PARENTS & FAMILIES NEWSLETTER
This is the May 2021 edition of Stand for Children’s Parents and Families Newsletter. Started in 2019, our hope is that this monthly resource provides the practical solutions that parents and family members are asking for. Past topics have included graduation requirements, financial aid, and remote learning.
Due to the demands of the online 2021 legislative session, we paused the newsletter this past winter to focus our limited capacity on statewide advocacy. This month, we are proud to return with a special edition created by Stand Parent Fellow Devony Audet about a highly requested topic: Special Education. Scroll down for links to Devony’s new short video series about SpEd. If you'd like to receive this monthly in your email inbox, sign up here.
As the parent of a student in special education who began my journey almost ten years ago, I often felt overwhelmed and under prepared to advocate for the needs of my son.
When my oldest son entered kindergarten, I knew he needed extra help, but I didn't know what it was he needed or how to access it. Like many parents, I was hoping the school was going to know what his needs were and offer them up. Knowing what I do now, I realize that his general education teachers, although as amazing as some were, didn't know how to serve my child any more than I did. When my son was finally given an IEP in the 2nd grade under the qualifying diagnosis of Autism, I was so ready for the sit-down with the school or the teacher - or anyone really - where I was finally going to learn everything I needed to know about this new world of special education.
If you are reading this as the parent or guardian of a special education student then you know as well as I do, this sit-down did not happen.
First day of kindergarten smiles!
My son was thrown into the world of special education and I was trying to keep up, but I didn't even know if you said IDEA as a word or if you used the letters I-D-E-A when you were talking about it out loud (for the record, it can be said both ways, and it refers to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law where most of your and your students' rights are housed). The first IEP meeting we had was full of so many teachers, specialists, and school officials, and I was so overwhelmed when I left, I spent days crying.
I not only didn't understand all the terms, acronyms, and services, but the focus of that meeting centered so strongly on what my son couldn't do (or what he did do that he shouldn't have) that my heart was broken.
My son is now 14 and this photo was taken recently with his principal on Autism Awareness Day. His teachers all dressed in blue or in autism t-shirts in support of him and other students with Autism.
One of the defining moments for me as a parent was when my second son entered Kindergarten a few years later. I remember standing by the office a few days into the school year and a school employee told me that my middle child was doing so well and was shocked that was the case, knowing my older son. I realized that I really was fighting a fight I wasn't prepared for because the partnership that is so vital for student success wasn't there.
It wasn't until my oldest son was in the 6th grade and I was so desperate to find the resources that I needed that I found Stand for Children and several other organizations in the Spokane area that empowered me and gave me the information I needed to advocate for my son. I am so passionate about helping other parents learn anything and everything they need to help their own students. This kind of help is so different for each family. It could mean the basics like answering questions about what Special Education is and how that applies to their student. This could also look like more in-depth understanding of common acronyms and how they apply to your student, your rights under the IDEA, or how to access the help you need if your students' needs are not being met with their IEP. My favorite thing to talk about, however, is inclusion and how it is beneficial for all students to be in the least restrictive environment (LRE). I often tell other parents that I am nothing but a parent myself. When I say that, I don't mean to belittle the role of a parent (SAHM/SAHDs are Rockstars!) but I want other parents to know that I don't hold any fancy degrees (or any degrees), I don't have a fancy title, and I don't work for any school district. I am simply a parent who has learned everything I know about special education because I am living it every day. I still don't understand everything, and I am always learning more so I can help my son and hopefully help other children too.
I received a specific request from another SpEd parent for short videos (less than 10 minutes long) so that anyone can fit them into a busy schedule. Each video is a very brief overview of a single topic and answers a common question about special education. There are so many more things that I could add to each video, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you ever need help. My contact information is at the end of every video. The whole Stand for Children team would love to help in any way that we can. Also, please forgive me for not being a great speaker in these videos. I still get nervous sometimes when I do any type of public speaking, but that is one thing I am learning along the way! I hope these videos help you in your journey - at the very least, I hope they remind you that you’re not alone in this.
All the Best,
Stand for Children Washington