Giving Special Needs Parents a Voice in the Classroom
Like all parents, the couple in Equip for Equality’s office wanted the best for their eight-year-old. They were afraid that because their daughter had autism, the school had set goals that were too low for their child.
Until talking with Equip for Equality, one of the IEJF’s grantee organizations, the parents had no idea they had a right to participate fully in planning their child’s education.
Equip for Equality helped the parents understand their daughter’s education plan and develop more rigorous goals to propose to her teachers.
The girl’s mother told the Equip for Equality team that she never felt like an equal part of her daughter’s education planning until working with them.
Similarly, Equip for Equality helped another mother whose ten- year-old with speech apraxia was being bullied. Whenever he would tell staff, he would be belittled for “tattling.” Even some of the staff responded harshly to his bullying complaints.
Equip for Equality helped the mother document her son’s bullying and officially put the school on notice. Thanks to the letter they sent, the school enacted a plan to stop the boy’s bullying, a plan which included a buddy system, classroom changes, and instructions to staff.
Navigating the education system can be daunting for parents of special needs students. Legal aid can help.
Equip for Equality strives to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. Established in 1985 as a private, nonprofit organization, EFE is the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency for the state, endowed with broad federal and state statutory powers to protect the rights of people with disabilities. EFE serves the Illinois disability community through legal and advocacy services, education, policy initiatives and investigations. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) has been a supporter of EFE’s Special Education Helpline since 2007.