Advocating for Your Child
It can be overwhelming when your child is diagnosed with a speech disorder. You’re probably facing mountains of insurance forms and Individualized Education Program (IEP) paperwork. In all likelihood, the last thing you have time for is a parent support group. However, support groups for parents of special needs children not only provide emotional help, they’re also a great networking opportunity. Networking is an important component of advocating successfully for your child. School districts may be more likely to heed the concerns of a group of parents. Plus, you can take advantage of the knowledge and experience of other parents with special needs children.
Parent Advisory Committees
Your child’s school district may already have a parent advisory committee (PAC). Contact the school and request information about it. These groups are typically composed of other parents of special needs children and special education teachers. A PAC can guide you through the IEP process and help you understand your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
When you attend a PAC meeting, bring a list of your questions and concerns. Discuss any improvements that you believe the school district could implement and determine if other parents share your views. As a group, approach the school district representatives to negotiate for these improvements. For example, you may be concerned that your son’s school only has one speech-language pathologist (SLP) and she has a very large caseload. Your PAC could try to persuade school officials to hire another SLP to balance the caseload.
Form Your Own Group
Your school district may not have a PAC, or the existing PAC may not work effectively on your child’s behalf. Consider forming your own parent group to advocate for your child and other special needs children. Network with other parents at open houses, school events, and Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. You may find other parents of children with speech disorders who would like to form a group. You could also meet with parents of children with different disabilities who share similar concerns. Your parent group does not need to be large in order to advocate effectively.
During your parent group meetings, ask other participants to write lists of their concerns. Determine what the group’s goals are. Discuss the needs of the children and methods of meeting those needs. Once your group is organized, contact the school district and request a meeting to discuss these issues. Strive to build a long-term relationship with the school district.
You can best advocate for your child by becoming informed. Use the following list of resources to learn more about speech disorders, legal issues, and parent organizations.
A website that offers basic information about speech disorders and delays and how to advocate for a special needs child.
An organization that offers support for families of children with apraxia.
Search this website to find local support groups.
A government-funded website that offers information about the IDEA law.
A website with lots of information on various disabilities, including disability and education laws.