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Navigating the Storm: Advocating for your Special Needs Child (p. 1)

by Amie Borst
Turbulent: 1. causing unrest or disturbance 2. characterized by agitation or tumult. This word is the one that has come to describe my experience advocating for my child in the special education system. I wish however, the word had been something more flowery or hopeful or even simply, happy. But, advocating for a child's needs in today's education system is not an easy one. While it may not cause agitation for everyone, it certainly is a time of great unrest.

I entered the system optimistic and completely ignorant. I returned feeling distraught and defeated but very educated. Initially, I believed that the school would always have my child's best interest in mind, but that ideal was quickly put to rest as we experienced nine months (and counting) of opposition. While my story is not unique, nor not unlike many who advocate for their children, there are things I have learned along the way that have changed my perspective. I cannot justify keeping my experience, and what I have learned from it, to myself. Not sharing it would be an injustice to every parent or guardian struggling to fight for their child's rights. Do we not have challenges so that we can gain knowledge and in sharing it, others might benefit?

As a mother, my greatest desire was to aide in my child's education and learning. If I could also provide support to teachers, then I was willing to do that. When called upon by faculty, my response was without delay or hesitation. I actively engaged myself as an involved parent, happily assisting teachers with classroom responsibilities, throwing class parties as room mom and as an active member of the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization). However, when I noticed my child was struggling and falling terribly short of her potential, the school was not as eager to respond.

Although my child's disability does not confine her to a wheelchair or render her unable to communicate, she still very much suffers from disabilities which prevent her from achieving her best. Her disabilities may not be devastatingly severe, but I have learned that, the existence of any disability can be severely devastating.

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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.



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