At ExceptionALLY, we love talking to parents of children with unique needs. Seriously, we can’t get enough. Parent conversations keep us connected to the families we support. This connection is essential to our mission.
In the last few months since we’ve launched our support tool (geared toward parents raising children with Autism Spectrum Disorder), we’ve had a lot of these conversations! We’ve received lots of helpful feedback and several encouraging remarks as well. Here are a few testimonials from parents, educators and supporters.
“This tool is wonderful. I like the way it’s broken down – very understandable for parents, staff and teachers.” – mother of a 14-year-old son with ASD
“Excellent concept… I’ve not seen anything like this out there anywhere else.” – special education lawyer
“This tool gives the parent a voice. Otherwise, you’re relying on the schools, and they’re trying to individualize the plans, but they don’t know your kid like you do.” – father of a 5 year old son with ASD
“Brilliant. This tool is so smart. Is it available in Spanish, too?” – special educator in Colorado
“I would love to see this expanded for students with SLD.” – former elementary school principal
“This tool completely turned around the tone of the IEP meeting.” – grandmother to a 8 year old boy with ASD
We love to hear how our tool is helping families, and we’re not done yet! We won’t stop until all parents have the knowledge and know-how they need to help their exceptional kids thrive.
You don’t have to face your child’s IEP team alone.
Many parents understand the purpose of a lawyer in the IEP process. If your rights have been violated, and you’re pursuing legal action or a due process hearing, you’re wise to call an attorney.
But what if you’re not sure whether you need legal action? What if you’d like to pursue all other solutions before heading down that path? Or if you’d just like an expert second opinion on your child’s IEP? A non-legal advocate may be the right choice.
An advocate is expert in the laws and policies that concern your child’s education. They also know a lot about different exceptionalities and the learning challenges children like yours face in school.
In this article, the experts at Wrightslaw give advice about how to find an advocate. Here are some other tips to consider.
- Make use of online directories to locate advocates in your state. Wrightslaw has the Yellow Pages for Kids, and COPAA (the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) has its own resource list.
- Don’t be afraid to Google. Some advocates aren’t listed on the directories above.
- Ask around. Other parents in your area or district may have a great recommendation, and several advocates don’t have websites; they rely on word-of-mouth to meet new families.
- Call them up. Most advocates will give families a free phone consultation. This lets everyone get to know each other for a bit before moving forward.
- Ask a lot of questions. Not all advocates have the expertise you need, so don’t be bashful. Ask about their backgrounds, their training, their experience, and which exceptionalities they know best.
- Look for a collaborative spirit. It’s not always possible, but the best advocates try hard to find common ground and get what’s best for your child through collaborating with the full IEP team.
What other tips do you have about finding and working with great advocates? Let us know in the comments.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, wants to increase private school vouchers for families of children with special needs. A voucher is government money that’s given to a family to use towards tuition at a private school if they believe it can offer a better education for their child.
On one hand, many families are happy with vouchers because they have more options. If your child’s public school can’t offer the trained professionals, high quality curriculum or learning environment your unique child needs, then a voucher can help your family pay tuition at a private school that can. Many families could not afford private tuition on their own, so these vouchers/scholarship programs make private school possible.
On the other hand, there are hidden costs and consequences. This article explains how many families are surprised with extra fines and tuition beyond what the scholarship covers. What’s more, once you accept the scholarship/tuition voucher, you may be giving up any rights and protections your child had under the federal IDEA law – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If the private school expels your student or doesn’t give them individualized instruction, you no longer have protections under the law that once protected your child.
Ten states already have scholarship/voucher programs in place. 30,000 children currently use a voucher.
- If vouchers become the norm, what will become of IDEA and the rights it gives kids with special needs?
- Will public schools start to encourage vouchers to avoid the challenges (and high costs) of educating exceptional children?
- Are there enough high-quality private schools who are willing, and able, to educate these diverse learners?
With so many unanswered questions, it’s easy to see why this hot topic pushes a lot of buttons.
What scares you, and excites you, about the potential of increased voucher programs?