Information for parents of disabled children

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Advocacy in today's school system

There's a burning need for advocacy in special needs education today. Areva Martin's book The Everyday Advocate highlights that need. Parents, overburdened emotionally and financially, are having to metaphorically take up arms in order to make the system run as it should for children.

One can't assume anymore that teachers and administrators are advocates for your child. The truth is they are employees of the system, and that system has cost management needs. Teachers go out into the work place with massive debts and a burning desire to teach. There is always a risk when they go out on a limb to recommend services in today's cost cutting environment. If you buck the admin too many times, you will certainly feel the sting.

Therefore, it's left to a parent to obtain an advocate or become one. The amount of time it takes to properly advocate for children is amazing. There are files to compile, phone calls to be made, negotiations to manage and research to be done. Parents must add this pile of tasks to an already growing stack of tasks they manage each day, and that's if everything manages to run smoothly. If it doesn't, one must prepare for mediation or due process.

School is not a cure. It's a minimizer. It minimizes the damage done to a child's mind by training that mind like an athlete trains their body.  It will play a crucial role in the coming years in educating parents to minimize at home. No doctor can have the kind of relationship with parents that schools have. Until we start taking our school's role in special needs treatment seriously and fund the programs, enforce the policies and train the staff, I'm afraid we will see an unorganized, failing system for years to come.
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