Advocacy can come from anyone, whether you are advocating for your child or someone is doing it on your child’s behalf. What parents need to understand is that advocacy does NOT mean you have a crystal ball. Reality check; the only things that are constant in this world are death and taxes. Therefore, when advocating for a child, it is impossible to predict the end result. When parents set out on a journey to advocate for their child, whether they do it themselves or hire someone, they must be open to wherever that journey takes them.
For example, you might have a child that has behavioral problems and is also failing in school academically. You feel your child requires an aide to assist them in class, so that is what you want to fight for. However, you’ve made this determination before any assessments have been conducted to see whether the child’s academic failures are caused by their behavioral problems or their behavioral problems are causing their academic failures. Basically, by requesting an aide before all the data has been evaluated, you’ve put “the cart before the horse.” Only after all the necessary assessments have been completed and discussed; you are able to make an informed decision as to what the appropriate services are required to help your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). At the end of the day, your child might require a placement change in order to receive FAPE. This brings me to my next point “Placement.”
There’s no guarantee that the placement your child is currently in will be their placement for the rest of their academic career. Because the needs of our children change, sometimes their placement must change as well. As parents, we hope that our children will be in general education classes and eventually graduate. Once again, none of us possess a crystal ball to know what type of class our child will be in when they graduate and whether they graduate on time. There are many reasons why a placement change might occur. For example, the child might not be able to keep up with the academics in their current placement; I brought this one up first because parents are under the impression that aides are responsible for direct instruction, which is incorrect. They are most useful in the capacity of helping students get back on task, redirecting children with negative behaviors or working with physical disabilities…etc. Another example is when you have a child who is out performing all the other students in their special day class; maybe it’s time to attempt a phasing into general education classes.
The point of this blog is to remind parents that you must keep an open mind when you set out on the journey of advocacy. Unfortunately, none of us can predict what the future holds for our children; as much as we desperately seek out individuals to provide it. We have to accept the fact that we must follow the path where our children lead us, even though we might not like what see at the end of the road. At the end of the day, advocacy must result in what our child needs, not what we as parents want or can accept.