We hear the word all the time, advocate. Do we really need to advocate for our child? Aren’t the schools there to help our children? Don’t we make routine visits to the pediatrician? In theory, our child should be receiving the most beneficial services to address their needs, however, the world is changing. Budget cuts and decreased reimbursements for medical care has jeopardized effective care for our children. Today, lets address the issues with the schools and children with special needs.

Any child with special needs, speech, physical or medical, needs you, the parent, to advocate for them in both the school and medical system. You are your child’s voice, so speak up. Schools are being cut drastically every year. They can no longer always provide the most effective  support for your child special needs. Physical therapy in the schools is limited to 10-15 minutes per week. The same goes for speech and occupational therapy services. Psychological services are extremely tight and limited in most school systems. It’s not that the schools do not want to provide these services, its just that budget cuts has made it impossible to provide any more than minimal intervention at school. You as the parent must advocate for as much help as you can get from the schools and reach out to other services for help. The school may not be able to provide any further services however, you will know what the school can provide and then start to expand on those services outside of school. Early intervention is critical for improving speech, language, behavioral and physical abilities. All of these services are expensive and critical during the child’s younger years.

If you child has an IEP with the schools you must advocate for your child. What does this mean? Bring a friend or professional to the IEP meetings. Just be a voice for your child. I even get lost in some of the school terms when attending these meeting. Bring your therapist or an advocate from ARC. That other pair of ears will help you get all the information presented at the meeting and support you during the meeting. My own children have had IEP’s and even as a professional, it is difficult to sit and listen to all the comments about your child. Professionals sometimes forget that this is someones child we are all talking about, not just another student. You may not get extra services or more time however, you can take this opportunity to learn about other services available in the district or your home town.  Are there outside therapies that can come to your home? Are there therapies at the local recreational centers? Are there special camps or aftercare agencies that provide monetary grants for services?

Advocate for your child at school! Ask questions about additional services. In the past the public schools were not to provide information on outside therapy services or programs. The comment was that then they would be asked to pay for those services. Well, times have changed and the schools should be helping families find outside therapies to compensate for budget reductions and therapy at school. The schools do not have the funds to provide individual therapy services that your child needs at an early age. You won’t get any other help for your child if you don’t ask questions. Just keep asking, until someone answers!

Next week we will discuss advocating for your child when you just have that feeling that something is wrong. What does the pediatrician say? Follow your gut! Please feel free to ask questions or make comments about this blog. It is to help you as parents to better provide services for your child.