Los Angeles Groups
http://mhas-la.org/programs/ Mental Health Advocacy Services offers information for parents about how to help their kids with special needs through the school system. They also offer advocacy and representation in IEP meetings.
https://thearc.org/our-initiatives/education/ The Arc offers assistance and information to parents and others on how to advocate for their children in the public school system – this group has grown into many chapters, including one in Los Angeles, but it started with upset parents over 50 years ago. The Arc focuses on disability through many lenses other than education (i.e. jobs, housing, and health) and helped pass IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
http://speakupparents.org/schools Speak Up Parents offers workshops to help parents know their rights for special education. They give information in both English and Spanish, showing cognizance of the Los Angeles demographics in need of access to this information.
http://www.citizenswhosee.org/ Citizens Who Seek Educational Equality (S.E.E) is a grassroots movement in Pennsylvania. They help make sure that the district meets a student with an IEP’s needs. They give free assistance to families within the Coatesville Area School District and teach them about their child’s rights and how to argue for those rights within the school district.
https://www.inclusionevolution.com/grassroots-advocacy-empowers-parents-fight-inclusion/ Inclusion Evolution is a group started by parents who have a child with down syndrome in the Bay Area. They started by holding meetings in their house to talk about what an IEP is (along with other acronyms) and how to approach it. They have built a community of concerned parents who are doing outreach to share knowledge on the process of special education.
https://pft400.com/grassroots/special-education-grassroots-pse/ PSE Grassroots is a committee of people in Pittsburgh who talk in an open forum about the challenges and opportunities for special education teachers. These meetings offer a space to move ideas to policy implementations that affect the teachers, students, and students’ families.
The majority of these organizations have been started by parents who have been through the process themselves and decided to offer help to other families. People have connected to organize both across school districts as well as specifically within their own district. When advocating for the rights of special education students, it is important that each advocacy group recognized how black and brown students are disproportionately affected by the difficulties of the special education system. The fight for rights for special education students must include intersectionality to truly help all students.
The work that these groups do offer more of a voice to parents, giving them a little more autonomy over their child’s education. By spreading information about special education and the rights students are allowed, these groups open more opportunities for students to receive the education that they need. Some groups focus on a more legal and policy route while others focus more on parent empowerment and advocacy, but both strategies help bring a new perception to disabilities and special education.
Organizing can prove difficult, particularly so with special education because every student’s needs are incredibly individualized. While organizations can pass policy or gather parents together creating a community within the district or between districts, students still need attention on the personal level, and this takes a lot of contributors willing to help. No matter how difficult the work, these organizations are all great additions to the special education process and to illuminating the struggles that remain in the system.