As children of the 70s become parents, they bring with them an important lesson of their youth: organizing and activism get results.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a groundswell of activity among parents of students with learning disabilities. Throughout the country, groups of concerned parents are banding together for more than tea and sympathy: they’re coming together in growing numbers for the express purpose of improving the quality of their children’s education.
Many parents of kids with LD find out early on that their most important role in their child’s education is that of advocate within a system that can be adversarial and insensitive. When faced with these challenges, many turn to others in the same position and find that there truly is strength in numbers.
Education is a service, and parents are the consumers. By pooling their knowledge and supporting their shared goals, these parents ensure that their voices are heard and more important, that their children get the education they deserve.
Different Needs Spawn Different Groups
More than traditional support groups (though they serve that purpose too), these formal and informal gatherings are aimed at making changes to educational practices that are often antiquated and out of touch with current developments in the field—and with what’s in the best interest of their children.
Each group is unique, reflecting the key concerns of its participants. For example, one group may be built around trading specific information about goals and objectives for IEPs. Another may send a delegation of parents to each member’s IEP meeting with the idea that many heads are better than one. Regardless of the specifics, fundamentally the groups are a way for parents to learn from each other—everything from how to navigate a meeting and what they should be asking an evaluator, to how to make a smooth transition to the next grade. In many cases, they also learn that speaking as a group in a single, clear, and positive voice has greater influence within a school system than a cacophony of individual voices expressing their own self-interest.
Touching a Raw Nerve
Clearly there’s a need among families for such support. One parent was so frustrated with her school system’s lack of services for her children with dyslexia that she took her concerns to the local press. The response was immediate: she ended up forming a parent support group that within a year had 70 members—all through word of mouth.
In addition to helping their children, support-group members often find an additional benefit. “Along with learning a great deal,” says one activist parent, “I’ve had a chance to meet some amazing mothers. It inspires me to learn more, share more, and help others.”
See also Navigating the School System
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