Oct 132013

Special Education Advocacy Comments by: Sandy Cook, Parent, To Georgia’s House of Representatives Education Committee Members and Georgia’s Senate Education Committee Members at their Townhall Session on 10 October 2013

“After five years in public school, my oldest son still could not read. He was falling further behind in all subjects. We told our IEP team our son wanted to go to college.

“One administrator laughed aloud, and barked, “Your son may never read well, and he is certainly NOT college material. You just need to lower your expectations!”

“As they had always done, our school ignored our pleas for meaningful instruction. It was CLEAR their expectations for INTELLIGENT children with dyslexia are minimal. I don’t think they realize their low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“Thus, I was forced to homeschool. In our first year of homeschooling, my son achieved a 6th grade reading level, and he was fully proficient in reading two years later. My son is now in college, on the Zell Miller Scholarship, and this year he will graduate from college—with honors.

“Scientifically proven programs for teaching students with dyslexia have existed for decades. The programs enable children to read proficiently in three years or less. I used one, and I was easily successful yet Georgia’s schools to continually fail to teach intelligent children to read—in a reasonable time frame.

“Children with dyslexia account for 10-15% of the school population, so you, the legislators of Georgia, can increase school performance across the state with three pieces of legislation in the form of special education advocacy :

1) “ALL Teachers need to be taught Universal Design for Learning and they need to understand children with learning disabilities are not mentally impaired. These kids can learn if they are provided with accessible instruction and properly implemented, proven programs.

2) “Every child with a learning disability needs to be quickly equipped with assistive technology. You wouldn’t withhold audiobooks from a blind student, and likewise we shouldn’t withhold audiobooks from children who have dyslexia. We need to provide assistive technology to all students with specific learning disabilities to keep our children on grade level while we work to overcome their disabilities.

3) “Parents need schools to document the effectiveness of their special education programs so we can make informed decisions about the placement of our children. Schools need to be held accountable for the effective implementation of proven programs.

“Parents need to know: How many years children spend in special education resource classes. They also need to know how many children ever graduate from a school’s resource program.

Special Education Advocacy Efforts

“In summary, Great Outcomes requires that we:
1) Educate teachers about Universal Design for Learning and learning disabilities.
2) Liberally equip Georgia’s children with assistive technology.
3) Empower parents with data so we can make informed educational decisions.

“These three educational initiatives will improve learning outcomes in Georgia’s schools. Thank You for your consideration of these changes on behalf of students with specific learning disabilities.”

Aug 282013

WHO needs to meet your child’s special needs when it comes to education?

Help Child failing to make educational progress

“My child is failing because the school isn’t doing their job,” parents often say.

Do you think teachers consider it YOUR fault when your child fails to make academic progress?

Guess WHAT? School administrators and teachers blame parents when a child doesn’t learn (seriously, they do)!

Many schools fail to meet the special needs of learning abled kids, then they blame the parents for poor educational outcomes.

Ultimately, I think parents have to take responsibility for their child’s learning because the schools won’t. I don’t think it is your “fault” when your child isn’t making progress, but it is your obligation to advocate for your child. Your child can’t advocate for his own special needs. Therefore, you have to insure your child obtains an adequate education.

Is There Evidence Your School Isn’t Meeting the Special Needs of Your Child?

Any school worth attending knows that early intervention equals better educational outcomes. However, schools OFTEN delay testing a child for learning disabilities (repeatedly).  Schools also delay early intervention by retaining a child, which is proven by research to be an ineffective strategy.

If your school is giving you the run around about testing, suggested retention as a strategy, or put off early intervention by waiting for your child to get “far enough” behind, or worse yet–to fail, then your school isn’t meeting the needs of your child. Period. Sadly, it is an antiquated form of educational neglect practiced by schools across America!

Many schools do not act in the best interest of children with special needs or learning disabilities. They THINK they are, but they fail to implement research-based practices. They FIGHT against parents in IEP meetings. They’re really good at making the parents think they know best.. seeing as how they’re “trained.” They will delay helping a child until he is well behind his peers, suffering from low self-esteem, or until the child’s parents demand a change or hire an advocate/attorney. Again, it is an antiquated form of educational neglect practiced by schools.

If your school is playing games with you, your otherwise intelligent child may be more than two years behind before you figure out your child isn’t making adequate educational progress.  It may take a couple more years before you figure out the school isn’t ever going to step up to the plate. They may never provide an appropriate education for your child.

As soon as you realize your child’s special needs are not being met, you need to step in to save your child from the school’s apathy.

Ultimately, the lives of the teachers are not affected if your child fails to make adequate educational progress.  Next year, the teacher has a new set of kids. Your child is no longer her concern.

You will be affected for a lifetime by poor outcomes for your child.   Sadly, it will be your child who ultimately suffers the most if you do not take action.

Your child is counting on you to be an action-taking parent.

What actions should a parent take?

If you’ve been to your child’s conferences, been to IEP meetings, and/or communicated concerns to your child’s teacher repeatedly, but you’re seeing little or no meaningful action by the school, then you need to begin researching other options.

If your child’s school isn’t meeting his special needs, do one of the following:

  1. Get Legal Help from a lawyer or special education advocate to force the school to educate your child properly;
  2. Find a better school, whether private or online; or
  3. Take complete control of your child’s education by homeschooling your child and outsourcing to private providers wherever neededspecial needs.

If you do nothing, one thing is certain: your child will not achieve at his level of academic and/or creative potential.  Your child will flounder for years. Who knows what will become of his life?  Your child needs YOU to advocate or educate him… NOW.

With heartfelt sincerity, I implore you: Whatever you do, if your child’s education is not adequate, please DO SOMETHING to change your child’s education for the better. Visit the Special Education Guidebook (free online) to determine where you are along the path of meeting your child’s educational special needs.

Still don’t know what to do? Have Questions? Come and ask them on Learning Abled Kids’ Facebook Page.  Either myself or another member of our community will help answer your questions. Together, we can help you find direction and help you help your child.

Those of us who’ve chosen homeschooling as our learning solution find support and answers to our questions in the Learning Abled Kids’ Support Group as well as on the Facebook page.

We’re ordinary moms helping our kids. Many of our kids are making unexpected educational gains. Check out our Inspirational Stories for encouragement. Please join us one place or another. Learn more about how to help your child learn by meeting his special needs head-on!