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Tips for Advocating for Your Children (Including those with Special Needs)

August 15, 2023

The start of the school year brings a mix of excitement and nerves for kids and parents alike. New teachers, friends, and experiences await, but as a parent of a child with special needs, like my son Guion who has Down syndrome, the beginning of the school year presents unique challenges that demand our advocacy.

Guion, now entering his junior year of high school, has shown me the importance of adapting our advocacy as our children grow. We need to help them become self-advocates while remaining their steadfast support.

A key lesson I’ve learned is the power of teaching self-advocacy. Just like life skills, our kids can learn to express their needs. We equip them with tools to communicate their desires and navigate their successes. For children who may require more assistance, like Guion, our role becomes even more vital. We ensure their needs are met and collaborate with educators to create an inclusive environment.

Throughout Guion’s education, I’ve encountered educators who genuinely care, though not all possess the same expertise. This has driven my determination to be an advocate, ensuring every aspect of his education aligns with his potential.

How to Advocate for Your Child During the School Year

As the new school year begins, let’s stand beside our children and champion their potential. Here are a few ways you can advocate for your child throughout the school year: 

  • Clear Communication: Establish open communication with teachers and school staff. Share your child’s strengths, challenges, and any accommodations needed.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule frequent meetings with teachers to track progress and address concerns.
  • Empower Your Child: Teach your child to speak up for themselves as they grow. Give them the skills and confidence to communicate effectively.
  • Stay Informed: Keep in touch with teachers to stay updated on school activities, assignments, and events.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge your child’s accomplishments, boosting their confidence and growth.

For those of us with a child with special needs, here are a few additional considerations:

  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Work with school to create or regularly update an IEP (Individual Education Plan) tailored to your child’s needs, learning style, and goals.
  • Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with laws like IDEA that protect students with special needs.
  • Support Network: Connect with other parents of special needs children for advice and mutual support.

Our advocacy will evolve alongside their growth, creating a world where their uniqueness is not only celebrated, but their voices are heard. In the midst of this year’s journey, let our unwavering commitment guide them towards a future where their brilliance shines without limits.

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