Special Education is a Team
Special education is a complex system within the United States public schooling system, and as such it requires trained individuals and advocates who help parents through the process. Early intervention paraprofessionals and IEP, Individualized Education Program, advocates both play a role in ensuring that children who are in need of special education receive it, and making sure that throughout the process their rights are met.
Paraprofessionals are those who are not licensed special education teachers but still work with families of toddlers and young children, often in the home setting, to identify and intervene early with special education needs (Banerjee, Ritu, Geraldine, 2017, pp. 359). These workers are critical because if a kid who needs special education is not recognized early on, they will likely fall behind in school at no fault of their own.
Once the students are in school, it is the parents’ responsibility to navigate and communicate with the district about the IEP rights of the student. Although conversations with the district are important to the process, the job of an IEP advocate has much more depth, “they used an advocacy process with five main stages: developing rapport with the parent, establishing clear expectations, learning about the child and the family, educating and empowering the parent, and participating in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings” (Burke, Goldman, 2017, pp.3). Parents who have the resources to, turn to IEP advocates for support, but there are many families who do not have that same privilege.
While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to traverse special education. Families involved in this process require help from others more familiar with the system in order to defend their kids’ rights to an advantageous education. Special Education is influenced by the parents’ ability to access its resources, without equitable access, the aid the special education can bring to children remains locked.