Recently, we had some events that happened that have made me put back on my advocacy shoes and brush up on Special Education Law. When Joey was still in Early Intervention aka Birth to Three here in Connecticut, I took a Parent Advocacy Leadership workshop. It was one of the best things I could have done. That along with attending multiple Down syndrome conventions, locally and nationally, I have learned so much about fighting for what is best for Joey and I will continue to learn as long as I’m living.
As a parent, be sure you know your child’s rights, even if they’re not in Special Education. There are several laws out there to protect your child: The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), The ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, AKA “No Child Left Behind”), The FERPA (Family Education Rights and Protection Act), The WIOA (Workplace Innovation and Opportunities Act), The Higher Education Act, and also your child’s civil rights.
Every time I feel discouraged, I just look at Jojoe and remember why I fight for him. As a special needs parents, we MUST fight for the most needy population, many of these individuals cannot speak for themselves, although I know some who can and I love seeing pictures of them on Capitol Hill, addressing our government and being totally awesome self advocates. Until the day comes that Joey can speak for himself, I will continue fighting for him.
You can learn about all of these laws, straight from the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Educate yourself, you are your child’s first and number one advocate, but just remember you are not alone. If you need to reach out to other parents or advocates, don’t be shy or worried someone won’t believe you. Heck, there’s still times I reach out to parents of children who are older than mine for advice.