All parents should know how to advocate for their child’s education, but for parents of children with special needs, it is especially important. As a special education teacher, I want to get to know the parents of my students, build a rapport with them and involve them in their child’s education.
Many parents focus on their child’s social, emotional, and physical well-being at home (which is very important), but leave the entirety of education to teachers. As the YOU Program demonstrates, these pieces go hand-in-hand, so a teacher-parent partnership is critical for a child’s academic success.
To ensure your child receives a highly qualified education in accordance with their special education services, work on these three things: knowledge, involvement, and communication.
To advocate for your child, you must educate yourself on school details and your child’s educational rights.
Prepare for the annual meetings by learning what the IEP fully entails, why your child has one, what the components mean, and how it is implemented. The IEP lays out the framework for your child’s education and the school should follow everything outlined in it.
If you need help understanding the IEP, meet with your child’s teacher or a staff member who can explain each section. Although it is discussed thoroughly during the IEP meeting, if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to schedule a follow-up meeting.
When you are involved in your child’s education, you are well informed and have a better understanding about how to advocate for your child. When teachers and staff see and know that you’re involved, we can better collaborate and partner with you.
Whether asking questions, communicating your child’s needs, or just discussing an assignment, communicate regularly with all the teachers and staff that your child works with daily. Technology provides ample opportunities for communication, so use it to your advantage.
Think of the process of advocating for your child’s education as a three-legged stool. The stool supports us when we need to sit, but it must have all three legs to balance and stand. Those three legs are parental knowledge, involvement, and communication. By practicing those three “legs,” your child can succeed in school, no matter what his or her needs are.
Lynn Samartino, M.A. is an upper inclusion special education teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Chicago Public Schools. In her 10+ years of experience, she has spearheaded after-school programs, developed the Inclusive Model, and managed the integration of new technology into academics.
She holds certifications in general and special education with endorsements in middle school, language arts, social science, and English as a second language (ESL).