It's hard to know who to believe sometimes. Your child's school tells you one thing and books, websites and advocacy groups might tell you something else. In my 20 plus years as a special education attorney representing families, I have found that most information provided to parents about advocating for their special-needs child are mis-directional; they focus on the wrong questions. This group is meant to foster an understanding of strategy and needed advocacy skills. There are several ‘projects’ that could provide present and future parents with the tools they need in order to protect and advance the futures of their children.
1. Advocate Training: Parents and people who want to help advocate for families need to have a strategic understanding of the process and develop the skill-set to be successful.
2. Video Tutorials: Topic-specific videos that advocates and families need to understand.
3. IEP Bank: Sample IEP elements that demonstrate the typical and exceptional services and modifications parents should understand are available to their children.
4. Conferences, Workshops and Webinars: A chance to get information, meet service providers and the training parents need.
5. Legal Clinics: Free legal consultation and representation for families in need.
6. Parent to Parent Network: The ability to find a ‘parent friend’ to go with you to a meeting and help you advocate for your child.
7. Development of an APP: Ask & Advocate, Feature Services, Events & Activities, Talk Story. These are some of the features of a software application that could be of benefit to parents.
8. Socially-Productive Gatherings: The emotional support that comes from seeing a commonality of experience with others and through helping others in need.
By having specific goals defined as 'projects', the group will be learning and growing while achieving something of permanence that can be passed down to the next generation of parents. Hopefully, the school system will respond positively to parents becoming better advocates, and true collaboration will result. One that respects the rights and dreams of parents and their children.