Finding a good school for your children can be an incredibly challenging endeavor for any family.
If your kid has a learning or developmental disability, finding the right school can be an even more complicated and trying process.
It's one that parent Sylvia Youngblood has been through several times. Her four kids each have various learning disabilities, and her three sons are on the autism spectrum.
Her first indication that one of her kids had special needs came with her oldest son, Paris.
As a toddler, he wouldn't respond to his name, and he didn't speak until he was about 7-years- old.
After grasping at straws for a long time, Youngblood says she educated herself about what her children's rights were, and learned that she had the ability to find a school placement that would be appropriate for her kids. She now volunteers her time helping other parents and offered this advice:
Get educated about your rights
I had to educate myself to find out about a Section 504 and an Individualized Education Program (or IEP). Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act which requires a person has access. So when we were told our child with ADHD didn't qualify for special education, he was first given accommodation through Section 504. That meant he was able to take breaks as needed and move around in the classroom.
In terms of special needs, an IEP is put together by a team of individuals, including the parents, teacher, school psychologist and administrators. There's a whole lot goes into it, you really want to get all the information down in that document, and that's how the district makes the offer of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) for your child. That's when you really sit down and figure out where is the best placement for your child.
Don't compare your child to someone else's child
It's good to listen to others' stories and get information, but keep in mind that's their individual story. Don't let it weigh on you if your child isn't reaching milestones at the same time as other kids. Notice it, and bring it up with your pediatrician, but don't compare your child to someone else's kid. You have to see your child the way you want the school to see your child-- as an individual.
You have to constantly pay attention and check in. So when you place your child at a new school or in a new environment, write goals within your IEP and request updates. Don't think just because you aren't getting phone calls from the school that everything's okay. They may have been having a great time, but that may have been because they were playing with blocks in the corner. You really have to stay on top of things, and keep checking in.
Next week, Take Two continues the conversation of educating children with special needs. If you would like add your story to the conversation, leave a comment below, or contact us via the Public Insight Network.