Valerie Rice | March 25, 2021
Welcome to the final instalment of this series, you made it! Thank you for your patience and dedication to learning about including all our brains into the kaleidoscope of functioning. I’m super excited that we got here together! This is the last and possibly most difficult piece of the puzzle. Advocacy and consistency, which go hand in hand, and can be emotionally exhausting for the parent. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
This word can be overwhelming, but do not let it scare you. Nobody expects you to leap into the general fray and make sweeping policy changes or anything. Yet. That was a joke, you don’t have to do that ever if you don’t want to. The only person you need to worry about is your diverse human and their needs. This is going to be a monumental and life long task. It is also a challenge I am sure you can meet head on. Afterall, you made it this far in my lengthy ramblings, right? Good. So how do you advocate for your child?
Step 1: Arm yourself with a plan. The more you know about your child, their diagnoses, and their specific needs the better. You know your child the best and you know what they really need, but there will almost always be push back. Knowledge really is power, especially for an advocate. If you are attempting to create an IEP, make sure you know the laws regarding in-school accommodations, attendance requirements, and exceptions to state testing requirements. At this point, your child may also be undergoing therapies during the day. These are just as important as formal education. Speech, occupational therapy, habilitative intervention, and so on are not something that can be dismissed for the sake of public education and they will also provide you with allies.
Step 2: Rally the troops, meaning those outside professionals who know your child well can contribute greatly to any education plan or instance in which you may need backup. A non-school related issue I can think of is getting your landlord to allow the therapy dog your kid needs despite their no pet policy. Oftentimes a parent is dismissed because they are “just the parent,” and an agenda is always being pushed. You may or may not agree with this agenda, so hold your plan in mind but…
Step 3: Bring Receipts so you can’t be denied. Nothing shuts down the opposition like peer reviewed evidence and your ability to quote law. So whip it out. Put it down. Bring copies for everyone at the table. Remember, everyone has something they want and it is not always in your child’s best interest. Sometimes the accommodations go against school policy, which is the most asinine excuse ever, that is why we call it an accommodation. I had a school argue that it wouldn’t be fair to other students if my child got accommodations. Yes, I DID roll my eyes out loud. Sometimes the school will insist they don’t have the funding, which is too bad for them, they get paid extra for making the accommodations. So whatever you do…
Step 4: Hold your ground no matter what. A school will bring in their psychologist who has looked at your kid in a classroom and maybe attempted a conversation with them. They use this, as well as a questionnaire they send home and one the teacher fills out to determine what your child needs. Ignore it. I don’t usually say that, but most schools are underfunded, overcrowded, and less than interested in accuracy. Keep pushing for your child’s best interest.
Step 5: Be consistent and more than a little persistent. This is where you have to hold the institution accountable and you end up sounding super obnoxious. But here’s the thing: You are not there to make friends. Nobody at my kids’ schools wants me to call. Ever. They see my number and cringe. They also don’t want to have to call me, because I have zero interest in preserving their feelings or filtering for BS. I’m not mean, in fact I’m quite professional, but they still end up with their tails between their legs. The hardest part for many (not me) is the IDGAF attitude about what the institution wants. Just remember what is most important: your child’s needs.
THE ACTUAL END
Alright, this is the actual end of this series. Hooray! There is never going to be an end of information to this topic, or an end to questions, as each person has unique needs and challenges. I do hope I managed to provide a basic beginning for connecting our worlds and improving the lives of all of us. I hope. Until next time, be well!