Back to School…with a Disability

If your child has a physical or learning disability, it’s important to be prepared when sending them back to school. There are resources available to you through the state and the public school system. But, you will often need to be proactive to find them and sometimes fight to get the right to use them. Remember, you are the advocate for your child. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Know the law. Learn about laws such as the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state laws about which agencies will provide which services for your child. The legal jargon may seem overwhelming at first but the school district or state’s department of education can be a great resource.

2. Understand the process. Don’t be rushed without all the facts. Get all your questions answered before you commit to an approach for your child’s treatment. Don’t assume that the school district knows what’s best for your child.

3. Meet others like you. There are thousands of other parents who have gone through what you are now going through and quite a few of them join support networks to meet others and share their experiences. Many of these groups have websites with a wealth of information and many even offer advocacy classes for parents.

4. Speak up. You will get lots of advice from experts about treatment for your child. That advice may confusing or conflict with your own opinions. Remember, though, that your questions and concerns are important so make sure you’re clearly heard. After all, you know your child better than anyone else.

5. Get it in writing. Every child in public schools that needs special education must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP details the specific teaching approach that will be taken and therapy recommendations for the child. It should also discuss goals so the child’s progress can be accurately measured. Know what’s in your child’s IEP and what is not. If there’s something you think is needed, such as a therapy, that’s not in there, odds are it won’t happen. Be sure to point out key omissions to school officials right away.