Aug 032013

Sandy Cook developed this course as a labor of love in trying to help other parents understand and navigate the special education world, particularly IEP meetings.  She remembers how clueless she felt at her first several IEP meetings, the fact that she did not know her child’s rights, and later found out her child’s IEP was inadequate with vague or unmeasurable goals.

When Sandy’s oldest son began elementary school, it was clear that he was struggling with language-based learning issues and was eventually identified as having dyslexia. Through attempts to gain appropriate educational services from the local school system, Sandy learned how difficult acquiring appropriate instruction can be. When school administrators refused to provide appropriate reading services to the Cooks’ son, Sandy and her husband filed a due process lawsuit to gain Orton-Gillingham-based reading services. The outcome was favorable when the school system settled the matter two days before the court date.

In retrospect, Sandy believes many of the clashes between parents and public schools stem from lack of training for both parents and school personnel, and the child becomes a victim of ignorance.  Direct training in schools and universities must be implemented to insure teachers and administrators understand children with disabilities and to be sure schools honor parental and child rights. Parents need training to understand their child’s needs and rights.

Sandy is a graduate of the Georgia Advocacy Office’s Parent Support Leadership Project, a training program which teaches parents to be special education advocates.  She has attended her own son’s IEP meetings as well as IEP meetings with other individuals, thus she is familiar with the variety of ways IEP meetings can play out. Sandy teaches parents how to advocate for appropriate educational services.

After spending many years battling with the public school systems in her area, it became evident to Sandy that the most efficient way to meet a child’s educational needs is for parents to take matters into their own hands.   Sandy began homeschooling her own boys and had great success doing so.  You can read the Cooks’ story at Overcoming Learning Disabilities through Homeschooling. Sandy now consults with families who are homeschooling or wish to school at home to design learning programs that will adequately meet the educational needs of the child.

As her primary interest, Sandy shows parents how to provide an appropriate education through homeschooling to children with learning disabilities. Sandy graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emporia State University with a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design and Technology, where she focused on Universal Design for Learning and Learning Styles.  With Sandy’s boys having unique learning needs, as well as running the Learning Abled Kids’ Support Group with more than 1500 homeschooling parents, she has a wide variety of knowledge about how to effectively help kids learn.

Visit the Georgia Advocacy Office’s Website to learn more about protection and advocacy efforts taking place on behalf of disabled and mentally ill individuals. You might find the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights site interesting as they are charged with protecting students with disabilities against discrimination too.

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