in your power to help your child.

#8 Mediation and Due Process
In the end, if you find that the school hasn't fulfilled your expectations for your learning disabled child, or that a mutual agreement cannot be met, then it is in your best interest to pursue mediation. Unlike due process, mediation is free to you, the parent, and will provide an opportunity for you to caucus with the neutral school appointed mediator. Both sides have a chance to present their case, and help the other understand what it is you hope to achieve for your child. While you may not get everything you hope for, mediation, in most circumstances, will result in a plan that both parties can be happy with. However, if your case isn't settled at mediation, due process would be the next step. school.familyeducation.com/special-education/ada/38427.html

#9 It's not over
If your child receives an IEP through the school, don't expect this to be the end or ultimate solution to your child's learning disabilities. While the services at school can be extremely helpful in providing them with much needed coping mechanisms, and even assist in addressing aspects of the LD, helping your child does not end here. You must consider outside services, counseling and therapy, and other treatments. The school's specialists have very limited time to work with your child, and although they will honor every commitment made in the IEP, there is only so much that can be completed in the course of a school day. There will also be additional meetings to attend and monitoring of the progress to ensure both parties are upholding their commitment as outlined in the IEP.

If your child does not receive an IEP or the school still refuses to provide services that you feel satisfied about, there are other options. Private school, Homeschool, Co-ops, Online programs, the list is endless www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/learningdis.html. Most advocates and doctors will have lists of resources to help you. For some children, the school environment is too stressful and despite everyone's best attempts, the child is better served elsewhere. Don't be afraid to investigate other options. Remember, you are your child's first teacher.

While this certainly isn't everything you need to know about advocating for your child in the special education system, it is a start. Had I known any of these things from the beginning, I would have been better prepared. I figured it was simple; point out a problem, school performs tests and finds problem, IEP in place. Now, I know better. I know that it is a long road and a stressful journey. I know that at times, hope seems something we only dream about. I know that the anxiety can flood into our homes and bring undesired effects into this most sacred of establishments. But I also know that my child is worth every single tear-filled moment.

For us, despite all we've gone through, we see progress. Not only with the school, but with our child. However, our journey does not end here. It continues onward in the storm of life, a continuous cycle of ups and downs as we persist in advocating for our child. Being an activist for your learning-disabled child never ends. It is a process that will continue for years, not only in the school system but in many aspects of life. Stand strong and unwavering and the benefits to your child will prove worthy of your effort.

I hope your voyage with your child is rich, filled with excitement and discovery. We are all individuals in this journey of life, and what we may see as a great weakness, may be your child's greatest strength someday. Be encouraging, uplifting and hopeful. With your guidance and love, your child will know, beyond measure, the limitless possibilities in their life.

Amie Borst is a mom advocating successfully on behalf of her child. You can reach her at: Amiegr8tstuff@aol.com. See her web site at: amie-borst.com.



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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