Special Education Guidebook for Educationally Involved Parents of Children with LDs


Special Education Guidebook for Educationally Involved Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities: Table of Contents

#1 – Know Your Child’s Learning Disability

#2 – Know The IDEA Laws and Your Child’s Special Education Rights

#3 – Learn To Advocate For Your Child

#4 – Get A Special Education Advocate’s Assistance

#5 – Escalate to a Special Education Attorney if Needed

#6 – Changing Educational Providers

#7 – End the Games: Educating Your Child Yourself

#1 – Know Your Child’s Learning Disability

  • Find an Independent Evaluator – Visit this website and select “Find a Board Certified Psychologist,” and select “Clinical Neuropsychology” to locate a qualified neuropsychologist in your state. Using this tool will give you a list of professionals. Check with local special education groups and resources (COPAA.org is a good choice) to determine if the individual professional is a highly qualified individual who you will provide you with a comprehensive evaluation.
  • LD Online – “LD OnLine seeks to help children and adults reach their full potential by providing accurate and up-to-date information and advice about learning disabilities and ADHD. The site features hundreds of helpful articles, multimedia, monthly columns by noted experts, first person essays, children’s writing and artwork, a comprehensive resource guide, very active forums, and a Yellow Pages referral directory of professionals, schools, and products.”
  • International Dyslexia Association – An association dedicated to providing information to people affected by dyslexia, to families affected by dyslexia, and professionals who work with people who have dyslexia. “The mission and purpose of IDA is to pursue and provide the most comprehensive range of information and services that address the full scope of dyslexia and related difficulties in learning to read and write…in a way that creates hope, possibility, and partnership.”
  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – “CHADD has three current priority objectives: (1) to serve as a clearinghouse for evidence-based information on AD/HD, (2) to serve as a local face-to-face family support group for families and individuals affected by ADHD, and (3) to serve as an advocate for appropriate public policies and public recognition in response to needs faced by families and individuals with ADHD.”
  • Asperger’s Syndrome – “The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy.”
  • Organization for Autism Research – Organization for Autism Research has grown into one of the world’s leading autism science and research organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

#2 – Know Your Special Education Rights

  • Basic IEP Training – A basic online training module to familiarize yourself with IEPs, what should be in IEPs, how to write good IEP goals, to better prepare for your child’s individual education program planning meetings. Navigate through the training by using the “Previous” and “Next” links at the bottom of each page’s content.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to children and youth with disabilities.
  • Wright’s Law –  A comprehensive resource site for parents regarding special education laws and advocacy for children with disabilities including specific learning disabilities.  This site explains the laws in terms that are easy to understand and was a mainstay for my special education advocacy days when I was advocating on behalf of my son.
  • Council for Exceptional Children – Calling themselves the “Voice and Vision of Special Education,” the Council for Exceptional Children provides comprehensive information and interpretation regarding special education provisioning and rights of children with disabilities.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information and Technical Assistance – Provides publications, videos, and comprehensive information about the rights of persons with disabilities as well as information and resources for insuring compliance with the ADA laws. You can get assistance with ADA enforcement through the U.S. Department of Justice through this ADA government site.

#3 – Learn To Advocate For Your Child

  • From Emotions to Advocacy – The Special Education Survival Guide – A fabulous resource book that teaches you how to advocate for your child, how to prepare for IEP meetings, the best ways to communicate with your child’s school and much more. I found this book invaluable in teaching me how to calmly and wisely advocate for my son.
  • FETAWeb.org (From Emotions To Advocacy Website) – This website is a companion to the Emotions to Advocacy book above.  It contains a lot of additional information and resource links to help you build your advocacy skills on behalf of your child.
  • All About IEPs: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About IEPs – Understanding Individual Education Plans inside-out is key to being  sure your child’s needs are well documented and supported by your child’s IEP’s.  This book will answer virtually any question you may have about the different sections of IEPs, what they mean and what should be in the section.
  • Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) – “OSEP administers the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). ” IDEA is “intended to ensure that the rights of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their parents are protected.” Check out the “Parents & Families” menu option for tips and information that will help you advocate better for your child.
  • Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) – Provides important updates regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and information related to improving educational outcomes for children with specific learning disabilities.

#4 – Get A Special Education Advocate’s Assistance

  • National Parent Technical Assistance Center – “Parent Centers serve families of children of all ages (birth to 26) and with all disabilities (physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional). Parent Centers provide a variety of services including one-to-one support and assistance, workshops, publications, and websites. The majority of Parent Center staff members and board members are parents of children with disabilities so they are able to bring personal experience, expertise, and empathy when working with families.”
  • Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA) – “COPAA is committed to creating a level playing field to ensure children with disabilities receive the high-quality education to which they are entitled and have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that is designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for post-secondary outcomes, community participation, and employment. COPAA also works to increase the quality and quantity of representation and ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected.”
  • Special Education Advocacy Center – has a mission of advocating for the educational rights of all students and seeks to empower the families of people with disabilities.
  • IEPadvocate4you – Carol Sadler, a wonderful advocate for children, shares information and resources to help parents better advocate for their children. I realize most people will not be in close proximity to Carol and would not be able to use her personal advocacy services, but I include her as an example of what to look for in a great advocate near you. If you live in the Atlanta Metro area, you’re in luck–so does Carol!

#5 – Escalate to a Special Education Attorney if Needed

  • Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA) – As mentioned in the prior bullet, COPAA seeks to ensure children with disabilities, including those with specific learning disabilities, receive high-quality instruction.  This link item will take you to the form where you can search to find an attorney near you.  For special education legal issues, it is very wise to obtain an attorney who specializes in this specific area of law, so I would highly recommend using this tool to find an attorney to handle your case.
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) – Find the specific agency in your state charged with providing assistance for disability rights violations.  “NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). There is a P&A/CAP agency in every state and U.S. territory and the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.”
  • Law Ofc of Allison B. Vrolijk, Esq, Special Education Attorney – Allison Vrolijk  is a highly qualified special education attorney who blogs about special education cases in her “You Decide” scenarios.  Becoming a fan of Allison’s Facebook page will help you better understand how special education cases play out in the courts, often in very interesting ways. If you live in the Atlanta Metro area and need a great special education attorney, you’re in luck–Allison Vrolijk lives in the Atlanta Metro area.

#6 – Changing Educational Providers

  • Online Virtual School Options (Connections Academy, K12, etc.) – There are an increasing number of online options for schooling your child at home while he is enrolled in a public or private virtual school.  These virtual school options are excellent when your child is highly stressed by the traditional school environment.  You can become your child’s learning coach while your child’s online teacher provides the instruction, assignments, and grading.
  • Charter Schools – Use the charter school finder tools at the  Center for Educational Reform and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to see which charter schools are available in your area.  Investigate charter schools near you to see if any of them will be a good fit.
  • Private Schools for Children with Disabilities – The best approach to finding private schools that serve children with disabilities, especially specific learning disabilities, is to search in a search engine for: “Private Schools for Children with Disabilities” in conjunction with your state or your child’s specific disability. There are many state-based listings, which are too numerous to list here, but you can find them through a web search fairly easily by using the search terms I provided.

#7 – End the Games: Educating Your Child Yourself

  • Research supporting homeschooling children with special needs:
  1. A Preliminary Investigation of the Effectiveness of Homeschool Instructional Environments for Students With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – “The results indicated that home school students were academically engaged about two times as often as public school students and experienced more reading and math gains. The key variable appeared to involve student to teacher ratios that existed between the two settings.”
  2. Defying the Stereotypes of Special Education: Homeschool Students. – “For both gifted and learning disabled students, the study finds that the educational philosophies and pedagogies employed emphasize: (1) a focus on the whole child rather than primarily on the child’s disability or extreme ability; (2) individualized attention; and (3) care, patience and respect for the child that leads the teaching in both the timing and content of instruction.”
  3. Homeschooling: What Educators Should Know – “Research indicates that home schoolers score as well or better than  their public school peers on achievement tests. This can be attributed to the significant amount of time parents’ devote to their children’s education and the availability of educational resources for home schooling.”

  10 Responses to “Special Education Guidebook for Educationally Involved Parents of Children with LDs”

  1. yes i have a question? Please help. I am a single mother and I have no source of income and I was wondering if there is a program that would help me pay for it and another question is my son is 12 years old and he has adhd and high blood pressure. He is going into the 7th grade but he got promoted to the 7th grade by a thin thread. Even though he is in IEP the teachers are not helping him to understand the work even though I wrote a note to them, they did not read it or help him understand the work and he had a bunch of work that was not complete. My question is I was wondering if he is eligible for homeschool and is there a teacher to come to him so he would understand more. As I stated I do not have any source of income is there a thing for single mothers and can he be homeschooled by a teacher from the house. If so please help me. God bless you all.

    • HI Amanda, It is legal to homeschool a child in any of the 50 U.S. States. Each state has it’s own rules for homeschooling, so your first step would be to search for your state’s education website and read their rules for homeschooling. Once you’ve determined if you can homeschool your son and meet the legal requirements, then finding a program to use with him should be your next focus. There free programs listed on this website at: learningabledkids.com/multi_sensory_training/free-homeschooling-curriculum-adhd-dyslexia-online.htm. You will have to do more searching to find free tools for teaching your son, but they are available out there. Without any income, having a teacher come to your house to teach your child is highly unlikely unless your school system just happens to willingly provide homebound education services. There ARE school systems that provide that level of education, but they are few and far between. You’d just have to inquire with your local school system to see if that is a possibility.

  2. Sandy,

    Thank you for your prompt reply! I realized how silly it sounded that I did not push DD more because it was hard for her =) I was using A Beka phonics-based curriculum, but it still frustrated her. I think all your words of advice were timely, and I had already purchased the Kindle version of your book (just have yet to start it). It all seems overwhelming to think of familiarizing myself to understand the curricula you mentioned, but I know it is necessary if we are to homeschool. I did look into LexiaLearning and it gives an option for homeschooling – though not cheap! What would you say is the difference between that and other computer based programs? We have ABCMouse for our preschooler, so that is what comes to mind. I likely know the answer, which is LL is a systematic, daily program.

    I have even considered getting some sort of training myself. I have already started trying to find out about the effectiveness of the special education in our Pittsburgh city school district; I know they are tremendously overwhelmed in general.

    Thanks again, and I will be on here more!

    Sincerely Rebecca

    • Hi Rebecca,

      One of the differences between Lexia and other programs is that Lexia was specifically developed as a remediation program for children with dyslexia. It is based upon the specific practices of the Orton-Gillingham method. The program follows a regimented sequence providing explicit instruction on each and every phoneme in a progression that moves from basic letter sounds, to digraphs, blends, and other multi-letter phonemes, to small consonant-vowel-consonant units, and onward to increasingly sophisticated syllables, then multisyllable words.

      Additionally, one of the primary differences is that Lexia is a “mastery” based program. In other words, it repeatedly presents phonemes for practice until a child masters that phoneme (and others in the small ‘set’). As a child masters one phoneme, a new one is introduced, but the old ones continue to come up for practice and review. A child is not permitted to move ahead to more complex sounds until she’s mastered the preliminary phonemes. It is the mastery portion of the program that makes the biggest difference for kids with dyslexia. Those programs without mastery-based programming are more similar to classroom-based teaching, which — as you know — does not work well for a child with true dyslexia.

      While many programs teach phonics, they also often teach the letters, which can be confusing for a child with a phonemic awareness deficit. A child with dyslexia needs to be taught the phonemes withOUT adding in the name of the letter. For example, the letter “s” is pronounced “es”, but that is not what the letter represents in a word. The sound of an ‘s’ in a word is “ssss.” Keeping the sounds represented by the letters completely separate from the name of the letter helps eliminate one aspect of confusion that is an issue for some kids with dyslexia.

      That said, Lexia is one of the best programs around for the type of repetitive practice a child with dyslexia needs and it has a proven track record. It is a “clean” interface–not visually distracting with all kinds of cute characters, bells, and whistles, and all. The program focuses on providing an environment that helps the child focus solely on the phoneme she is learning. Here again, it may not be as “fun”, but it is a well-refined environment for the child to focus on the very difficult task of learning the phonemes without being distracted by cute graphics, funny characters, music, or anything else that will lead a child’s mind away from the phoneme while she’s using the program.

      Getting training for yourself is actually a GREAT idea! I took a two week course in Orton-Gillingham methods which helped me tremendously in understanding how to teach my child. It can be a lot cheaper to get training and be able to do it yourself than it is to hire tutors, pay for expensive materials, or–worst of all–for your child not to receive the right kind of instruction from anyone.

      I know it’s an overwhelming time to try to process everything. Take your time.. there’s plenty of time to figure it all out and work towards the right solution for your DD and you. Don’t feel bad either about not wanting to make your DD do something she hates–it’s a soft spot us moms have for our kiddos, but it will require a mind-shift on your part and a greater need to understand why she has to do what is difficult on your DD’s part. Truthfully, I used bribery for a period of time!! :-O

      • Just tried to post a nice, long reply but it got lost! I appreciate your time and am enjoying your book “Defeat Dyslexia”. It is helping me to name specific things about DD (and others) so that we can be educated and educate others.

        I wondered where you received your Orton-Gillingham training, and if that we before you got your Masters or after?

        • I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book! 😀 I took the Orton-Gillingham class long before I got my Master’s Degree. I took the O-G class before we started homeschooling. I obtained my master’s degree while we were homeschooling and wanted to quit MANY times because it was hard to homeschool and be in school. If it weren’t for my DH encouraging me to stick with it, I probably would have quit, but I’m so thankful now that I didn’t!

        • Where/through whom did you get the O-T training? I am just wrestling so much with whether to put her in school (after doing my research as you suggested) because with 4 kids (one of whom is under age 1) I fear being unable to give DD the time she needs daily. In reality, I see that my weakness of lack of order/set schedule is a detriment. Oh the ways we are challenged as a parent! We continue to pray about it and trust the right answer will come.

        • It’s a lot to consider, and ultimately you have to do what is right for your child and your family. Having to balance the needs of 4 kids is difficult and you’re the only one who can really determine how well you can balance things. The good news is: If you decide to enroll your DD in school, that doesn’t mean you can’t have her work with a reinforcement program like Lexia as a bedtime routine activity each night. You could still work with her to the extent you’re able and that would be beneficial to your DD too. For my O-G training, I took the summertime course offered by Rotter and Becker Educational Consultants in Roswell, GA., which was taught by O-G Practitioner, Claire Pearson. She was an excellent teacher!

  3. My 9 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with learning disabilities of working memory deficit and severe reading & math deficits ( We don’t yet have the technicalities of it all). I am overwhelmed as it was highly recommended that we put her in school so that she could get the remedial work that she needs. I fear we cannot do enough at home, and don’t want to rely on the idea that has been sold to me by the homeschooling community that some kids blossom late. We do not want this to get worse. But putting her in school is a huge step. She would either be in a special education class, or be pulled out for extra reading. She has little to no phonemic awareness – and I admit that much of that has been my lack of consistent work with her because she has hated to do it. I have been looking at Orton-Gillingham methods, considering whether we could use All About Reading and whether that would be sufficient. In a perfect world we could homeschool and have a tutor, but the psychologist seemed to indicate that she needed daily remediation. Can you give me any wisdom? We need to make a decision soon as the school year starts in 1.5 months. Thank you.


    • Hi Rebecca, I know it can be very overwhelming to get a new diagnosis. Take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be alright. Not just to sell a book, but I highly recommend you grab a copy of “How To Defeat Your Child’s Dyslexia,” so you can learn the specifics of how to help your child. The full report will be very helpful to you when you get your daughter’s full evaluation report.

      That said, a child with severe dyslexia DOES need daily remediation to make adequate progress. Using a program like All About Reading would probably be a good choice, but I’d also recommend adding on a Computer-based practice program on a daily basis.

      With your DD’s deficits, you might want to start NOW with LexiaLearning.com’s Reading program (you have to hunt for the link that allows parent’s to buy, but the program is well worth using) and use ReflexMath.com’s program to get your daughter started on math fact fluency. If she works in each of those programs for 30 minutes per day starting NOW, you can get her headed in the right direction.

      I wouldn’t rush into public school without checking out the special ed climate in your area. There are many districts that do a lousy job of getting kids into programs and a lousy job providing services to them. It can take months–sometimes a whole school year for a school to test a child, have IEP meetings, and place the child into special education. Search online for special education advocacy and parenting groups in your area, join some of them, and ask questions about your county’s school system. You’ll get a better idea about how well or poorly special education services are provided in your area. They may be fabulous! Some are, but a lot are not.

      You’re wise to start helping your DD NOW because 85% of kids do NOT outgrow their early struggles. Since only 15% of kids are “late bloomers,” it is almost always a good idea to go ahead and begin remediation. Truly, you CAN help your DD at home if you’re able to buckle down and be consistent with your work. Your DD IS likely to “hate it” because it is HARD for her.. nobody wants to do something that is hard every day. It won’t be any easier at school and she’ll still have to do the work, so she isn’t likely to like that either.

      It’s a big decision to wrestle with, but keep in mind too.. Whatever decision you make, it is NOT set in concrete! You CAN change your mind. There’s nothing that says you MUST enroll your DD at the very beginning of the school year, and there’s nothing to say you can’t pull her out of public school if it is going badly. Do whatever feels best or RIGHT to you. Trust your gut instincts about which is best for your DD, and take comfort in the fact that you can always change your mind. The biggest key is to start your DD with a couple of programs and take it from there based upon her full evaluation results.

      Hope that helps!!

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