The path to find the right education program for your special son or daughter can be confusing. Many parents get lost, stuck, or just don’t know which way to go. Here is a map to help you find your way. (If your child is preschool-aged, he or she will benefit from early intervention.)
1. Get an accurate diagnosis. It’s absolutely vital that you understand whether your child has a specific learning disability, ADD/ADHD, an emotional disturbance, mental retardation, is gifted, falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, or has a mixture of several disorders. If you’re still searching for answers, follow steps 2 through 6 below:
2. Make careful observations of your child. What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Where does he fall behind in comparison to his peers? Chart unusual behaviors or even videotape them.
3. Do your own research. Use the internet, library, or special needs books. Often times, a parent doing his or her own research finds the answers that were confounding the experts.
4. Schedule a parent-teacher conference. Discuss where the child is having the most difficulty. Based on that teacher’s experience, what does she think the problem may be? Request an assessment through the school district.
5. Visit with your child’s pediatrician. Share what you know, and insist upon referrals to get your child evaluated.
6. Get your child a psychological assessment. You’ll need to know your child’s IQ vs. academic performance/ability, and whether any emotional factors or disorders are present.
7. IEP Meeting. If a disability has been diagnosed, schedule an IEP meeting through your child’s school district to discuss her needs, what kind of classroom might benefit her, and what specific accommodations should be made. An IEP or 504 plan will need to be created.
8. Evaluate what’s being offered. What specific program or accommodations is the school district offering to help your child? Do you believe that the program will benefit your child and address his needs?
9. Know what other educational options are available. What private schools might your child have access to? Can they provide a stimulating educational experience? Are they willing to make adaptations to meet your child’s needs? How are the classrooms set up? What is the discipline strategy? How will you afford the school?
10. Is Homeschooling an option? Make such a decision very carefully. A special needs child can benefit from therapists and programs provided by the schools which you may not be able to offer at home. However, some parents find that homeschooling is the best and only option for their son or daughter.
11. Can your child be mainstreamed into a regular public school class, with special modifications? Would those modifications help him without stigmatizing him or setting him apart from the class?
12. Make a choice. Using your parental instinct, select the education program that seems best suited for your child. Ultimately, you are the only one who can make that final decision. It’s possible that none of the programs available seem quite right. But choose the one that seems to be the best fit. You’ve got to start somewhere.
13. Evaluate how things are going. Keep in close contact with your child’s teacher. What progress is being made? What problems are occurring? What concerns do you have about how your child is functioning at school? Does she like school? Is she making friends? Is she keeping up with the work load? See my blog, “Is Your Child Getting the Best Possible Education?”
14. Schedule an IEP review. At the meeting, make suggestions for how your child’s needs could be addressed more appropriately. What new accommodations could be made to make the fit even better? What adjustments could be made?
15. Consider an alternate placement. If the child is not doing well, consider placement in a new educational setting. This will be a trial and error process where you, as the parent determine what is working to your satisfaction and what isn’t. Try to be cooperative with educators who are assisting your son or daughter, while still insisting upon getting his or her needs met.
See your child happily learning and thriving in an education program that works!
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.