Let’s Talk About Parents Advocating for Students with Special Needs

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In the educational experience of students, especially from Kindergarten to 12th grade parents are the greatest advocates of their children. This group includes legal guardians, as well as foster and parents who have adopted children. Let’s just say whoever enrolls a child on school legally.

Tip 1: Newly arrived Parents with school age children. Unless it is Summertime. You should not keep children at home for more than 3 and maximum 7 days. School age children should be enrolled in their school district immediately.

Tip 2. Usually the system insists on holding your child back one grade. Your child speaks and writes in English, and most likely knows . Ask for a proficiency exam so that your child is placed in the right grade.

The Fall Semester is a good time to make sure all the necessary measures are put in place in order for your child to succeed. If a parent waits until spring, it will probably be too late to help the student. Their needs might get pushed to the next academic year of 2020-2021. Make a point to check you child’s progress at this time.

Special Education: Be encouraged if you are a parent of a Child with special needs. Being a great advocate of your child is the best thing you can do.  Parents are the BEST advocates of their children. In 1995 about 5% of the school population was being identified as having special needs or needing accommodations. You about this of your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) but by 2011 There have been a PUSH to decrease that number to just 3%. Unfortunately it is not necessarily because there is no need. Rather the decrease in the school population is tied to money.  It is tied to what political administration is deciding how much money Federal and State use for special education. Unfortunately, the government keeps cutting into much needed funds. But a latent effect has also meant that schools are more careful in identifying students in need. They also work hard to ensure no child is left behind, that is if all is held constant. Which in reality is not going to happen in a vacuum.

A comparison view point: Let us go abroad and compare USA a mega school system, and Kenya a county whose square miles is slightly larger that the size of the State of Texas lets me conclude that the school system of my time was excellent.  I mean a child with an IQ of 70 was considered educable. The teachers worked so hard with the student, including flogging to the extent that out of fear, the brains of students with an IQ of 70 learned how to read and write in 2 or 3 languages. How the teachers did that remains to be researched. 

There is of course, a school like Eunice Academy in Waithaka that is known for educating the brightest students despite having special needs. The owner of this school after teaching in the public school had so much compassion of special need students. She realized that she could not serve them fairly. She left the system and opened her school, one classroom at a time. The rest is a success story of bright minds nurtured patiently and with kindness. That’s the difference one teacher can make in a lifetime. That’s a success Kenya story. 

Welcome to the USA. If you or somebody you know suspects a child has a learning disability you can help between now and March 2020. The first indicator that something is wrong is failing grades. A failing student usually will start to hate school and probably have behavior issues…like we say in S.GA cut the fool in class. Sometimes if parents are listening and paying attention students speak up when they are having issues. To me the best report is when a student self reports that they are having problems. This is because, sometimes parents might know or even suspect something is wrong but practice, “being in denial.” 

But a student spends a minimum of 40 hours a week in school. That makes it nearly impossible to cover up the issues of a learning disability.

What can a parent do? Make an appointment with your Child’s home room teacher. Share your concerns. This initial appointment should be followed up by the school counselor, school social worker or school psychologist. If a parent wishes to seek these services outside school they should be prepared to pay out of pocket. In short parent cannot bill the school.

Get help with at least the following 3 basics:

1. Psychoeducational assessment: This of course, will include an IQ to determine grade level of placement. Sometimes Talented and Gifted (TAG) students also trouble teachers because they want their brain food. They are  already wired for a higher level of learning. They want a faster pace in learning and want to learn more. At the same time, the mentally challenged student needs some accommodation. We see both getting in trouble for different reasons. Both students might end up with a disciplinary referral to the principal’s Office and a link slip sent home for parents. The hardest thing is when a TAG student who might, for example have ADHD-H. Parents have to be more  vigilant especially with Black boys. Watch out not to have a student misdiagnosed.

2. Complete Medical Exam: An annual Physical Examination is a great tool used to rule out chronic disease. It is done by the Primary Care Physician

3. Biopsychosocial Evaluation: This is done to rule out Mental Health issues like retardation, family patterns (no one graduates from High School) that interfere with learning.  Rule out grief issues & social adjustments issues, especially for immigrants. Other areas are Attention. Deficit Disorder or ADD with Hyperactivity, Speech and the other issues like School refusal. The test will reveal Whatever makes it tough for a student to learn. Check with your State. Mental Health Providers/ Psychiatrists (Behavioral Health Services). Either School District/System or Insurance can pay. Have the assessments done before March 15/for the current Academic Year 2019-2020. Alternatively find out from you child’s school the dates to have these assessment done.

Please Parents in Diaspora LET US work 1 year ahead. Or at least one semester ahead. This is how our Schools here work (we have August-March). Anything that is not put in place by then might be carried forward to the next academic year. There is a great possibility that Government funded remedial classes for College/Freshman who need a little push will come to an end sooner not later. The axe is laid at the foot of the tree. What this means them is that, Special Ed students may in future have a harder time being accommodated in college. Whatever a family decides to do with a Sp. Ed student, put everything in place before they are 21 years. Failure to do this means that a person will fall in between the cracks, and anyway, parents will have little to say after a son or daughter turns 21 years old.

Disclaimer/No information shared here from my notes is a substitute for school requirements for student placement or for medical requirements. For the general welfare of students’ success and their families, Please consult with your school counselor for further necessary tests or assessments for your child. These are my counseling notes as Child/Adolescent Counselor & with parents of students in special education. Information in this article has been shared before/Rev Wambui Njoroge, M.Sci. (Child & Family Studies)

Email/revwambuifavored@gmail.com

Senior Columnist

KENYAN PARENTS IN USA

BOARD MEMBER CODU

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