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Advocacy: Your Family's Rights

Family Resources
  • Be a voice for your child and family.
    We have tools to help you!

  • As a parent, you are the person who speaks out for your child. You support him or her not just financially, but also emotionally, socially, and academically.

    Advocacy means doing the best for your child and yourself.

    Yes, teachers, health care providers, and others want to help, but the fact is that you are the best advocate because you know your child better than anyone else!

  • Ask yourself this:

    “If I don’t fight for my child, who will? Who would I expect to do a better job?”

  • Read on for important ways to be the best advocate you can be!

  • A Person’s Rights

    Everyone—children and adults—has basic rights.

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    Rights for All

    Everyone—children and adults—has basic rights. At the Childhood League Center, we support the bill of rights of the Franklin County Board of Development Disabilities. It states that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families have:

    • The same basic rights and responsibilities as other citizens of the community.
    • The right to develop their abilities to the fullest extent possible and to be involved in determining the supports and services needed.
    • The right to be informed of services available in a manner which provides maximum understanding, as well as the right to refuse programs or services.
    • The right to participate in the community.
    • The right to take reasonable risks.
    • The right to be protected from exploitation, abuse and degrading treatment.
    • The right to be treated with dignity and respect.

    The Right to Inclusion

    Another core belief of The Childhood League Center relates to inclusion—the right to be part of a community.

    Parent/Family Rights

    Families of children with disabilities have the right to Be Informed, Participate, and Disagree.

    Be informed

    • Be fully informed by the school about your rights in the special education process
    • Be notified in writing before an evaluation, re-evaluation, or change in your child’s classification or placement
    • Give “informed consent” (this means that you understand and agree with the decisions) before an initial evaluation or placement
    • Attend and participate in any meetings in which your child’s education is being discussed, including Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meetings
    • Invite others involved in your child’s life to participate in the meetings
    • Record meetings with a tape recorder or other device
    • Request translations if English is not your primary language
    • Be kept informed of your child’s progress at least as often as parents of children without disabilities
    • Examine your child’s educational records, have them explained, and request that information that is inaccurate or inappropriate be corrected.

    Participate in decisions

    This includes decisions about:

    • Whether your child should be evaluated by a team of professionals who have knowledge about the child
    • Whether your child should be classified as disabled
    • What goals should be included on your child’s IEP or IFSP
    • What related services your child should receive
    • Where the child should be educated


    If you do not agree with the school’s recommendations about their child’s education, you have the right to:

    • Request that your child be re-evaluated or be evaluated by someone outside the school (which may be done at the school’s expense)
    • Refuse to consent to decisions about your child’s classification, evaluation, or placement
    • Refuse to sign an IEP document; you have 10 school days to think about the IEP before signing it
    • Participate in a meeting to resolve disagreements with the child’s IEP team within 15 days of notifying the team of your complaint in writing
    • Request an impartial due process hearing, which means an impartial hearing officer listens to all parties and decides what is to be done, according to the law.

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    Child’s Rights

    All children have rights. Specifically, according to federal law, each child with a disability has the right to:

    • A free, non-biased evaluation in the language he or she knows best
    • An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for children and youth ages 3-21 years or an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children younger than 3 years
    • Receive special education and/or related services as described in the child’s IEP or IFSP
    • Be evaluated and receive services within a pre-set timeframe
    • Participate in the general education curriculum and non-academic activities with non-disabled peers whenever possible
    • Be taught by highly qualified, or state certified, special education teachers
    • Free transportation to and from school
    • Be part of the decision-making process and to attend IEP or IFSP meetings, if appropriate
    • Not be suspended from school for more than 10 consecutive days, if the behavior is related to the child’s disability
    • Attend private school, at public expense, if the student’s educational needs cannot be met through the public school’s special education program
    • A longer school year, if the student would experience regression because of the summer break.
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  • Teachers

    Talking with your child’s teacher.

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    How to Talk to your Child’s Teacher

    Being the parent of a child with a developmental delay can be an emotionally charged experience. Frustration and confusion can complicate the conversations between parents and teachers. Respect for each other and open communication can reduce tension and enable parents and teachers to benefit from each other’s expertise and knowledge of the child.

    Working together, either informally or during a formal evaluation, parents, teachers, and children can inform one another about how best to address a child’s needs.

    Here are some steps to take in talking with your child’s teacher:

    Share observations.

    Discuss your child’s successes and struggles in school and identify where breakdowns are occurring. What worries or concerns do you and your child’s teacher share?

    Identify and discuss the child’s strengths and interests.

    How can they be used to enhance his or her ability to learn? Can reading a book, writing a report, or creating a drawing on a topic of interest help a child sustain attention?

    Clarify the instructional program.

    If your child is struggling in reading or math, for example, discuss with the teacher how the instructional program or text being used is working for the child. Examine and evaluate accommodations and interventions, such as extra time or individualized instruction.

    Acknowledge emotional reactions to the situation.

    Discuss how children who experience frustration because of learning difficulties at school may become so anxious that they give up or turn their energy to acting out. Share strategies with each other that have worked in the classroom and at home to help the child cope.

    Strategize together.

    Discuss possible strategies, including those you have tried that were successful, and ask about strategies that might work both at school and at home. Establish a plan for ongoing discussion and problem solving.

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    Source: PBS

  • IEP

    Preparing for the Individualized Education Program Process

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    How to Prepare for an IEP/Special Education Process

    An evaluation is the first step in getting your child the help needed to learn and progress in school. The evaluation tells you and the teachers what your child needs to learn and how he or she may learn. This information is then used to build an Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP.

    The IEP is a personal plan for your child to help them learn and grow to their fullest potential. It also is a legal document that outlines your child’s performance and strengths, while identifying needs, goals, and services.

    You and your child must be given choices when planning the IEP,
    such as the possibility of your child receiving special education or related services in a general education class referred to as “Inclusive education”. Inclusive education or inclusion, should be your first choice, because it is the least restrictive environment for your child.

    The IEP Meeting

    If it is found that your child is eligible for special education services, you will be asked to attend an IEP meeting to discuss the evaluation results and to plan your child’s educational program. The purpose of the meeting is for everyone who is involved in your child’s education to talk together.

    You will work with teachers, therapists, and the school district to collaboratively develop educational goals that are measurable and achievable. The input of each person is necessary to develop a comprehensive and meaningful plan that builds on your child’s strengths. Your participation is key!

    The team monitors your child’s progress and reviews IEP goals regularly throughout the year. The team meets at least twice a year with parents to assess progress, and provides written reports quarterly. The IEP is reviewed and updated annually but may be reviewed and revised at any time upon the request of the parent or professional.

    How to Prepare for an IEP

    1. If you suspect your child has a delay, you will need to get her or him evaluated. Once they are evaluated, you will attend an IEP meeting.

    2. During the meeting, ask questions. Especially if it’s your first time through this process, make sure you understand and feel comfortable. Everyone on your child’s team is there to help, but remember your and your child’s rights.

    3. Know when the next IEP meeting will be held and if there is anything else to do before it. Watch your child’s progress.
    If you have concerns or questions before your next meeting, talk with your IEP team.

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  • Doctors

    Talking with your child’s doctor.

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    How to Talk to Your Child’s Doctor

    Your child’s doctor can be valuable resource when you have questions and concerns about your child’s health, but finding time for regular checkups and sick visits may be a stretch for your already jam-packed schedule. The doctor may be overbooked and over-scheduled, too, so making the most of your time together is important.

    The key to building a better relationship with your child’s doctor is open communication and reasonable expectations. You can aid communication by letting the doctor know that you trust him or her to care for your child.

    It’s good to ask questions, but let the doctor know that you want decisions, diagnoses, and prescriptions to be based on the best decision for the health of your child, not what’s easier for you or makes you feel better.

    You should also be as prepared as possible with details during your doctor visits. When asked how your child is doing, be ready to share any concerns or ask any questions. It’s best to be specific.

    -Consider jotting down your questions and concerns before the appointment so you’ll remember everything you want to bring up.

    Parents often have a difficult time sharing concerns about their child. Here are four ways to best help your child.

    1. Express your concerns clearly.

    While this issue can be an emotional one, try to focus on your concrete concerns, such as developmental milestones.

    2. Ask questions.

    If there are terms you don’t understand, ask your physician to explain. Ask what the next step will be.

    3. Follow up.

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