B- Behavior Plan Many times students with disabilities are placed on a behavior plan in order to be reprimanded and tracked by law enforcement agencies. When agreeing to a behavior plan, ensure that data collected is accurate, researched and empirical data that does not fall within the categories of paraprofessional services that your child is entitled.
C- Counsel Always enlist effective counsel to represent you and your child’s behalf. This could be community advocates or a special education attorney. They will assist in getting the best possible services your child deserves.
D- Documentation Always record every meeting, phone call and occurrence which deals with your child. Document date, time and who was around even if the person did not participate. If correspondence is thru email or postal make sure you mark date and time received.
E- Examine Examine all school files thoroughly regarding your child at least once a year. Access your state’s school code regarding how to request records and what is allowed. Be specific in your request, ask for temporary, permanent, special education as well as any other forms of correspondence regarding your child. Also put down specific names of individuals who might have any information on your child.
F- Forgive Oftentimes you, the school even your child will make unintentional mistakes. Your job is to know the difference between a mistake and willful disregard. If it is a mistake forgive the individual and continue with a strong intent that another incident will not be allowed.
G- Gratitude There are some teachers and paraprofessionals who really attempt to assist in your child’s progress. Show appreciation and gratitude for the effort.
H- Hire I have said it before and I will reiterate, hire effective counsel and professionals outside the school. They will often provide an unbiased opinion and sounding board upon which you can depend especially when the public education system want to mislabel or rediagnose your child.
I- Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Every student with a disability should have an IEP with the operative term being “Individualized.” Oftentimes cookie cutter IEP’s are written for students offering limited services. Be informed on rights of student and available services in order to properly tailor your child’s plan to fit him/her.
J- Joining Join groups and affiliates within the community to provide support, education and resources for you and your child.
K- Keep Keep everything from the school pertaining to your child, that includes records, receipts, emails, letters in the envelopes, even keep recipes (yes I still have a recipe my daughter’s kindergarten teacher sent me). You always want to be aware of every detail of your child’s school career.
L- Listen Listen to school representatives and advocates, listen to your intuition but most importantly listen to your child’s verbal and especially non-verbal communication. Many times children display how they feel and how things are going in school if you just still yourself and listen.
M- Monitor Monitor your child’s progress and interactions by visiting the school or sending a proxy. Many schools are making it more difficult to enter into the school but be diligent, you have a right to view your child’s environment.
N- Note I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep accurate notes, especially at IEP meetings. If possible bring someone to meetings just for that purpose to take notes. That way any discrepancies or disagreements can easily be diffused.
O- Oppose It is alright to oppose a suggestion from an educator regarding your child’s needs. No one knows your child better than you. We tend to think that just because a teacher has a degree they are an expert on children but last time I checked no one knows every child in the world.
P- Placement Whether your child is placed in special education classes or alternative school, be sure that the placement will fit and meet your child’s needs not the schools. Alternative schools give the public education system the means to make more money but sometimes are not a good environment for certain children.
Q- Question If you have a feeling or do not understand something regarding your child’s needs, behavior or progress, ask questions until you get clarity.
R- Reports Each quarter or semester a report should be generated by general education, special education and paraprofessionals regarding your child’s progress. Make sure you are receiving all measurable data from every individual that works with your child.
S- Study Study books and manuals about your child’s disability, Special Education laws, disability laws, civil right laws and school codes to stay abreast of developments, changes and services upon which your child is entitled.
T- Transition Some students have a hard time transitioning to new environments every year. Ask that your child be placed before the end of the current school year so that they may be introduced to the new surrounding before the start of the next school year. This will assist in adaptability.
U- Understand Understand that no one has all the answers, even if some educators like to think they do. When a problem cannot be solved right away, understand it is not you or them or your child it just will take some time to find the right fit.
V- Voice You and your child has a voice and is entitled to be heard, so speak clearly with conviction.
W- Watch Watch for any signs of maltreatment, children with disabilities are often misused and abused because of their inability to communicate effectively. If you suspect anything go with that feeling because it is often correct.
X- Don’t have an (X) but if I think of one I will insert.
Y- Yourself We as parents, especially mothers, get so caught up in taking care of everything and everyone we neglect ourselves. Raising a child with a disability is extremely hard and time consuming, make sure you schedule some “me” time even if it is nothing but a hot bath at midnight. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you as well as people around.
Z- Zeal Let’s face it raising a child with a disability is a cause, a crusade. Continue the struggle with lots of zeal and pizazz.