For families it’s that time of year—mixed emotions of sadness that the summer vacation time is over, excitement and anticipation of preparation of the new school year, and the anxiety and stress that parents of children with disabilities often encounter. Will my child have the right accommodations needed to make sure his/her textbooks and materials will be accessible? Will there be a specialized teacher of the visually impaired, and an orientation and mobility instructor available to give the time and attention my child needs? And for children who need it, will there be appropriate services from occupational and other special therapists? Is the school my child attends the most appropriate for his or her needs?
You are your child’s best advocate. You know your child best. I encourage you to have confidence to follow your instinct and observations about your child’s development, strengths, and interests, and take an active role to help create a plan for the types of services and education your child needs. In order to do that you need to understand the U.S. special education law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that gives you parental rights, and the power to be an active participant in your child’s educational planning as part of the team working with school personnel to create an Individualized Educational Program (IEP).
To help you to be an active advocate for your child, you need to understand how the law gives your child rights, and learn what special educational services the school is required by law to provide for your child. You also need to learn about the best resources available for you and your families. The National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) have collaborated to create resources for parents to help you become knowledgeable about your child’s special education needs, such as the book A Parents’ Guide to Special Education for Children with Visual Impairments. There are also several free excerpts from the Guide on FamilyConnect that can assist you, including IEP checklists.
Enjoy watching your child grow and develop into the human being he or she is meant to be. I’ve raised three children and they are all special and have different interests and paths in life. It’s a lot of work to raise children but it is one of the most rewarding experiences to have.
Please stay in touch with NAPVI and FamilyConnect through the year!