When my son started school, the staff there seemed to have his best interest at heart. However, we soon saw that they were used to doing things a certain way.
I was involved in a parent group that had taught me my rights and how to advocate for my child. So when I first questioned the school’s recommendations, I was surprised by the staff’s reaction. They made me feel guilty for not going along with everything they said. It was hard because I wanted them to like me. I don’t like conflict. But more importantly, I wanted my son to receive a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE).
My son’s teachers were great, but their training hadn’t prepared them to appropriately teach students on the autism spectrum. The administration was content with the status quo. They discouraged the teachers from asking for additional training and support.
The thing was, what worked for most children with disabilities didn’t even come close to providing my son with a FAPE. As a parent, I had to be the one to push for more specialized training and support in the classroom.
Another problem was that the school only provided PPCD in a segregated setting. So not only was my son not receiving specialized instruction to meet his needs, but he was also not being educated with his peers.
He had no models for speech, behavior, or social interaction. And he was not making progress. With the help of another parent, we convinced the school to allow typical preschool children to participate in the PPCD program. The typical children and the children with disabilities saw great benefits from this program.
But my son still wasn’t making appropriate progress.
My husband and I chose to pull our son out of public school for half of the day and pay for a specialized in-home program. He now had the best of both worlds. An inclusive preschool/kindergarten program for half the day, and a specialized autism program for the other half.
It was expensive, but he began making progress. After a year, we had enough data to convince the district that this was what our son needed to receive a FAPE. Inclusion and specialized instruction became part of his IEP.
At first, the administration did not like me being such a strong advocate for my child. They were forced to do things differently. However, the teachers really liked what I was doing. I helped them get additional training and support in the classroom. They saw the difference it made in my son’s education. And that was really what we were all working toward.
Parents must be strong advocates for their children with disabilities if they want them to receive a FAPE. School staff may not really like you at first, but once they see the progress your child makes, attitudes may change. Do you want the school to like you, or do you want your child to get what they need? I think if you do it the right way, you can have the best of both!
Learn more about Your Childs Right to a Public Education on this page.