Part 2 of the series about school advocacy looks at 4 special needs obstacles to avoid, all recommended by pro-special needs school administrators.

With the school year drawing closer–and perhaps even underway in some parts of the country–Different Dream’s series designed to help parents become the best advocates they can be continues. The series is based on the content of a workshop held during the Access Summit last spring, Advocacy: Critical Conversations with Collaborative Outcomes. The workshop featured a blue ribbon panel of educators and parents: Ann Hines, principal at Rosa Lee Carter Elementary School; Barbara Tresness from the CHAT Collective; Linda Starnes, Parent Advocate; and Brendon Wolfe, principal of the S. John Davis Career Center. They shared many tips to help parents become effective IEP meeting advocate. Here’s what they had to say about how to avoid special needs obstacles before the school year begins.

Special Needs Obstacle #1: Unprepared Teachers

To avoid this obstacle, parents should ask administrators to put their child in a classroom with a teacher who welcomes kids with special needs. If the child uses communication devices or special technology, parents should also be proactive about training teachers and para-professionals about how to use it.

Special Needs Obstacle #2: Lack of Communication

To avoid lack of communication between parents and educators, parents should provide a communication journal. This is especially important for children who are non-verbal or have limited communication skills. The journal can go back and forth with specific information that assists parents and educators in working as a team.

Special Needs Obstacle #3: Ignorance about Advances in Assistive Technology

Educators can’t keep current about the constant advances in assistive technology devices. If a new device becomes available, parents should bring it in and show it to administrators. Explain how it helps the child and why it’s needed. This gives educators a chance to research and become familiar with what’s out there and with what might become part of a child’s IEP.

Special Needs Obstacle #4: Adversarial Relationships

Adversarial relationships between parents and educators can be a powerful obstacle. These relationships can spring from parental fear and anxiety, but can usually be traced back to a lack of communication. Both parents and educators need to do all they can to work as a team and only bring in professional advocates after all other avenues have been exhausted.

What Special Needs Obstacles Would You Add to the List?

What do you think of these 4 special needs obstacles? What would you add to the list? How have you overcome them in the past? Leave a comment.

Part One: 7 Ways to Advocate Before an IEP Meeting
Part Two: 4 Special Needs Obstacles to Avoid at School
Part Three: 10 Ways to Advocate at a Difficult IEP Meeting
Part Four: 3 Strategies for Good Communication after an IEP Meeting

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Part 2 of the series about school advocacy looks at 4 special needs obstacles to avoid, all recommended by pro-special needs school administrators.