As a parent, you know your child best. And if you have concerns (or know) that your child may have special needs, you are their first and best advocate for getting help and resources. To make sure you get what they need to succeed, here are ways to be an advocate on your own at the doctor’s office, at school and beyond:
Explore developmental screenings. Early identification of possible developmental challenges means early support, which helps children with special needs reach their full potential. If you have concerns about your child’s speech, learning, behavior, hearing or other issues, ask his or her pediatrician questions and discuss getting early developmental screenings. Because First 5 LA has made supporting access to developmental screenings and services a priority, it has provided some funding for Help Me Grow and invested in early identification and intervention programs for Autism and other developmental delays. Get information and resources on ways to help your children reach their full potential through early intervention.
Do your research and ask questions. Learn as much as you can about your child’s special needs. Conduct research online, speak to other parents and don’t be afraid to ask questions about further screenings or resources. Speak to your child’s school or childcare facility about ways to address and meet their educational, physical, social and emotional needs; make a list of questions and concerns; learn about recommended educational or care practices; and offer suggestions.
Understand your child’s rights. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children. Your child may qualify for special services starting in preschool.
Find community. Connect with other parents who have children with similar challenges to share information and experiences. You can find parent groupsfor children with special needs in Los Angeles County. There are also organizations like Special Needs Network, Inc. that offer opportunities to connect with others and address the needs of underserved families struggling with raising a child with developmental disabilities.
Communicate, and build a network. A big part of advocating is communicating — from talking with your child about school to being in contact with their educators, counselors and therapists, or talking with other parents about strategies that might be helpful. Building relationships and a supportive network of trusted people increases the opportunities for your child’s success.