December 2nd marks National Special Education Day. It is celebrated on this day because on December 2nd, 1975 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law by President Gerald Ford. This groundbreaking law was the first federal special education law in United States history. The law states that all children, with or without a disability, have the right to the same education. Forty-five years later and this law has touched the lives of every single student around the country because it has helped to break down the stigma surrounding disabilities as well as the technological advances that were developed to help children with disabilities learn have benefited all students. Progress has been made over those forty-five years however it is imperative that we do our part to further breakdown that stigma and continue to advocate for children who require special education.
Special education is great for kids and there is an abundance of resources out there for you to read. However, we wanted to start the research for you and hopefully save you some time (which we know is like gold when you are a parent or primary caregiver). These 5 resources are what we recommend to our families who have children with behavioral and mental health needs and be aware that your child may not specifically have a diagnosis or a mood disorder, anxiety, depression, etc but many common disabilities such as dyslexia go hand in hand with those challenges and they can be addressed in their child's IEP without going through the entire evaluation process as described in this video, which can also be found in our Learning Lab.
1. PaTTAN is the website for PA's Dept of Ed website for all things disability. It's an amazing resource that offers free training for families, up to date information on PA specific laws related to special education, information on Assistive Technology, is the clearinghouse for special education publications covering tons of topics including information on behavior like a guide called the Annotated Positive Behavior Support Plan or the side by side guide which nicely lays out PA special education law and the federal education law.
2. Offers strategy and training for parents on how to manage some of the social dynamics that go along with disagreeing with your child's school and how to get the right IEP for your child. An absolute must-read is the Letter to a Stranger post. Before a parent writes their first email or letter to a school they should definitely read this. It's a great guide for disagreeing in a manner that helps people understand your position.
Procedural Safeguards 3. The procedural safeguards that you receive at least once a year, usually at your child's IEP meeting are very informative. Often schools will make a joke about having to give you one of these packets each year and how you'll have enough paper to wallpaper a room. They're given in such a flip manner that many parents never bother to actually read them. Yes, they're long and not written in very family-friendly language but they're absolutely critical to understanding your rights and responsibilities when your child is receiving special education services. Here's an easier to understand guide (in case you can't find your copy). Be sure to notice that at the end is a list of agencies that can help you answer questions and understand your rights.
CADRE 4. A tale of two conversations from CADRE is fantastic for both families and providers (even outside the school system) to watch. Not only does it show both an awful school meeting and then a positive meeting but provides a host of resources to review if you're considering filing any type of complaint against your school. It gives parents tips on how to set up a positive and cooperative environment for working with your child's school.
5. In the education tab we have resources specifically for IEP's relating to the behavior and mental health challenges and in our webinar area, our very first webinar is on children's special education rights where we answer questions specifically related to COVID services and the rights and protection mentioned in the PaTTAN tip. While you are in the Learning Lab take a look around, it has something for everyone. We recognize that mental health impacts nearly every aspect of our lives and in the Learning Lab, you can find very specific resources that all have a mental health lens. Are you a military family? A grandparent raising your grandchild(ren)? Raising a child who is in the LGBTQIA+ community? A dad looking for ways to take an active role in your child's wellbeing? Check out the learning lab to get those very specific resources that could benefit your family.
We know that it can be overwhelming sitting in front of your phone or computer with an empty search bar, not even knowing what to type. The wonderful thing is that there are a lot of resources for families regarding special education, but the tricky thing is it can be overwhelming on where to even start looking. Let us help you, reach out to one of our free and confidential Family Support Partners at 888-273-2361 or online here.
Did we miss your favorite special education resource? Let us know what it is and we can share it with other families who could benefit from it.