A Call to Advocacy

August is upon us and before you know it school will be back in session.

Is your child ready? Do you know the services they should receive related to their disability? Are you worried about beginning another year of uncertainty, missed goals, and limited progress?

We can help you navigate those murky waters called “Special Ed.”

Call us today if…

  • You feel your child may have a learning disability
  • You don’t understand the ins and outs of the (IEP), Individualized Education Plan
  • You want to know your rights as a parent
  • Need help writing a letter to the school
  • Don’t understand the evaluations process, percentiles, outcomes etc…
  • Feel your child should be making more progress in academics
  • The school seems to be fluffing you off, saying she/he will catch up

Special Needs NJ has been providing families with “special needs” members for over 15 years in the areas of IEP interpretation, letter writing, IDEA law review, evaluation and assessment interpretation, understanding timelines, everything up to and including meeting attendance with your (CST) Child Study Team. Giving you the skills, techniques, and guidance to help you become the “BEST” advocate you can be for your child.

We understand ALL of the classifying categories; ALL of the related services, and most importantly How you can get the best possible program for your child to progress and become successful in their educational experience.

DON’T WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE….

CALL (973) 534-3402 and we will give you a free consultation.

Statistics show that children who get the proper services during the formative years of Kindergarten-3rd grade perform beyond their expected potential. Unfortunately we see most students because they are struggling and by 3rd grade they are 2-3 years behind, by 5th grade they are 3-5 years behind, and by 8th grade they are moving into high school with only a 5th grade reading level!

However, don’t despair if your child is already in this situation… it’s NEVER too late!

call, email, or fill out the service form right here on our page.

Our prices are conservative and very reasonable

Isn’t your child’s future worth it?

 

SNNJ also provides: Tutoring, Life Skills Coaching, Behavior Management

IEP review time!!

This is such a crucial time of year for all of us “Special Needs” families.

It’s time for the dreaded annual IEP (Independent Educational Plan) review.

Please, Please, Please remember the following very IMPORTANT actions you need to take as you prepare.

  • The IEP and CST (Child Study Team) meeting is yours, NOT theirs!                                              This meeting is taking place because of you, your child, and your family
  • Come prepared                                                                                                                                                Make sure you prepare an agenda of what you want to discuss, see happen, plans and interventions “needed,” etc…                                                                                                            Don’t let them dictate the meetings time frame and events. Yes, you may want to discuss those evaluations and test scores, but it is NOT the only reason you are there. Make sure you have ALL re-eval documents a minimum of 10 days prior to the meeting. Understand what they mean and what are your child’s strength and weakness areas yes, but unless you need clarification…going over stats and percentages should not monopolize the time you have to meet.                                                      If your child is already classified and has been, chances are you are aware and agree that he/she has a disability and is entitled to services. So, get down to business after a short (15 minute) review of the evals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            NEVER, deny or refuse triennial re-evaluations!
  • Parental Concerns is IMPERATIVE!!                                                                                                            Every IEP has a “Parental Concerns” section, it’s usually a tiny box only about 1/4″ wide….. This does NOT mean you have to fit all of your concerns here!                              Come with an already prepared, typed statement of your parental concerns (probably what you intend to discuss anyway) and formally REQUEST it be included in the official (LEGAL) document of your child’s IEP. This way it becomes a full part of that IEP and everyone your child works with will have access to your input.
  • Record, Report, Re-state                                                                                                                                 Most schools will send you a confirmation letter stating the time, place, and whom will attend the IEP meeting. It may ask if you intend to bring someone? If you request any other professionals and staff? and whether or not you plan to record the meeting?                                                                                                                                                        YES! You want to record the meeting!                                                                                              No, not to antagonize or catch them….. but to have a record for your own to review or for the review of others that may have been unable to attend (That parent out there earning the paycheck who can’t afford another day off the job).                                    You are emotionally involved. Therefore you may not remember or even understand what is being stated/proposed and you need to review the meeting later when you are in a calmer state.                                                                                                                                 The recording will also serve as a resource you can refer to in order to clarify the items discussed for your follow up summary.
  • Follow up summary                                                                                                                                           YES! ALWAYS follow up EVERY meeting, phone call, discussion, teacher email, notes and ANY contact you have with the professionals that service your child with a follow up summary….   “My understanding of what was discussed, proposed, implemented etc….”
  • Finally, and probably MOST IMPORTANT!!!                                                                                              Send ALL correspondence to no less than 3 people in your district ie. the case manager, head of special services, and the building principal. This will ensure you are heard! As well as provide a time stamped/documented record (always send via email) of your insights and perceptions. It also helps that others on your child’s case are aware that they are accountable to replying and taking actions by others within the system.                                                                                                                                                     A recent statement from a client…..”thank you- I did the “copy 3 people on email thing” the last 2 times- whew boy does that work! THANK YOU! “
  • Get support!                                                                                                                                                         If you feel you need some support or expert advice, contact us here at Special Needs NJ  (973-534-3402) to talk to an Advocate/Special Education Consultant

SNNJ SUMMER 2015

Summer Programs at Special Needs NJ, LLP

Newton, NJ (Sussex County)

Providing Help to Students with IEP’s

Join “The Crew”    image3941

A Saturday work crew that helps keep things working,   repairs, clean ups, vehicle maintenance, painting, woodworking etc…. This group is for High School students to put their learned skills to real life practices. The aim of this group is to educate towards “un-entitlement!” Many of our youth have a sense of entitlement, they want what they want! In this Saturday work crew young men and women learn how to take care of things they “want” to have. We teach the use of measurement through building projects, how to do upkeep on a vehicles, cleaning of the pool, maintenance of gardens and paths, use of kitchen tools, budgeting, and much, much more.

Details page 2 click here for full newsletter

Parents support group: support for parents with classified children, forum for questions and advice, expert seminars & program presentation, or just a night of relaxing.

Special Back to School info August

More on page 2

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Tutoring clubs: These are tutoring sessions provided in our center for academics, ABA & IM therapy, and life skills practices to keep students with IEP’s from regressing in their skills.

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CLICK HERE FOR FULL NEWSLETTER

Teens & Tweens

SUMMER CAMPs

 2 week sessions starting June 15, 2015, held Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9am to 2pm. This group is for young men and young women grouped as 5-8th grade, and HS age with an IEP who wish to connect with other teens in the area.

Campers will learn many life skills such as making shopping lists, shopping, cooking, kitchen safety, working together with others, following directions, properly channeling anger, coping skills, how to make friends/ conversation skills, craft and woodworking projects, plus fun events; swimming, hiking, horseshoes, and games

Each camp will be limited to 8 students per session; lunch is included each day, and additional tutoring sessions available from 2:00-4:00 pm on Monday and Wednesdays.

Price: $650.00 per session covers supplies, food, transportation for outings, end of session pizza party & Bon fire etc… additional $100. to stay for tutoring M&W Requirements: must have IEP, and pre-camp interview

DATES:

1. June: 15-26 HS

2. July: 6-17 5-8th grade

3. July: 20-31 HS

4. Aug: 3-12 5-8th grade

5. August: 17-28 HS Camps may be cancelled if minimum of 4 students each is not met

CONTACT US NOW: (973) 940-6923

CLICK HERE FOR FULL NEWSLETTER

PATHWAYS for EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN

 
pathways
Empowering Children of ALL Abilities
Project Win Win Employment Training
Pathways began an innovative employment training program for children ages 12 and above in May 2008. Since then, the program has grown tremendously. It is housed in our studio facility in Boonton, NJ. 
Richard Constable, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs visited the program in November 2014 and was amazed at the array of programs and how the children trained alongside their peers for workforce placement. The program does three things a) Trains children for careers they are passionate about, b) Works to place children in job settings, and c) Teaches about the possibility of starting an entrepreneurship. Today the world is filled with opportuntity and the work force is changing constantly in a way that helps those with disabilities. Learn how you can begin to train early to get the skills needed to be successful in a dynamic workforce!
The Harlem Wizards Are Back!
Join us for a great afternoon of fun, basketball hoops, and entertainment. The Wizards are coming Sunday – February 15, 2015 at 2:00pm at the Montville Township High School large gym. The Montville SuperStars made up of parents, teachers and Pathways’ basketball players are taking on the Harlem Wizards. All of our $30.00 Courtside tickets are sold out. We still have the $15.00 general admission tickets. Last year we completely sold out of tickets so get yours soon!  Click the Wizard logo to the right to order tickets online. You can also pick up tickets at Montville Pharmacy – 185 Changebridge Rd. or Montville Recreation – 195 Changebridge Rd in Montville. You can also order tickets on line by going to our website at www.PathwaysKids.org
Our Video Crew Does it Again!
Pathways’ video crew has joined once again with Taisha’s Table to film her cooking show. If you did not get a chance to see this, you have take a look. This recipe will no doubt capture the heart of chocolate lovers everywhere! We tried this New Years Eve and could not stop eating it, the fondue was heavenly!

Advocacy from a parents perspective

Why Do You Need an Advocate?

Authur: Dan Coggshall

My daughter’s first IEP meeting was a disaster. They sat my pregnant wife and I down in chairs made
for kindergarteners and began to tell us everything that was wrong with our amazing daughter. They
used terms like “z­score” and “standard deviation” and presented us a document full of acronyms, like
LRE and PO, and abbreviations like “grp” (because the two extra letters in group were apparently too
much to write).

I was confused and I was sad. They kept saying we were part of the team, but everything we said was
dismissed. They kept saying “IEP” which I knew meant individual education plan, but they were clearly
trying to put our daughter in the same program they put every other kid in.
My wife and I tried to explain where we were coming from. We tried to share our daughter’s unique
gifts and challenges. We tried to get her the program we knew was right for her. But, we didn’t speak
the language. We were too emotional. We were too angry. They had a rebuttal for everything we said.
They had wording that made them bulletproof. This was one of the most significant days of our lives.
This was a regular Tuesday for them.

I consider myself a pretty smart person. I went to college. I’ve worked in education. I’ve negotiated
contracts. I’ve made myself an expert on all the medical aspects of my daughter’s syndrome. But, I was
totally lost coming out of that first meeting.
I became determined that it would be different the next time. I read every book I could find. I poured
through websites. I joined support groups. I attended training’s. In this process, I realized two things:
1. Unless I devoted all my waking hours to it, I would never have time to learn everything there is
to know about educating children with disabilities.
2. I would never be able to turn off the emotions when it came to my own daughter.

I realized I needed help. I realized I needed an advocate.

Special Education law allows parents to include anyone with special knowledge of the child on the IEP
team that makes decisions about the child’s education. This could be a neighbor, a tutor, a volunteer
from nonprofit, or a professional advocate who makes his or her living helping parents of children with
disabilities navigate the special education system.
Unlike lawyers, who bring with them high fees, long delays, and opposing lawyers, advocates can sit at
the normal IEP table and work within the team to represent the needs of the child with disabilities.
Why did I need an advocate? Why do I think you need an advocate, regardless of your unique
situation? Here are five reasons:

1. You are outnumbered. At almost all meetings, the parents are outnumbered. It’s not unusual
for it to be one parent up against four or more people from the school district. Sure, everyone is
supposed to work as a team and I have heard some great stories of truly collaborative teams(just as I’ve heard stories about unicorns), but it’s usually you against them. One voice against
four is really hard.
A good advocate is an extra voice on your side in the meeting. A good advocate can bring
balance to a meeting and provide back­up. With an advocate present, the school personnel will
be far less likely to try to gang up on you or take advantage of you.

2. The people from the school know more than you. This is their job. They know the
acronyms and the policies. They almost always write the documents you are reviewing. They
talk about things before the meeting and come in with a plan ­­ without you. You are working
just to get up to speed on what they know.
A good advocate can help you keep pace because an advocate can walk in knowing the things
you don’t know. A good advocate speaks the language and knows the rules.

3. The people from the school know less than they should. Just because it is their job,
doesn’t mean they are good at it. Very few people who work for the school have read the
applicable special education laws. More than likely, they did not study the pertinent Supreme
Court cases. What they know is what they’ve been told and what they’ve seen. They know the
way “they” do things ­­ not the way they are supposed to do things.
A good advocate has read the law. A good advocate has seen special education implemented in
other places and has seen how it’s supposed to happen, not just how it happens in that
particular school. A good advocate can come to the table with ideas and solutions balanced
with an understanding of the law to call the school personnel out when they are breaking it.

4. You love your kid too much. It’s hard to make a point and cry at the same time. Emotional
pleas in the movies often win the day and end in slow clapping. Emotional pleas at the IEP table
usually involve a lot of blubbering and end with awkward silences. Worse, yelling and name
calling can destroy any good will the team has toward you.
A good advocate cares about your kid, but can talk dispassionately in order to coherently work
on your child’s behalf. A good advocate stays calm when tensions rise and a good advocate
can help you avoid the embarrassing blubbering.

5. Lawyers are expensive. We all imagine that all we have to do is threaten to sue and the
school district personnel will be shaking in their boots. It doesn’t work that way. When you
threaten to sue, they smile inside because they know that (a) they have lawyers on the payroll
and (b) you don’t. Lawyers are expensive both in terms of time and money. If you’re child is in
an inappropriate placement, can you afford to wait two years and pay twenty thousand dollars?

A good advocate can work quickly and can do so for a lot less money ­­ law degrees,
paralegals, and those leather office chairs are expensive! Even better, a good advocate can help
you negotiate more than the district is required to do under the law. Far more can be
accomplished in an IEP meeting than in a due process hearing.

For all those reasons, I knew I needed an advocate to help secure the correct setting for my daughter.
We were able to work with my team and find solutions to ensure she receives an appropriate education.
I also knew I couldn’t stand by while other parents tried to do it on their own and I decided to give up
all those waking hours so that I could train to become an advocate myself.

Our thanks to Dan Coggshall for authoring this guest blog

Dan has completed his course work with NSEAI (National Special Education Advocacy Institute), and is now interning with us here at Special Needs NJ

Have you been where he was? Lost and confused over the “ABC’s” of Special Education? Outnumbered by school personnel in an IEP meeting (just you against everyone free for that period)? Do you feel your son or daughter is not in the “best” possible environment or program for their “needs?” Do you need help navigating the murky waters of Special Education and your child’s diagnosis or disability?

Many say that a parent is the best advocate for their child. While this is true in many situations, in the IEP meeting this many times is NOT the case. Your emotions are in charge, they don’t understand the guilt, and mourning you are experiencing over the fact that you are even there! That your child is struggling and you feel it’s your fault. You’re to stressed over the 4-12 faces staring back at you to even be confident that you are hearing anything they are saying!

Don’t put yourself through another meeting like the one Dan has described, call for an advocate today! (973) 534-3402

You will receive a half hour consultation with an educational consultant, experienced in Special Education law and practices, who has assisted many families on this journey called the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). We will hear your struggles, meet your child, review your evaluations and recommendations, formulate a plan, write letters to your CST (child study team), and hold your hand all the way through the process of obtaining the best possible placement for your child and their “Special Needs.”

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(973) 534-3402

Click here to contact us for services

 

 

Pathways for Exceptional Children

A number of our students have been plugging in to the Pathways for Kids programs!!

Below is their mission statement.

Click here to go to their home page

Vision and Mission

Our Vision:

To create a future for children of all abilities where they are included, valued, and empowered to redefine the world.

Our Mission:

To encourage children of all abilities to find their passions, maximize their potential, and experience the empowerment that comes from diversity.

Values:

  1. The Importance of Community and Inclusion:

    It is essential that children develop a sense of belonging and a strong foundation of value and self-worth. Pathways is devoted to helping communities gain the knowledge and understanding to appropriately include and embrace children of all abilities and provide experiences and opportunities for children with varying needs to grow, learn, and discover their passions together.

  2. All Children must be given every opportunity to realize their passions and maximize their giftedness:

    Outcomes in learning and achieving success dramatically improve when children are allowed to realize their passions and maximize their giftedness. It is our goal to help children of all abilities find their own unique genius and to learn to cultivate that same potential in those around them.

  3. Children Teaching Children:

    Pathways believes children need to realize the power of ONE to make a difference and has adopted the “children teaching children” or “peer to peer” model as one of the biggest priorities. Pathways considers the ideas and passions of children to be our most valuable resource. If a child is passionate about something and is willing to teach and share it with another child, the value given to both children is priceless. Children no matter what their ability need to be included with their peers and taught to work collaboratively to build, take ownership of, and lead the future they will inherit.

  4. Providing Intensive Early Intervention and a Continuum of Services:

    Pathways believes all children should be given the opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Those at highest risk for exclusion and failure remain children with disabilities and other more vulnerable populations. The national employment rates for people with disabilities remain at a dismal 37%. This is the worst form of exclusion is the inability to work which then causes a complete dependency on government funding and others to live. Pathways is passionate about obtaining the long-term meaningful outcomes that will give these children a life of independence, the ability to pursue the work they love, and obtain a life of dignity and fulfillment.

  5. Creating a Spirit of Collaboration, Innovation, and Leadership:

    Pathways actively seeks to build partnerships and to collaboratively invest in initiatives that are designed to produce positive and measurable outcomes aimed at helping all children to lead themselves and others toward success and redefining the world around them. We are particularly passionate about investing in programs and ideas initiated, owned, and led by children.

About “Include ME!”

The “Include ME!” program is the initial training Pathways provides to get you started with our programs in your area. It provides training for professionals, parents, students, and anyone else that wants to begin to develop a more inclusive world. “Include ME!” trains people not to just accept diversity or tolerate it but to become empowered by it! It begins by getting away from a consequence or legally based system like what we see in anti-bullying campaigns. There is nothing motivating about constantly threatening children by what they “can’t do” or the consequences of poor behavior and bullying. The program begins with “Include ME!” assemblies and/or workshops that inspire children with the steps they can take to become more inclusive. After the “Include ME!” assemblies, children volunteer to become mentors and go through the mentor training. Adults help to facilitate programs in areas that the mentors are passionate about and are designed to include children with special needs and others at high risk of being excluded. Once this is underway, the ONE to 1,000 program can begin. This program greatly expands the “Include ME!” program from the initial phase into a youth leadership model where children take genuine ownership and begin to run an entire array of programs from sports and recreation, academics, life skills, and employment training. To read more about “Include ME!” download the brochure below.

click here for the home page and more information on Pathways for Kids!
 

What’s happening this weekend?

Saturday Feb. 22 at Montville Township Schools

Fun for the whole family

Purchase Your Harlem Wizard Tickets Today!

Come see the Harlem Wizards take on the Montville Superstars on February 22, 2014!
The Wizards will be playing the Montville Superstars which is a team made up of teachers and parents from Montville Township Schools. The Wizards are professional basketball players that demonstrate superb skill, comedy, and entertainment on the court. Also if you are in 4th grade or above and a student in Montville Township schools, get registered for the free throw championship that will take place at 6:15pm before the game. Download the flyer below. Come join the us for a fun filled night! See details below:

About the Wizard Game:


1) When: Saturday – February 22, 2014
2) Time: 7:00pm (Doors open at 6:30pm)
3) Where: Montville Township High School Gym
100 Horseneck Rd., Montville , NJ
4) Tickets: Advance Tickets – $15.00 and at the door $20.00
5) Tickets on Sale at the following locations:
a) Barry’s Montville Pharmacy – 185 Changebridge Rd., Montville
b) Montville Recreation – 195 Changebridge Rd., Montville
c) Online Tickets click below

PLEASE NOTE: Tickets will be on sale at the above places listed and via our website online until 12:00pm Saturday – February 22, 2014. Thereafter, you will have to purchase them at the door.

Federal Dyslexia Resolution 456:

 

Federal Dyslexia Resolution 456: 

 

 TIME TO ACTIVATE!

Res. 456, “Resolution on Dyslexia” presented by Rep.Bill Cassidy (R-LA) needs the support of at least 100 U.S. Congress members to bring it to a vote in the House

Education and the Workforce committee.

Please contact your representative and tell him or her to sign on to the

Resolution on Dyslexia, now!

Find your representative here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Sample letter here:

Dear Rep. ————

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) needs the support of at least 100 U.S. Congress members to bring to a vote  H.Res.456 in the House Education and the Workforce committee.  As one of your constituents concerned with the education of all of our children, I am counting on you to support this resolution.  

(Insert your personal story here, if you have one that you’d like to share.)

Rep. Cassidy’s Resolution recognizes each major element of dyslexia: its prevalence (1 in 5);  the cognitive and neurobiological bases; its unexpected nature and persistence; its profound impact on education and the critical need for action by schools.

Rep. Cassidy gets it and I hope that you do too.  The Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus which he co-founded was a major step forward and now the Dyslexia Resolution brings light and understanding, and hopefully action, to ensuring that children who are dyslexic receive the understanding and evidence-based programs and accommodations that they deserve.  Please act now to support Resolution #456 – 

The Emotions of Caring for Elderly Parents

As your parents or your spouse’s parents get older, they will probably need your help. They will also possibly need professional help with their daily care. The very people whom you depended on in the past will be turning to you for assistance. The fundamental nature of your relationship with your parents will change in a more dramatic way than you have ever experienced. Now you and your spouse will be the caregivers.

Caring for your parents as they get older is often a stressful experience. There are many emotions you might experience along with your new responsibility. When you become the caretaker of your parents, it’s very important for you to be aware of your emotions. It can make the difference between having a meaningful, rewarding experience and having one of the worst experiences of your life. The following sections describe the most common emotions people feel when they are faced with their parents becoming older and less independent.        

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Denial

One of the first things you might feel when facing a parent’s decline in function is—nothing. It’s very common to initially be in denial about a difficult situation. When you are in denial about something, you are trying to convince yourself that it’s not really happening. For instance, imagine that your father, who lives alone, is slowing down and becoming weaker. You want to keep thinking of him as strong and healthy, so you tell yourself that he’s generally fine. In the short run, that makes you feel better. But, your father probably shouldn’t be living alone. And you won’t be able to help him find a safer place until you are able to acknowledge his limitations. Denial can prevent you from facing facts and making necessary plans.

Anger

Another emotion you might feel is anger at your parents for being unable to take care of themselves. For example, you might feel that it’s their fault for not staying healthy, even though you know that they are not getting sick on purpose. You might resent the fact that they are taking so much of your time and energy. You are especially vulnerable to feeling anger if your relationship with your parents was less than perfect. It’s more difficult to take care of someone that you feel some resentment toward. But, even if you have a great relationship with your parents, caring for them might feel like a huge burden. It makes sense that you might feel angry because you have been shouldered with a big responsibility.

Think Twice

Don’t take your anger at the situation out on your spouse. Instead, discuss your feelings of anger or resentment with him or her. Remember that your spouse can be your strongest source of support during this difficult time.

Helplessness

Even though you are grown up, you might feel like your parents should always be there to take care of you and still help you through difficult times. Seeing your mother or father helpless can make you feel helpless. You might think “If my parents can’t take care of me, who will?” You are your parents’ child, even as an adult. And when one of your parents is weak, part of you is going to feel like a scared, helpless child. Even though you know that you can take care of yourself, you still might feel that you need your parents to take care of you.

Guilt

Guilt is one of the strongest emotions people feel as a parent becomes older and less able to care for him- or herself. There are many reasons that you might be feeling guilty. You might feel that you are not doing enough to help your parents. This might be true, or you might be doing more than a reasonable amount and feel guilty anyway. You might feel that if you had done something different years ago, then your parent would not be so ill now. For instance, you might think that if you had taken your mother’s complaint about feeling weak and tired more seriously, her cancer would have been diagnosed earlier and she would have been cured.

If one of your parents is very sick and needs a lot of expensive care and a lot of your energy, you might be secretly wishing that he or she would die so that it would be over. This thought would probably cause you to feel incredibly guilty. It’s very common to feel this, and it’s a completely normal reaction. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your sick parent and it doesn’t mean you are a terrible child. It means that it’s very difficult and possibly very expensive to care for an ill person—realities that can prompt all kinds of unexpected thoughts and feelings. The best way to deal with these feelings is to acknowledge them but still do as much as you can to care for your parents.

A Sense of Loss

When your parent is no longer functioning at 100 percent, that is a big loss. It’s normal to feel sad, and it’s actually a mature feeling. Feeling sad when your parents are ill and unable to take care of themselves means that you have accepted the situation and the loss that occurs when your parent’s health declines. You shouldn’t hold back tears. Crying is part of feeling sad and it’s okay to express your emotions. That doesn’t mean that you should spend years moping around and crying as your parents become more and more ill. But sadness comes with loss, and you should give yourself permission to feel it.

Mortality

Parents are the buffer between you and your mortality. Most people are able to ignore the inevitability of their own death as long as their parents are alive and healthy. But as your parent’s health declines, you will probably become highly aware of your own mortality. You might start thinking about the end of your own life or have frequent nightmares about dying. You might start examining where you are in life and re-evaluating your long-term goals. When you face the death of someone close to you, it will often spark thoughts about your own life. This is good, and the way to make use of this constructively is to realize how precious life is and what is really important to you.

ADVOCACY

We believe that the well-informed parent is a child’s best advocate.

We are here to support parents who may need assistance in advocating for their child. We offer consultation or direct assistance to parents to help ensure that communication with school personnel results an individualized educational program that meets their child’s needs. We support a collaborative approach that empowers parents to work together with school personnel.

Our approach seeks to avoid the pitfalls of poor communication and respects disagreement.

However, if disagreements arise we can assist you in pursuing solutions, by means of consultation, or direct assistance in negotiating on your behalf.

IEP Tip: “You don’t need an advocate. An advocate is going to create problems when none actually exist and make you worry. We’re here to do what is best for your child. Just trust us. ” What do you say when a school says one or all of the above? The reason most parents hire educational advocates is because their attempts to work with the district have not been successful, when they are worried something is missing or needs to be addressed differently. Ironically, the person telling a parent they don’t need an advocate is most likely the person who led the family to seek outside help to begin with. Let’s cut to the chase: Comments like the above should never be said by a school to a parent. They should never be said during a team meeting. It’s not professional. You should refuse to participate in such conversation. “We’re here to talk about Johnny and his needs, let’s stay focused on him”. If someone approaches you outside a team meeting and says the above, tell them “Thank you for your feedback. This is a decision I’ve made for my child and (name of advocate) is helping us understand all of this. We hope you treat her as part of the team as we are all here to help Johnny”. You don’t owe them an explanation. Those strategies are easier said than done, aren’t they? Advocating for your child is hard enough. Being asked to defend your choice to hire an advocate to the school I imagine is akin to getting a root canal. Excruciatingly uncomfortable.

A good advocate won’t create problems, she will help support you to obtain your vision for your child. A good advocate will be honest and explain why things are, or maybe are not, reasonable. A good advocate will, to the extent the district is willing, collaborate with the team. She will support you by absorbing some of the stress of the process and pro-actively work to fix problems. The “biggest” barrier to a child’s success is when the parents and school lack the ability to meaningfully communicate. We are used to getting complained to by schools who are frustrated by what they view as a family’s demands. However, it’s never okay to call out someone’s profession. At a recent meeting, an administrator showboated her obvious frustration that a family brought someone (SNNJ) in to help them in front of me. If there is a work product of mine the school takes issue with, that’s fair. After all, I do ask tough questions when there is shoddy work products/service delivery involved that negatively affect a child. Insulting the advocate makes the person doing it look petty and makes the parent feel more uncomfortable.

I love my job & the families I choose to work with. I truly enjoy working with most school-based teams, but I don’t live under the illusion that districts love an advocate’s presence at a meeting or in the background. The majority of the folks I’ve worked with on the “other side of the table” are kind, competent professionals who work very hard to do what a child needs and view me as a team member and not as the enemy. The best partnerships I have with school team members are when they recognize I have the trust of the family, and that when a parent trusts someone, hard work can get done. (The districts I work with most successfully and most often also recognize I know the process well, what a kid’s unique needs indicate they require, and that I am realistic in the feedback given to parents).

The bottom line: if the district goes out of their way to tell you, you don’t need an advocate, it’s a pretty good sign you do need one.

Call us today for a free consultation: Special Needs NJ (973) 534-3402