For me, the journey into the world of Special Education began 14 years ago.  What started out as a few questions of concern to my son’s pediatrician began a journey where I felt at times I had unknowingly been transported to a foreign country and even at times a foreign planet!  I soon found myself in a world where the language and rules of engagement (on a good day) were only partially understood.  And at the time, there were not many good days.

Desperately searching to find someone with the knowledge or wisdom that they would be willing to share with a frantic mom, proved much more difficult than I thought possible. Where were the specialists who understood child development, who would correctly diagnosis and provide treat options?  Where was the guide with the necessary information on “How To and Next Steps”?  Where were the rule books on Do’s and Don’ts?  Where were the interpreters to help navigate the world of “special education”?  

Was I supposed to be able to just jump in and understand all of this?  Are other parents able to do this?  It was a time when there were so many questions, concerns and fears with no clear answers and no clear path to follow. 

Left to my own devices, I began “knocking on doors” in search of answers. The process of testing and evaluations began. Although it would take several years to confirm a definitive diagnosis, what followed was a series of developmental evaluations, Autism Spectrum Disorder testing, Auditory Hearing tests, Speech Development testing, Neuropsychological testing, vision therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Certainly not easy but I was making progress.

Once my son entered school an entirely new set of challenges appeared. For the first time I was confronted with PPTs, IEP’s, 504’s, goals and objectives. The list went on and on.  School folks that I believed were part of the team to support and educate my son too often were not.

Today my son is a high school student who typically makes the honor roll. He works hard at school, has many friends he enjoys, owns technology devices that he cannot live without, has played the cello for 9 years. He is funny, witty and compassionate and intelligent. 

Has it been a long journey? Yes. Is it what I had expected? No. But with every journey there is also strength and wisdom gained.

And along my journey, I have learned. I’ve learned that parent advocacy is imperative to insure children with unique needs receive the education they are legally required to be provided by federal law. I learned that each child no matter their strengths and weaknesses have potential. I have learned that when we find the right doors to open for our children they will reach, learn and succeed. Education is the key foundation in which our children build their lives upon. I have learned that educational advocacy is the key to insuring this foundation is successfully built for every child.