Advocating for our children with disabilities is very important. Sometimes it can be intimidating to a parent as they sit down at the first IEP meeting and meetings after that. They may not understand the terms used. Parental rights may not be understood and they may feel overwhelmed. Mom and Dad should not be discouraged by not understanding the IEP process and should be encouraged to ask questions of their child’s teachers, special education teachers, psychologists and whoever else is speaking about their child and to have their questions answered in an understandable form. We all want what is best for our child. No parent likes to hear that their child isn’t doing well in school or isn’t meeting the educational goals. Strengths should be emphasized. If parents don’t agree with the results of an evaluation or an IEP that been developed what’s the next step? My role as a parent advocate is to help parents who have a child with a disability through the process from diagnosis to completion of the first IEP meeting and any problems or concerns that might come up in the future regarding their child. When I received my son’s diagnosis of autism 12 years ago, I was grateful to have the Parent Information Center to turn to. I found understanding, concern, genuine empathy and support. I found answers to questions I had. I wanted to give back to other parents what had been given to me. I have worked for the Parent Information Center for over six years and I find my work challenging and rewarding. I have had many rewarding experiences by helping parents know what their rights are under IDEA 2004. Many parents have said, “I didn’t know I had that right”. I consistently have given support to numerous parents by attending IEP meetings with them. Many times I’ve walked out of an IEP meeting with a parent who thanked me for being there for her and her child.
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