"It doesn't seem right"
Very often, these are the words I hear from a client at the start. Something doesn't seem right, but they are not sure what is wrong. Sometimes they have asked the school for help with a child only to be told nothing can be done. Sometimes they are being told they have to comply with a rigid meeting date that does not include them. Sometimes they are told doctors diagnoses won't be considered because the school doesn't know the doctor. Sometimes, it's a school refusing to provide accommodations in a class, or telling you to be satisfied with poor academic performance. If something doesn't seem right, its likely time to get some outside vision and help.
Schools don't always know the rules and proper procedure, especially here in Michigan. The State of Michigan is at the bottom of the nation for special education and it's not an accident. The rules and laws can help you obtain a good education for your child as well as having a professional advocate at the table with you. How does that happen?
Know the rules, know proper procedures, know what schools can and cannot do and above all, be able to advocate for your individual child at the table. Special education is unique to your child and their documented needs (this is the "I" in IEP). You will need data and facts about your child's needs, their learning styles and evidence of what creates issues for them. Schools can help you create this data, hopefully in partnership with you. A good advocate will also help you create this data, create a professional partnership with the school and educate the entire team on required procedures. One of the principles of ACCESS Education advocacy is knowing your child and seeing how they are managing in school, and how actual instruction is impacting them. This is key in order to be able to speak about your child at the meeting table. We conduct in school observations and in home meetings so that we are sure of what situation your child is facing and how they can best be helped to achieve.
Knowledge is power, for both sides of the table. Make sure your knowledge covers the area you child needs help with; special education IDEA and the MARSE, 504 plans, discipline laws and your schools policy or student handbook. Be sure to get good data about their needs as they relate to their area of disability, be sure you have documentation of issues with the school. This can help with the key action of getting everyone, school and family, on the same team; Your Child's Success Team.