If you want positive outcomes, it’s important to do more than just show up once a year! Preparation and continued involvement throughout the year are what it takes to see adequate gains. Otherwise, the odds are that you will be disappointed and we all know you don’t want that. So, accepting the shared responsibility of monitoring and supporting your child’s education is the golden rule, I can promise you that.
Imagine that your child’s education is like being on a cruise ship. He is doing well in school and there are no problems. The teachers are great, the school is accommodating, and all seems to be splendidly ship-shape. Then, suddenly and without warning, you sail directly into an iceberg. In order to not quickly sink the ship that threatens to negate the progress and destroy trust with all of those that we assumed were watching over the course we were sailing, your involvement, responsibility, monitoring and support will will keep your ship afloat.
At a minimum, establishing clear communication and monitoring quarterly progress is pivotal to achieving positive outcomes. This ongoing participation and understanding of procedural process are what increase the likelihood of those desired outcomes. Although there is no guarantee that children with disabilities will learn, there is a guarantee that they will have an equal opportunity to learn.
Using the procedural process http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/pa12/ is how we do that. More than once I have heard a parent say that they do not have the time to learn the process, despite the offer of free training. Use the training! It will be much easier to make the time now than it will be when your child exits the system of entitlement and enters into post-secondary world of eligibility. What I mean is that it’s easier now than later, when they are thirty and sitting on your couch with no marketable skills or independent living options. A positive outcome would be that he or she is well prepared with job skills, working, and living independently.
The process exists and there are timelines in place to safeguard against a negative outcome. IDEA requires transitional services to be in place by age sixteen. With advance preparation, we have options in case children with disabilities drop out of school. There is a plan in place to make sure they have the skills to be employed and agencies already identified to help make it happen.
Achieving the three important goals of: being gainfully employed, living independently, and having quality of life, requires due diligence on behalf of parents. Learning procedural process set forth by federal law and applying it individually in the manner it was intended to be done will result in the outcomes you seek. IDEA is a wonderful law that has progressed and evolved over three decades to reach the point where it is today. That happened by parental involvement, much of which was expended by parents that never received the benefit for their own children, but resulted in a positive change for so many others.
There are times when I reflect back on the significant impact my role of advocacy had on my child’s education. One of those happened when out of frustration, I had spent the day on the phone speaking with numerous agencies regarding issues of non-compliance. At the end of the day I found myself in a long conversation with an attorney from a non-profit advocacy group who perhaps gave me the single most effective piece of advice and I vividly remember her words to this day. “Mr. Hawke, if you are waiting for a knight in shining armor to come and rescue you, forget it. It is not going to happen. If you want the things you need, you have to learn how to do this.”
That single statement hit me like a glass of ice water thrown in my face and launched me down a determined course to follow what she suggested. I couldn’t have been given better guidance as evidenced by my son’s successes!
So let me pass that advice on to you. Step up, learn the process and become involved. Be the difference and do more than just show up. You are your child’s best advocate!