Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Concept of Parents As Special Ed Law Enforcers

Parents are the ones who must stand up for their kids to enforce the law, and parents are the ones who must organize to make changes in school systems to help children with disabilities, according to legal advocates Peter and Pamela Wright. The Wrights form a potent tandem as special education lawyer and advocate who produce books, workshops, the Wrightslaw website and e-mail newsletters today posted the transcript of a recent interview they gave to an organization called Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities. You can read the transcript here.

It's interesting reading for parents (just over 5 pages on the printout I made). First, there's a back story here for Pete Wright's advocacy: his dyslexia was misdiagnosed as a child, and it was through his parents' efforts and his dogged work with a terrific one-on-one tutor (including summer school) that he learned to read, then excelled at it.

Second, the Wrights share their views on general trends:
  • In the courts: the Supreme Court appears to be swinging negatively, that is, toward restricting the rights of disabled children. On the other hand, a number of judges have written well-reasoned decisions that spell out the clear legal rights of disabled kids and their families. Peter Wright doesn't mention specifics, but his past writings on court decisions would point to two autism-related decisions in federal court in Virginia. Read more about those here and here.
  • In schools, in general, the Wrights say they see less affluent districts as more receptive to seeking expert help in the critical task of training special education and classroom teachers.
Peter Wright says, "The real catalysts for change are parents. Parents are the enforcers of IDEA, the special ed law." (IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.) Pam Wright adds:

"Parents represent their children's interests so, in effect, they are the consumers of services. And it doesn't take an army of parents to begin to educate school board members and superintendents -- or even to run for school board, and change the system at that level. ... By the time you get 10 people together, you are becoming a powerful group. By the time reach 25 or 50, you are a powerful organization and 'we'd better meet with you.' "


Anonymous said...

Interesting article
Under in the court, I had trouble
reading where you said here.

Michael Goldberg said...

I fixed those links and now you can see past articles about those Virginia cases. thanks!

Anonymous said...

There are some effective parent advocacy groups for kids with autism in school systems in the greater Boston area, including the Network of Newton Autism Parents and similar groups in Needham and Brookline. More parents should try to do the same in their own communities. Of course, it's so hard to find the time...