Advocating for students with disabilities

Students with disabilities often struggle in the school system and it's imperative for them to know how to advocate for themselves. Not only that, but it's important for those students to be able to understand their strengths, abilities, and their rights as a student.

Produced by: Alex Maiorana

How can you advocate for education?

Advocate, by definition, is to speak or write in favor of; supporting or urge by argument; recommended publicly.  

When parents or guardians are actively involved in their children’s education, whether attending events or staying connected with teachers, children are more likely to stay in school. Since tax dollars are allocated to public schools, it is also essential to stay involved within the local school district to be sure their dollars are used appropriately.

Many parents stay involved with their children’s education by serving on the school board or attending the school board meetings. Being a board member or attending the meetings is encouraged to keep up with the school’s plans and policies and to stay notified of what the school is doing now to support the future leaders of our society. 

If there is a problem in the classroom, setting up a one-on-one meeting with the teacher and even principal will encourage communication. There are numerous resources students can receive if diagnosed with a learning disability. If a school district believes a student needs learning accommodations, the district can test the student. Using testing results, the district can then move forward with accessing accommodations or further support. Students can receive a 504 plan or an Individual Education Program (IEP) when evaluated, depending on the testing results. If the parents need to have their child evaluated further or more in-depth, the family can find independent professionals. Frequently, public schools are not required to test students more than once.

Even if a family lives in a school district that has excellent education standards, it is important to check in with the surrounding districts. Students, no matter the location, deserve the right to an education that will prepare them to succeed. It is important to talk to local representatives if there are repetitive problems or issues necessary for change in the educational system. 

Advocacy in education is an avenue for students, parents and educators to bring awareness to the matters most important to them. Advocacy groups can cover safety in school settings, groups for students from lower-income families and also groups supporting students with learning disabilities. Attending an advocacy group can not only help make changes but can also be helpful when problems arise.

Written by: Michelle Guerin

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