Parents Can Be The Key As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher.  You are their voice too!  And when it comes to advocating for your child there is nothing you won’t do.  When you attend your child’s ARD meeting, you represent your child’s future and interests.  This meeting is a negotiation.  The biggest pitfall I see happening is parents not fully understanding their child’s disability and relying on other people to ensure their child is receiving a Free Appropriate Public Education.  You must understand your child’s disability in order to advocate for your child.  This does not mean you have to become a doctor or lawyer in the process of learning about the disability.  It does mean you are your child’s voice, so learn the facts about how to best help your child.  Do not expect the school and the staff to know everything there is about your child’s disability. You may be the only ARD committee member coming to the table with the knowledge of the disability.  You will have spent countless hours with your child over the school personnel.  That makes you an expert on your child and you should advocate as such.  Next, you will never know if you will be able to get something for your child if you do not ask.  So always start by asking for what you want for your child.  Make sure you have goals in mind for not just the present, but where you want to see your child in the future as well.  As early as Kindergarten, you should be planning what the transition for your child to exit High School will look like, then work backward to make sure you have secured every bridge along the way.

As in any negotiation, you may not always get everything you want. Prioritize and remember to keep calm.  As a voice for your child, you have to remain calm, cool and collected to get the best results.  You are still dealing with other humans, and we all have opinions and emotions.  Send follow up emails that high light the minutes of the meeting while thanking the school personnel for their time and diligence in helping your child.  This serves two ends – a thank you and a paper trail.  Keep your message short, factual and non-emotional.  Always keep copies of your documentation.   Advocating for your child is an important job and you are the expert on knowing your child!

You are your child’s voice and best teacher!
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