Updated: Jul 16
Joshua, our non-verbal 1st grader with developmental disabilities was in a PALS program (Practical Application of Life Skills) when I met a Family Support Specialist from Uplift.
My husband, Dean and I were distraught over how Joshua's PALS program teacher wasn’t succeeding in meeting his social, academic or emotional needs. At each Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, it felt as if the school was against us. It felt like we had no say in our son's education and that we had no other choice but to follow what was recommended despite our disagreement with the proposed plan.
After consulting with and coaching from the Uplift specialist, and listening to her advocate on our son's behalf during an IEP, we learned tools for better communicating his needs and how to use correct verbiage during the IEP meeting and in general conversations with school staff.
We learned the importance of documentation and how to keep a record of conversations with school staff, whether they were face-to-face or through email. We learned that it's acceptable to use the chain of command when necessary.
We also learned that it's okay to be upset during an IEP meeting and to step out for a moment if needed to collect our thoughts and reel our emotions back in before continuing, or to even reconvene the IEP meeting at a later date. Sometimes school staff don't understand the emotions parents experience when advocating for their child.
As Dean and I became more educated, we felt more confident advocating for what was – and is in Joshua's best interest, and have been able to get what’s necessary for him to actively participate in school, not only in the PALS program, but also in the general education program.
Joshua is now in junior high school and exhibiting great behaviors and attitudes; those are clear signs to us that he is enjoying his new school and new teachers. We firmly believe that had we not been educated by Uplift, Joshua would still be the bored and frustrated child he was 6 years ago.
This success story doesn't stop with our son. Although Uplift doesn’t work in senior advocacy, we have learned effective advocacy techniques that enable us to also advocate for my elderly mother. I guess one could refer to that as transferable skills!