#AdvocacyMatters: Parental Empowerment, Student Success

February 11, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

Navigating the Special Education system – even in the best of times – is a journey fraught with barriers, issues, and questions. In the years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges have increased tenfold. How do parents know that their student is receiving the education that they deserve? How can they be sure that they are receiving the services and supports that they need to be successful?

Hope is a fourth grader at a Columbus-area elementary school. Hope has Down’s Syndrome, and her parents were concerned about how the school was handling her education. She spent her school hours in a multi-disability classroom without the chance to interact with her general education peers, taking away opportunities to make friends and socialize… things that are important for fourth grade students. The school hadn’t been performing the required annual updates of Hope’s IEP, and didn’t have sufficient data to share with Hope’s mother about her academic development. Hope’s needs weren’t being met, and her right to a free and appropriate education was being withheld. Hope’s mom wasn’t sure what to do, so she reached out to DRO.

The DRO Special Education Team helped Hope’s mom understand her rights and the school’s responsibilities, and worked with her to detail her concerns ahead of a meeting with administrators. While that first meeting led to the school updating Hope’s IEP as required by law, many issues were left unresolved. Our team went back to work, helping Hope’s mom with advocacy and negotiation methods while she created a detailed list of solutions to present to members of the local school board. These efforts were successful. Now Hope learns in a blended setting, having lunch, recess, and some classes with her general education peers. She has access to multi-sensory curriculum, and a one-on-one support person to ensure her academic and medical needs are being met. Hope’s advocacy also led to a review of classroom practices, improving both the program structure and curriculum for other students.

Advocating for your child in such a complex system is challenging, but you aren’t alone. Because this #AdvocacyMatters, we invite you to join us for our Free Special Education Legal Clinics the second Monday evening of each month. These clinics offer informative seminars on different topics, panel discussion, and the opportunity for one-on-one guidance sessions with an attorney, expert, or advocate. You can learn more at lawyers4students.com/legalclinic.

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