A Parent's Perspective—Success is Sweet: A Story of Parent Advocacy
Our district is in Southwest Colorado, and one of the early things I learned was to find as many parents of dyslexic children as I could, and compare notes. Some of us had successful Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for our children, and we would meet at my office on the weekend to read them, laugh, weep, and write down the aspects that were successful and suitable for our own children.
For Goals and Objectives, we read "Better IEPs" by Barbara D. Bateman and soon realized that we were actually teaching the school district. As we became more successful in writing IEPs, we realized the district would never be able to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education to our dyslexic children under the current conditions. We had 12th grade students with 4th or 5th grade reading abilities and in my opinion our Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) results were appalling.
One summer we raised over $23,000 to provide cash funds to dyslexic students who wished to attend a six-week academic dyslexic summer camp. Some parents chose to provide their children with one-on-one tutoring by a private Certified Academic Language Therapist. My son was able to go from a 4.6 grade reading level to an 11th grade reading level in 18 months! How? He received a "scientifically proven method" of teaching by a highly qualified therapist. Consequently, when he reached 9th grade, he was able to access the district curriculum set before him. He also passed his Reading and Writing CSAPs for the first time in five years.
We worked with our local newspaper, each of us writing letters to the editor on a continuing basis, never letting the subject of dyslexia and our children's needs drop out of the public eye. Now, the newspaper writes their own editorials in support of our dyslexic children's needs.
We attend school board meetings monthly, and pluck up the courage to tell our story. For some, it is an emotional three minutes of talking; for others, they take it in stride and speak strongly and positively on behalf of all our children.
We learned from Peter and Pam Wright how to become better advocates for our children. We received their monthly newsletters and purchased their books, From Emotions to Advocacy and Special Education Law. We subscribe to every national web site with information that we can. We have an email "tree" of parents who stick together. We support each other emotionally.
We attend the International Dyslexia Association Conference and the Southwest IDA Conference too. We persuade our Director of Special Education and our respective school principals to send their teachers. Knowledge is power.
We encouraged our local Representative in the House of Colorado to change state law, and he included the word "dyslexia" as a "specific learning disability." The Colorado State Senate Bill SB06-118 was signed off by the Senate President and House Speaker and forwarded to Governor Bill Owens for his signature on March 31, 2006. As a result, the district will soon have to provide a "scientifically proven method of teaching" to our dyslexic children.
All in all, despite the hardship, trauma and effort, we feel we are being successful. Our campaign won't help our children, but we knew that in 4th grade when we began. The good news is that if we continue, we will eventually make a difference in the lives of a future generation of children, and our activism will one day allow those children to check out of 12th grade with 12th grade reading.
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This story originally appeared in the IDEA Parent Guide.