You leave the doctor’s office more confused than when you walked in! You have more questions to ask, but your head is swimming. There is no way the doctor could be right—or could she? Being told that your child has a disability or developmental delay is hard news for any parent to take and involves a grieving process as well as tough decisions to make. Each child, and his or her condition is unique; different disabilities take a different path. So what do you do now? How can you best help your child, whom you now know has special needs?
Where can I get information?
Each state within the United States is required to have at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). In Colorado this is PEAK Parent Center. PEAK personnel can point you to the right providers to cater to your child’s and family’s needs. Whether you need special medical providers or simply information on getting your child an IEP, PEAK Parent is full of information. Make it one of your first stops as a new parent of a child with special needs. Knowledge is power, after all.
What will my child need?
Depending on the nature of your child’s disability, you may need to locate various providers such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and/or physical therapists. You can choose from a range of therapies in Colorado; programs that are helpful or also fun for your child. These include horse therapy, music, metronome, and even listening therapy for acute hearing (offered at Children’s Hospital Colorado Therapy Care). The Resource Exchange is another resource, and its family support program can help you find the exact care that your child needs if facing an intellectual or developmental disability.
How do I get public school services for my child with special needs?
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every school that receives federal funding is required to provide special education services. Contact your neighborhood’s school administration and request an initial evaluation of your child. The school is required to evaluate your child and determine if he or she needs special education services. Once your child is determined eligible for special education services, the school will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meet in order to determine what special education services, accommodations, and modifications will be necessary for your child to receive his or her Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
Know your rights!
The school district must give you Prior Written Notice of all meetings and evaluations. Also, it needs Parental Consent for the initial evaluation as well as Parental Consent to place your child into special education services. Take time before you begin the IEP process with your school district to download the manual on Parent and Child Rights in Special Education from the Colorado Department of Education. Check out online resources such as Wrightslaw.com or the Telios Law Clickapedia and blogs. If you are feeling overwhelmed about this process, seek advice from a professional advocate or special education attorney who can guide you.
Care for the care-giver.
Parents, as you are embarking on this new, frightening, confusing and, in the end, wonderful journey, don’t forget to take care of you. You cannot help anyone without caring for yourself. There are many support groups that you can attend, ranging from the Autism Society of the Pikes Peak Region to the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado. A diagnosis of any disability is a hard situation to face. Make sure you get supported through the range of emotions that parents of children with special needs feel so you can come to a place where you can do your absolute best for your child with special needs.
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