By Deidre Hayden
When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended in 1997, Congress recognized parent participation in educational planning as key to the success of children with disabilities. IDEA requires that:
How do you prepare for your role in educational planning for your child? You begin by carefully looking at the central figure in the whole planning process - your child. This article suggests a way to observe your child to gather information. It will help you be effective at any stage of the planning process, whether it be for your school-age child's first formal evaluation, or your child's 10th IEP meeting.
Sometimes parents have trouble answering the above questions. You know a lot about your child, but your knowledge is often "felt" in a general sense rather than in the specific terms needed to answer the questions.
Since planning an appropriate program for your child requires specific, documented facts rather than generalized impressions and concerns, you will need to collect your own facts. To convey personal knowledge of your child to school personnel - people accustomed to dealing with test scores, specific behaviors, goals, and objectives - written, concrete facts will be most influential.
One way to collect these facts is to observe your child in a formal way. "Observe!" you say. "When? How?" You think of the days you barely have enough time and energy to brush your teeth before turning in for the night. But observations can be made. Gathering and organizing information is a vital part of becoming an effective educational advocate for your child.
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