Friday, August 26, 2011

A New Beginning

When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."  ~ Author Unknown

"It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up."  ~ Vince Lombardi

This new post calls for two quotes.  It has taken me two plus years to arrive at this place.  It wouldn't have happened if not for my determination to not give up easily.  Injustice is the driving force and sticking up for the underdog.  I'm an impassioned person for the underdogs in life.  I guess it has much to do with the fact, I can relate to it.   My personal experiences of having strength of character to rise up against a tower of odds stacked against me is part of who I am.  I'm not special but I am very determined.  Still, injustice leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and ignites me to action.

After a long climb navigating a very challenging education system, sleepless nights and many bouts of anxiety my son has finally received out of district referrals.  I don't want to say I've won because in my mind it shouldn't have been a battle in the first place.  My approach every step of the way was advocating for my son's educational needs and entitlement to a free and appropriate education under federal and state law.  I've never wanted more only what was and is appropriate for him.  I started out naively believing the school will recognize my child's needs and take care of it.  I found out it is not that simple.  In fact, it's not simple for many parents who have children with educational needs in the public school system.

It was the school district who drew the line in the sand.  When I wanted to play softball, the district preferred the game of hardball instead.  When I say hardball, I'm saying the district threw every obstacle and delay tactic in my path.  Being soft in other words, didn't get what I need educationally for my child.  I accepted the challenge willingly and got to work.  When delays were thrown in my way, I used the time to learn more.  I reached out to people more knowledgeable than me about education law.  Listening to other parents hearing their own personal experiences gave me courage.  And, I refused to take the line of least resistance by yanking my kid out and homeschooling him.  That approach would've been inappropriate on many levels.  It also takes the heat off the schools to do what taxpayers expect and that's educating our children, all children as according to their individual needs.  Each time I got knocked back, I recouped and started again.  I got excellent at writing letters and documenting everything.  I have one very long file drawer filled with documentation related to everything about my son,  his school, diagnosis, tests, evaluations, homework assignments, copies of email correspondence and anything I think might be of use in the future if needed.  I also have backup soft copies just in case.  It is an arsenal to protect the education rights of my child.  These documents are like gold to me.  It is a trail of information about my son and it is all priceless.  It has helped me in my advocacy work because without solid documentation, I have no foundation to support my efforts.

Until the laws change that put more pressure on districts to appropriately and adequately educate each and every child according to their abilities and needs, parents must put themselves in the trenches doing the ground work.  Parents can't sit back and expect someone else to take care of it for them.  That attitude will not ensure the needs of the child is served.  Truth be told, no one knows a child better than the parents.  School districts need to have more pressure placed upon them to earnestly collaborate with parents to arrive at educational solutions that serve the student according to his/her needs.

Advocacy work takes a lot of energy and commitment of time. Our children are worth it.  Parents can find solace by connecting with other parents through support groups, parents of children with educational needs at school, PTA and organizations such as Parent to Parent of NYS.   Sharing information and coming together for a common cause is the key to success.  Resources can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

It is not over. It is a new beginning for my son.  I hope my efforts in some small way will help other children as well.  The more parents become knowledgeable about the law and how to appropriately advocate for their children, the less districts will be able to short change our kids by cutting corners.  Parents and educators need to be well versed in special education laws and regulations.  People need to step up and do the right thing.  If we remove the ignorance, we're able to lift obstacles, barriers to judiciously educate children with learning disabilities.  The excuse often heard by parents "we don't see it", will be moot through the power of knowledge and the ability to collaborate for the common good and entitlement for all students.