Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy

The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam Wright & Pete Wright


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Planning is the Key to Success  

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden, basketball coach

Can you imagine educating a child with a disability without a master plan?

You do not know about the child's disability, how the disability affects the child's learning, or how the child needs to be taught.

You do not know what services and supports the child needs.
Is it reasonable to think you will figure this out as you go along?" (Chapter 2, Creating Your Master Plan, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy)

If you are like many parents, you are confused about your role.  What do you need to learn? How can you ensure that the school provides your child with quality, appropriate special education services?

Long-Range Planning

You need to make long-term plans for your child. You are the constant factor in your child's life. You represent your child's interests. If your child does not receive an appropriate education and master the skills necessary to be an independent, self-sufficient member of the community, you will deal with the outcome.

Your Role as Project Manager

Project managers organize, plan, monitor progress, anticipate problems, and ensure that jobs get done. On long complicated projects, project managers are essential to success.

Your child’s special education is a long-term project. As the parent, you are the logical person to step into the role of special education project manager.

Learn the most common reasons why projects fail, and why you need to make plans, define goals, organize information, and build relationships. Learn about the skills, information and attitude you need to act as your child’s special education project manager.

Your Program of Self-Study

Set aside time to organize information about your child, make long-term plans, write goals with timelines, and build working relationships with school personnel. View your job You will negotiate with the school on your child's behalf. Your goal is to get the school to provide your child with a good special education program.

You need to learn about the law, the nature of your child’s disability, how your child learns, and how your child should be taught. Your program of self study includes several steps.

Learn About Your Child's Disability

Disabilities information groups and organizations are excellent sources of information for parents of children with all disabilities and handicaps. Immerse
yourself in information about disabilities, handicaps, legal rights and responsibilities, tactics and strategy, and educational remediation techniques.

When you join organizations, you will receive their state and national newsletters. Information from these newsletters will put you on the cutting edge of new educational, scientific and legal developments in the field of special education. The cost of your membership will be repaid many times as you plan for your child’s future.

Here is a short list of organizations.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA), 4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15234. (412) 341-1515.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA), 8600 LaSalle Road, Suite 32, Chester Building, Baltimore MD 21286. (410) 296-0232. (Formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society, named after Dr. Samuel Orton who helped develop the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory method that was used to remediate Pete Wright during the 1950s.)

Children and Adults with ADD/ADHD (ChADD), 8181 Professional Place, Suite 201, Landover, MD 20785. (301) 306-7070.

The ARC (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens), 500 E. Border St., Suite 300, Arlington, TX 76010. (817) 261-6003.

The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH), 29 W. Susquehanna Ave., Suite 210, Baltimore, MD 21204. (410) 828-8274.

United Cerebral Palsy Association, 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036. (800) 872-5827.

National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS), P.O. Box 4542, Oak Brook, IL 60522-4542. (708) 325-9112.

Autism Society of America, 7910 Woodmont Ave, Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20814-3015. (800) 3 AUTISM or (301) 657-0881.

The Tourette Syndrome Association, 4240 Bell Boulevard, Bayside, New York 11361-2820. (718) 224-2999.

Alexander Graham Bell Association, 3417 Volta Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2778. (202) 337-5220 (Voice/TTY).

For a comprehensive list of organizations and information groups, please refer to the Directory of National Disabilities Organizations and Information Groups. on the Yellow Pages for Kids site. For state and local information, please check your state page on the Yellow Pages for Kids site.
Visit our Free Stuff Page for links to free books and free newsletters.

Learn About Special Education

You need accurate information about how your child learns and how your child needs to be taught. With the Internet, you can find answers to many of these questions. Here is a short list of sites we recommend.

Bridges4Kids, a masterful site with hundreds of useful resources about special education and educating children with disabilities.

Council for Exceptional Children
, a site for special educators

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, National Library of Education (NLE)

Families for Early Autism Treatment - FEAT publishes an excellent free newsletter.

Federal Resource Center for Special Education

LD Online is a huge site with hundreds of articles about disabilities, remediation, IEPs, legal rights and responsibilities, and links to other resources.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). NICHCY is an excellent resource, offering dozens of free publications that you can order or download from their site.

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER)

School Psychology Resources Online is an excellent site with hundreds of links to resources.

Learning Difficulties at GreatSchools (formerly Schwab Foundation for Learning)

Work with a Private Sector Expert  

Find an independent evaluator or educational consultant to work with you and your child.

This person can help you develop an appropriate program for your child, evaluate your child's progress, and make recommendations to the IEP team about the services your child needs.

Tips about finding and working with evaluators and consultants

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition

This article is based on a chapter in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition by Pete Wright and Pam Wright (ISBN: 1-892320-09-6, 338 pages, perfect bound, $19.95). Learn about Wrightslaw publications and products.


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