When my child was diagnosed with autism, I froze in my tracks. What is the doctor telling me? He has autism? What does that mean? As a young parent, I knew at some point, I would need help.
I felt so alone, but I knew I wanted the best for my child. I read so many books and researched so much that I found myself back in school. I wanted to know how I could be the best parent and advocate for my son.
I was advised by other parents. I looked for research-based articles (i.e., the results of any study were proven and documented). I felt I needed to know everything — the good, bad and ugly — so I could make decisions.
It was also very important to get us involved in support groups and play groups. It was so comforting connecting with other parents or children who have gone through the same struggles. Many were further along in their journey and were a great source of information.
I did all my research. I talked to anyone who could tell me anything about autism. I felt I understood what was ahead of us.
I just had to ensure my son had the tools needed to succeed in school.
So I called my nearest elementary school. I spoke with the principal, who gave me the number for Child Find. Child Find is legally required for school districts and is an important first step for children with disabilities to get them support and services at school.
I also connected with family support organizations such as Resource Network and Family to Family Network. They helped me learn about the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process so I could be prepared for the first meeting. My husband and I became the primary advocates. We wanted to ensure our son received his education alongside his peers in the classroom.
We received an invitation to attend my son’s first Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Meeting. I thought I was ready! We met with his teacher, counselor, the principal and someone from the school’s special education department. I was scared and nervous. I was afraid to speak or ask questions. I sat quietly at the table as each staff member told me what they knew about my son.
Then it was my time to share what I knew about my son.
I told them that he didn’t talk, but he had the biggest smile.
I told the team that he loved puzzles and being around other children.
I shared that he had difficulties picking up small objects from the floor, holding a spoon and walking.
I also explained that he walked on his toes.
I told the team that he had been wearing glasses since he was a toddler.
We discussed the goals that might address my concerns. In the end, I did my best to work with the school while advocating for my child.
It is so important to get your child evaluated, understand the IEP process, research and ask questions. Learn the disability laws. As a parent, it is your right to advocate for your child during the ARD/IEP meeting. Because you are a part of the team, you have the right to disagree with any goals being set and ask for another meeting if needed to resolve the problem. When you actively participate in the IEP meeting, your child will have better outcomes.
Access more resources about education, schools and related disability laws.
School doesn’t start or end when the bell rings. The student experience should include access to and participation in school-sponsored or related activities. This includes extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
Categories: Education & Schools
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills go beyond academics. Everyday life provides opportunities to apply these skills. During my son’s educational career, a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills was often noted in his Individualized Education Plan paperwork. While he may struggle with these skills academically, he solves problems all the time in his daily life.