Parental involvement in education builds a support network for any child, but a child with special needs in particular benefits from parent advocacy at school. You have the power to push for the appropriate services and environment to allow your child to thrive. Knowing how to get involved in the special education process gives you a sense of purpose in supporting your child's future.
Not all schools are created equally when it comes to special education services. While a small private school might offer a quality education for the average student, it might not be equipped with the kind of education program your special needs student requires. Visiting local schools gives you a glimpse at the special education programs available. Ask to meet the teachers and speak with the principal. If your local public school doesn't match up to your child's needs, open enrollment to a school with a stronger program is a possibility. Your local school district or state-run area education agency can guide you through the school selection and open enrollment process as needed.
Once you have a school that can help your child, ensure she is enrolled in the appropriate program. Receiving special services may require testing or referrals from your child's health care providers. In some cases, your child's teacher may initiate the evaluation process. If not, consult with her teacher and the school administrator to get the evaluation started so she gets the extra help she needs.
Every student in a special education program has an IEP, or Individualized Education Program, that outlines goals, services, accommodations and other details of your child's education. This plan is developed at a meeting with all relevant staff members involved. Parents must be notified of the meeting to allow for attendance. Going to the IEP meeting allows you to advocate for your child to ensure she gets the best education possible. When you attend the meeting, you can actively participate by understanding your child's needs. Records from past education programs, doctor's appointments and intervention services aid in developing a thorough IEP.
Communication and Participation
A parent's continued participation in the education process is essential to a child's success. Communicate with the teachers and associates every week to ensure your child is thriving at school. These talks also give you information to help your child at home. Attending special school events, such as open houses or family fun nights, keeps you connected. If your schedule allows, occasional visits to school allow you to see your child in action.