6 Benefits Of A Child Advocate In An IEP Meeting
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
If you are the parent to a child with special needs, you know just how difficult it can be to find quality education for them. There are several steps involved with getting your child with special needs set up to receive special education services, all of which can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, especially if this is your first time delving into the subject.
As solitary as this journey may seem, you’re not alone. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, the same rings true for educating a child with special needs. There will be many people along the way that have your child’s best interest at heart, and plenty of resources to help you make informed decisions regarding your child’s education.
If you’ve decided on a school system that will be best for your child and you’re ready to start enrollment, there are a few things that need to happen in order to get their education rolling. First, make sure you have a qualified diagnosis for your child’s needs from a medical professional; this well help your child receive the special education services they may require from the school.
The next step is to meet with school officials to create an Individualized Education Program, often abbreviated IEP. This is a step-by-step plan to help your child achieve the educational goals that are expected of their age group, grade and peers. To develop this program, teachers, special needs professionals, the school principal and you will have a meeting to address your child’s unique learning needs. As a plan is laid out for the school year, you will be able to see what your child’s working on and at what point they should be meeting each specified goal.
There is so much that goes into your child’s education, and it can seem overwhelming at first glance. There are, however, dedicated child advocates that will speak up for your child and help you both get through the process of creating an IEP.
Here are six benefits of having a child advocate with you in an IEP meeting:
1. A child advocate will help in reviewing the IEP.
When you receive your child’s IEP after the initial meeting, it should reflect all of the information that was previously discussed and the goals that were reached. This sometimes isn’t the case, however, which is where a child advocate comes in. They can help you review the IEP and take any changes to the school board for further discussion or approval.
2. A child advocate can translate the “alphabet”.
If you don’t know the specific lingo that the professionals use, you might find yourself drowning in alphabet soup. From IEP to FAPE, IDEA to IFSP, the acronyms continue on and can become confusing if you don’t have the proper training to understand them. A child advocate can help dissect these terms, providing greater leverage for you in the long run.
3. A child advocate will help in defining new goals.
Ideally, an IEP would address all of your child’s needs and goals in one tidy sum, giving you a definitive guess at what to expect during the course of the school year. This theory works on paper, but not always in the real world when it comes to implementing the design. If your child is not progressing at the rate you feel they should given their unique needs and abilities, a child advocate can reach out to the special education system in your child’s school and help redefine the goals, as well as the process needed to help your child obtain educational success.
4. A child advocate can provide a less emotional aspect.
Let’s face it – it’s tough to speak about your child’s special needs without getting emotional about it. Emotions tend to run high when it comes time to discuss the best, most appropriate course of action regarding your child’s education, but having a child advocate present during the initial IEP meeting can help alleviate some of the stress. They provide a neutral perspective regarding education that you might not be able to access, and will discuss only your child’s ongoing needs without letting emotions get the best of the situation.
5. A child advocate can lessen the burden of your many roles.
As a parent, you must wear many hats on a daily basis, and this is no different during an IEP meeting. You must be present as parent, creative thinker, child advocate, listener and more. It can sometimes feel impossible to do all of these things well, which can add to your frustration at the meeting. Having a dedicated special education child advocate at the meeting with you can ease some of the burden and take away the stress of having to juggle all of your roles at once. This gives you more room to focus on certain specific tasks without becoming overwhelmed at the prospect.
6. A child advocate will help you understand the testing involved.
During the initial IEP meeting, you will be presented with the results and diagnoses from several qualified professionals but you might not always know how to interpret these findings. The ones doing the testing have studied for many years to be able to understand the language, which might leave you scrambling to find answers. A special education child advocate can work with you to help decipher the test results in a definable manner that will eliminate any confusion going forward in the process.
Special Education Resource understands that navigating the choppy waters of an IEP can be difficult and stressful, which is why we want to provide you with all of the relevant information necessary to help you in the special education process.
We also offer supplemental learning through special education tutoring. Supplemental learning is designed to take the curriculum your child is currently studying in their traditional classroom and mold it to fit their specific learning needs. Our special education tutors have vast experience in the world of special education and can address your child’s learning obstacles in a way they can easily understand.
The first step is a free consultation with a special education tutor. During the call, the tutor will answer your questions, offer guidance and construct a plan to help ensure you child with special needs reaches the goals set forth in their IEP. This is a journey, and we’re here to help in any way we can.
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