BONUS! David Lepofsky Tips for School Advocacy for Parents

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00:00:01:
Welcome to the Good Things in life podcast. I'm your host Genia Stephen. Today's bonus podcast episode is the audio recording of David Lepos-Lepofsky's video on tips for parents around, uh, school advocacy. So, if you want to watch the video, you can find that at goodthingsinlife.org/david that'll punch you over to the Osgoode, um, Hall a Law School YouTube site, which is where David originally published the video.

00:00:34:
But if you're interested in an audio version, then here you go. We'll jump right in. Hello. My name is David Lepofsky. I'm the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I'd like to spend some time with you giving you some practical suggestions. If you're a parent or a guardian of a student with a disability in the school system between kindergarten and grade 12,

00:01:09:
or about to enter that school system here in Ontario, or frankly, anywhere in Canada about practical strategies, you might want to try out to ensure that your child is fully included and fully benefits from the programming, the education that's offered in your school system. Now to begin, I just want to explain, I'm not giving legal advice today if you need legal advice and I hope you never do,

00:01:40:
but if you need legal advice, you should, uh, talk to a lawyer in Ontario. We're very fortunate that there is a legal community legal clinic called the ARCH Disability Law Centre and they have a phone advice service that is free, and that may be able to help you. You can always call them at (416) 482-8255 and you can also reach them through the internet at www.archdisabilitylaw.ca.

00:02:15:
But what I'd like to talk to you about today is practical suggestions. Well, what's your goal? To begin with, it's worth setting down at the outset and figuring out what am I going to try to achieve. And of course, that one's an easy one. You want to make sure that your child can get as good an education as possible, and as full as an education as possible as appropriate and an education tailored to your child's needs.

00:02:48:
As you can. I'm talking to you regardless of what kind of disability your child has, maybe a physical disability, a mental disability, a learning disability, a sensory disability and mental health condition could be a combination of them. You might not be sure which disability or disabilities your child has. I'm talking, regardless of those kinds of specifics to all of you. Well,

00:03:16:
to achieve your goal, it's really important at the start to have a sense, uh, of what the challenges out there that parents face in dealing with the school system. The school system, I believe is made up of teachers, principals, and others who want to ensure that they can teach every child and want every child to benefit. But they work in a system that has got some limits and, in some ways,

00:03:46:
put some handcuffs on them, not out of some nasty intention, but that intention doesn't matter. The problem that we have is that our school system like much in our society is designed largely to serve people in the case of the schools, kids without disabilities, that's sort of their model. It's not because somebody sat down and decided to conspire against kids with disabilities.

00:04:11:
But the practical result is that the, the buildings where kids go to school and the equipment and the gyms, the playgrounds, and otherwise, and the curriculum and the teacher training and the programs, and even the technology they acquire is largely designed or acquired on the assumption that it's for students without disabilities. So, when a student with a disability encounters that system,

00:04:37:
they find that they've got a school system that's full of barriers that can get in their way, and what parents need to do and guardians, when they're advocating for their child, is to find ways to ensure that that school system overcomes those barriers, gets those barriers out of the way and enables their child to get a full, complete education and can fully benefit from all that our education system has to offer.

00:05:06:
And it's important to remember from the start that the teachers and the principals that you meet up with along the way, want to do the best for your child, but they too live in that same school system that's full of the same barriers. They didn't invent them, uh, at times they can't single-handedly fix them, but working with you and with your family and with the supports you organize,

00:05:32:
you can find ways to overcome those barriers and enable your child to succeed. Let me give you some practical tips for the rest of this talk about how to do that. It would be better if our provincial government had put in place effective measures to ensure that these barriers didn't exist, but historically they hadn't. And so we have to face the world, uh uh, that is full of these barriers in our school system.

00:06:04:
So what, where do you start? The starting point that, that you want to consider is figuring out what your child's needs are, what the barriers are that they face and what specific actions you'd like the school board or the school or the teacher to take to ensure that your child's learning needs are fully met. Well, I'm not gonna here give you a list of what those needs are.

00:06:35:
They're going to depend on your child, but you need to spend some time figuring this out, speaking to the school board about it, and doing your own outreach. The more that you can help deliver the answer to the question, what does your child need to the school board the more quickly, and the more effectively we have a chance of ensuring that they meet those needs.

00:07:03:
So what do you do? I invite you to consider building a team around yourself to help you with this. You can't do it all alone. You'll know some of it just from your experience as a parent or guardian of the child, but you can't do it alone and you'll need some help. Who do you turn to? Lots of possible resources and the more proactive you are in finding them the more effective you'll be.

00:07:31:
You can turn to the healthcare professionals that work with your child, your child's pediatrician, and any other professionals that have been working with you before your child goes to school, or while your child is at school to help support your child's needs. They can help you both with giving you a diagnosis if there's one needed. And with giving you suggestions of areas where there are needs,

00:07:56:
and from their experience, any ideas of what may help your child succeed in school. There are disability organizations in the community you can turn to, There's an entire, uh, United nations of disability organizations. If your child has more than one disability, you may be approaching more than one of them. You need to reach out to them, find out who was in their organization,

00:08:23:
works and specializes in the needs of children and youth with the disability or disabilities you're dealing with and get their input and advice. There are either formal or informal organizations of parents of children with different disabilities. You can find them through the internet. You may find them on Facebook. Some will have Facebook chat groups and other ways that you can reach out to parents in situations like yours.

00:08:57:
Whether it's in Canada or indeed somewhere else around the world, it's worth reaching out to them and learning from them. If they've already gone through the process you have in the school system, they can have practical suggestions that can help you. You may want to add to your circle of supports other people who can just give you personal support, maybe other family members or close friends,

00:09:24:
but who can help you think this all through and collectively, you want to be in a position to go to the school board and say, here's what we think our child's needs are. And here's some ideas we have of what might be effective at meeting those needs. Now that's not to say that the entire discussion is one that you have outside the school system.

00:09:47:
You want to be prepared before you go to the school, but then have an opportunity to embark in discussions with the school system. Because on learning what you have to suggest to them, they may have helpful information they can share with you. And you want to be open to that more about that as, as my presentation continues. Uh, once you've taken that preliminary effort at building that circle of support around you and coming up with your understanding of what your child's needs are and,

00:10:22:
and what, what kinds of things you might want to ask the school board for, do you go and start making requests? And my answer is not yet. There are two more things you need to investigate and try to find out before you're ready to start embarking on discussions. And the first is you want to find out what's what kinds of supports, what kinds of options,

00:10:47:
what kinds of services are available through your school and your school board for students with disabilities, like your child's and needs like your child. And the second thing you want to learn is how you navigate that school system, who you ask for what, who can explain things to you. If you're not happy, where do you go to further your efforts at advocating for your child?

00:11:17:
What you think both of those things should be easy to find out, but they're not necessarily easy to find out some school boards make an easy to find out what's on the menu. For some school boards, I would describe them as like a restaurant that won't give you a menu. And it can be very hard. It may not be clear on their website,

00:11:36:
or it may be buried layers down, or it may be set out in documents that are tens or hundreds of pages long that you're, you're not gonna want to spend your time sifting through. And even if you did, you may find them really hard to understand and figure out cause they were in technical school board language. But you need to investigate by talking to your principal,

00:12:01:
talking to your teacher, talking to others, involved in the school to learn what options are available, what different classes, what different kinds of placements, what kinds of professional services, what kind of activity or strategies have they as the school board got specialized resources that might be helpful to you. And you want to find out from them have how you navigate the system.

00:12:31:
And when you talk to them about how to navigate the system, you want to find out two things. One is technically, what's the ladder who report, you know, first you start talk to the principal, the teacher, then maybe the vice-principal, then maybe the principal maybe somebody higher up on the board. That may be the formal structure they tell you about.

00:12:50:
But the other thing you want to ask about is who really makes the decisions because there's the formal structure and then there's the practical, how it really works. And, and you, you, you wanna ask about these things before you start coming forward with your request. So you have a bit, bit of a sense of how to navigate the system.

00:13:11:
Well, before I dive into what you do next, in terms of very specific practical things, let me offer an overarching theme. For parents of a student with a disability in the school system, you are from day one until the day your child completes their education, you are their advocate. You are there to advocate to ensure that the best is provided for your child.

00:13:38:
And pretty much everything I'm going to talk about now is, uh um, derives from that and is focuses on what makes a person an effective advocate. Indeed, figuring out what you want, which is what I'm talking about right now and how the system is set up. And what's available. Those are really the first effective steps of any kind of advocacy. But what we know from experience in schools and school boards all over the place inside Canada,

00:14:08:
outside Canada, is the more effective the parent is at advocacy the better chances the child, with a student with a disability has of succeeding in, in getting the best they can from the education system. But with that, how do we begin our actual advocacy efforts? Once we have a sense of what we want, what do we do? Well, the first step, uh, in presenting your, uh,

00:14:40:
in advancing your advocacy efforts, once you have a sense of what you want and what the needs are, um, is to put your request forward. And it's often a really good idea to do that in writing in an email or in a letter, which is addressed to the teacher and the principal. And it may be also, you may also ask them who else you should send a copy of it too.

00:15:07:
You don't want to copy it to everybody all the way up the whole school board at this point. And hopefully, you never have to, but just setting out the specifics of what your, you, you understand your child's disability is or disabilities are and what you believe the needs are, and what you would like to ask the school board to provide for your child.

00:15:31:
It's helpful in that kind of an email or letter to spell it out in, um, terms that makes it clear that you are flexible and open to have conversations with the school board and want to work together with them, because that enables the school board to get the message that you want to be a constructive partner in this effort. The thing, then now you might think to yourself,

00:15:57:
for why, why do I have to set all this stuff out anyway? Why, why aren't they figuring this out? Now, of course, in a perfect world, they would be figuring this all out, but in the world where we live, principals’ teachers, school, board staff are overloaded overworked and trying to handle the needs of a lot of kids.

00:16:15:
And to the extent that you can make it easier for them to meet your child's needs, you got a better chance of them, of, of their meeting your child's needs, to the extent that you come forward with constructive suggestions or information that makes it easier so that they don't have to try to figure that stuff out themselves. Now, does that mean that they're always going to listen to you?

00:16:37:
Well, of course not, but your chances are, are, are much better. Let me give you just a quick practical tip that will carry forward from when you write this email or letter all the way onward through your activities. I strongly encourage you to convey the message that I want to work with you folks. And we are eager to collaborate on this.

00:17:11:
If a principal or a teacher or a school board official feels that appearance is being combative or demanding, or is simply saying, it's my way or the highway from day one, you don't want to be typecast like that because then you might face more resistance later on. Now I'm not saying you should compromise on your child's needs, but there's ways to present your message in a way that is more likely to make it received,

00:17:39:
well received. Again, as I said before remember who you're writing for, you're writing for folks who want to ensure that your child's needs are met may not know much about the particular disability in question, and are overloaded with lots else going on and just trying to keep things going. I'm recording this video during the COVID, the COVID crisis. And you could imagine that principals and teachers right now are scrambling and are under enormous stress.

00:18:06:
So this, uh, a practical tip I'm giving you is even more important now than ever. Why put it in writing early on? Well, I think it's helpful to do that because you want to make it clear what you're asking for. You want to make sure that everybody understands it, that it's not a matter of just talking to a teacher at the end of the day in a busy hallway in school or where they may have walk be in the middle of discussions of other things, may not remember it correctly,

00:18:38:
whatever, by putting it in writing, you're, you're helping make sure it's clear what you want. You're also helping make sure, even if you tell the teacher that the principal knows, or if you tell the principal that the teacher knows, and the other thing is later on, if there are difficulties encountered along the way, you want to be able to make it clear what it was you asked for from day one and,

00:19:01:
and a well-written email doesn't have to be long, but is one which can make that much easier to achieve. Well, what's the next step? You put it in writing. What's the next step? Well, the next step is to approach the school and ask for an opportunity to discuss it. Now, I am going to now introduce for you a term that you may have heard,

00:19:27:
or may not have term heard, uh um and about which people have some degree of confusion. The term is an individual education plan or IEP. You are going to want to invite the school to have an IEP meeting with you. What is that? Well, let me begin by talking about what an IEP is. In practical terms, think of it as what is putting in writing in a plan.

00:19:55:
What's the school board going to be doing for my child to address their needs by virtue of the fact that they have this disability. It may be the programming they're going to offer. It may be the specific goals or added curriculum. It may be added services they're going to provide; it may be added assistance for your child in the classroom, whatever it's going to be.

00:20:20:
Think of it as the plan for overcoming those barriers in the system that your child faces, because the system was designed principally for kids without disabilities. Now, do they have to give you an IEP? Well, I'm not going to dive into the complicated legal, uh, situation of Ontario's special education regulations. Let's just say that any child who has a disability certainly can ask for an individual education plan and whether or not it fits us in the technical terms of our special education regulations.

00:20:57:
I hope that a thoughtful and supportive teacher and principal would be open to, to doing that. And in fact, they may have turned their mind to it before you even came along and asked, they may come to you and ask you about what they might include in an IEP. Under Ontario's special education regulations, individual education plans are to be provided to students who have disabilities that are regulations

00:21:29:
call an exceptionality. Let's just say that that does include a whole disability. Unfortunately, it's kind of out of date and some of us have been advocating to get these out-of-date laws improve, but don't, don't as a practical matter, don't let that get in your way. You can talk to the arch disability law center, if you need any help navigating those technical things.

00:21:53:
But just if you've got a child, who's got a disability that can affect their learning and successful school, just ask for them to tell the school. You'd like an individual education plan, and you'd like to work with them on developing it. Now, the, the activities, the school may and efforts they take to assist your child, they may write out in the individual application plan,

00:22:13:
or they may not write out in it, but your best bet is to try to get as much of it as possible included in that individual education plan. One thing we know that individual education plans are supposed to do aside from everything else I've said is particularly if your student, your child has got to go through some kind of important transition, the transition from elementary school to secondary school,

00:22:37:
the transition from secondary school out of the school system, there's supposed to be transitioned planning included in the individual education plan. Under our regulations, the school board is required to consult with you as the family on the development of the education individual education plan. Now, unfortunately in Ontario, some school boards just do that by sending you a letter, asking your thoughts,

00:23:05:
and then later sending home the, the individual education plan with perhaps with request saying, please sign and return. But what I want to suggest to you as a practical tip, that a number of parents have found to be quite helpful is to ask the school instead for a meeting. So, before you write this thing, we'd like to sit down and have a meeting to talk about what will be in the individual education plan and what,

00:23:31:
what, what the school board plans to do to meet the needs of our, of our child. Now, I use the term IEP meeting. Some school boards may look at you and go, well, we give the meeting a different name, or we have a different terminology. I don't care what it's called. You want to have a meeting. Let's talk about that

00:23:50:
meeting whatever we call it. Well, first, who do you want to have there? From the school board, you want to ask that the teacher be there, principal be there, any special education consultant on the school board's side that's involved be there, and any other professionals or school staff that they have that can assist in discussing plans for your child. And for your,

00:24:16:
from your perspective, you should be there. If it's during COVID or if it's, you can't get there in person cause of work. We now know that they can have virtual meetings. So why not use the technology now available zoom or the other technology for a virtual meeting, but you can also have any support people that you want to bring that can help you.

00:24:41:
That might be a friend. It might be a spouse. It might be, uh um, other professionals that you've gotten help with, or people who have helped other families and children with disabilities navigate the system. The goal of the meeting would be to try to make, to try to work out a plan. That's what the small P for your child that is best going to meet their needs.

00:25:11:
And that could include having those, that plan written up in a formal document called the individual education plan. I think that your goal is to get them to actually do these things for your child. If they'll put it in writing that makes it even better, but I'm, uh, I think it's important not to let the, the formal document be, become, um, a, uh,

00:25:38:
a distraction. It should be a liberating tool that helps you succeed. And so, a, you want to make sure that they're agreeing to take the steps for your child, that you want, and B you want, if at all possible, to get it included in the actual plan. And some schools or some school boards may have experience of just simply writing on IEP and sending it home,

00:26:03:
but in, if you can get them to plan, to sit down and talk to you and discuss what they're thinking of before that, and maybe share ideas and you can offer your ideas, then there's a chance to improve it and make it as helpful for your child as possible. To that end, you might find that you will table ideas that school board thinks are great,

00:26:28:
and they're going to pick up on it, or they may offer ideas you didn't think of, and you think are great, but there's the possibility of course, that you may suggest something and they look at you and they're not sure you need that you needed, or that they want to include it. What do you do then? Well, that's what a face-to-face meeting or a virtual meeting can be a very helpful way to try to resolve it.

00:26:47:
So, what do you do? Well, if your practical tips, if you want to be an effective advocate is to first find out from them what their concerns are, what, what their objection is. W-w-w-we'd like you to do X, you said you, you don't want to, or you don't think you should. Can you tell me why and ask them to give you their reasons?

00:27:07:
And it's worthwhile to take notes while this is going on. So, you, you, you you're, don't have to rely on your memory or to have a friend at your meeting, taking notes for you. So, you don't have to be distracted by the note-taking process. And, but as well, it's very helpful to ask the, the, the school folks who would

00:27:31:
they need to get permission from or authority from to be able to provide X for your child, because they might in their hearts actually think you've got a good idea, but it might not be their decision. So, they might initially just say no, because they don't, they can't authorize it. So, it's important to then know who to go to and ask them.

00:27:50:
And you may want to follow up with a couple of suggestions if you're not sure if X is a good idea, could we try it out? Let's do a trial period with it. Let's do an exp, you know, see if it works. If you, uh um and the other thing, if they need somebody else's authority, a higher up within the board,

00:28:09:
you might say, well, can we just have you contact that higher authority? And maybe we could have a meeting with them or bring them to our next meeting and see if we can make some progress that way. In other words, use this meeting as a chance to try to move things forward in a cooperative way. Now at the end of the meeting,

00:28:30:
and it may be one meeting, you may have a couple of, you may decide, Hey, can we follow up on a couple of weeks? It's worthwhile following up if you can, with an email saying, here's what we asked for. And here's what we understood you agreed to, or if they didn't agree to certain things, you, you w- you weren't agreeable to X,

00:28:50:
and here's why. And then we get to the situation of what do you do if you don't get a successful agreement on, on what steps to take? Well, each school board will have some kind of hierarchy where you can take the issue up, and you may want to be consulting lawyers like the ARCH disability law center. You may want to consult all the folks on that support team.

00:29:17:
I talked to you about at the start of this talk, uh, other families, who've dealt with this kind of issue with their school boards to see if they have some practical tips, but you can take the issue up the ladder or the hierarchy at the, at the school board. And to that end, this is why it's good to have a letter where you've initially made the request a or an email where you've got documentation.

00:29:42:
If they've turned you down of what their reasons were, and then you can go higher and, and try to advocate it, advocate within the system. And throughout you may encounter times where you make a real stride forward and you're happy. And they may encounter times when you're incredibly frustrated, because you're not getting where you want to be. One challenge facing anyone who does advocacy is it's really important to no matter how frustrated you get,

00:30:12:
not vent that frustration at one of these meetings or in your emails, it doesn't help. It will not persuade people to do what you need, um, to, uh um, to, to no matter how frustrated this may sound to, to air your frustration. I'm not saying you can't be that, you should be that, you have to bottle up all your feelings don't matter what that's,

00:30:37:
that's impossible, but as best you can, if you're trying to convince people further up the ladder to change things, make the case, make present the points. Here's what we asked for, here are people that we've had supporting us. Who've shown that this is a really good thing to do. The only reason they said we couldn't do it as X. Here's why that reason isn't really persuasive.

00:30:59:
And, and it's important for your school board to, to do this for us. Could you please help that that's going to be more likely to get changed than, uh um, than anger, no matter how angry you feel and believe me, I understand how frustrating all of this can be. Hey, just a quick reminder, that in inclusion Academy, which is the good things in life membership,

00:31:26:
we're going to be dealing with all thing’s IEP in February. We're going to be going through some really focused resources on building a solid and inclusive IEP. And I'll be providing people with some hands-on and practical support, reviewing IEP's, and really trying to get that nailed down within the current context of the pandemic and remote schooling. And also, just, you know,

00:31:51:
our core best practices around IEP. If that's of interest to you, and you'd like that support, then check out inclusion Academy. You can find more information at goodthingsinlife.org/join. Whether it's working with the principal or the teacher at your school, or if you have to go up the hierarchy at the school board to advocate for your job because you weren't successful at that first stage.

00:32:26:
It's really important to remember that you've got to build good relationships, even with people that may be not agreeing with you or not supporting you, because you've got to keep working with these people throughout your child's education. This isn't just like going to a gas station. You fill up, you leave, and that's the last time you go to that gas station and dealing with that,

00:32:47:
dealing with that attended. And that's another reason why, um, not venting your anger is with them is, is really important. You want to maintain those relationships as, as best you can. It's also helpful to celebrate successes. If they've agreed to you with you on doing three things, but not agreed with you on doing another two things, it's important to thank them for the three things they've done and say,

00:33:16:
gee, I wish we could make progress on those other two. And I'm also gonna suggest to you that you be, you will have allies going up the system. Some of the people that you're talking to maybe saying no to you, if they do, hopefully they won't. But if they say no to you, it may not be because they don't want to help you,

00:33:37:
or because they don't think you're right. They may not have authority, or they may have run roadblocks themselves. So, it's helpful to say, to say to folks, I know you haven't been able to agree with this, but can you give me some practical tips of who might be able to break this log jam or some strategies or tips on how I might be able to succeed in?

00:33:55:
You'd be amazed at how many people will, if not in a formal meeting and a, just a chat in their office or in a phone call, will say, well, you know, I've dealt with this before and a parent faced the same thing you face them. And they were successful because here's who they went to or here's what they did.

00:34:12:
That can be absolutely golden advice. And so even coming from people who be, they may be the one who actually said no to you, and yet effective advocacy is seeing if they can, they can turn around and they can help you too. Um, creating a series of emails as you go up the ladder, if you have to go up, the hierarchy is important because if you,

00:34:41:
you want to start at the front line and which was the teacher and the principal, if you're not successful, you want to be able to go to the next line up and be able to say, here's what I asked for and point to it. And here's what they declined. And here's what they said. And you've got either correspondence from them, or you've confirmed that by writing them saying,

00:34:57:
you've told me we can't do this because of the following. Excuse me, reasons. And then if you have to go up the next ladder, having the same so that there's no debate over there's no, he said, she said over what actually you asked for, or what they actually told you or why they told you they couldn't do it. You've got a clear, uh um, series of emails or whatever,

00:35:22:
or letters that confirmed that. Cause then somebody higher up can look those over and say, Oh, heck you know, there's something wrong here. And obviously, if, and I hope you never have to do this, but if you do have to talk to a lawyer that that, that exchange of emails can be extremely important in helping them assess what's going on and,

00:35:47:
and what they can do about it. Um, I wanna take just a moment to tell you about a place that you might be able to get some assistance. Every school board in Ontario is required to have a special education advisory committee or SEAC. And I am a member at the time we're recording this. I've been a member of the, of the SEAC for the Toronto district school board.

00:36:12:
I was for two years as chair. This committee includes representatives from different disability organizations and community or community representatives in some cases. And their mandate is to advise the school board about areas where reforms or improvements are needed in the schools, in that school board to accommodate the needs of students with special education needs. Now they don't go and re hear arguments and appeals from individual families about individual needs.

00:36:53:
That's not the place to go. And if, see, when I was, was chair of SEAC, if somebody wrote in and presented a problem, I had to say that, explain to them that, you know, w we are volunteers and we're not in a position to sort of go advocate for individual children. However, that doesn't mean they're useless.

00:37:11:
If you come to a SEAC meeting, you might find by talking to informally to some of the members of the special education advisory committee during a break, or before it starts, if it's a representative from an organization that relates to your child that pertains to your child's disability, or if you just contact them separately, they should be listed on, on the school board website.

00:37:34:
They might be able to give you some tips or help make some connections that may assist you. Or if they hear about recurring problems, they could be raising those at the table in some families have used that kind of informal networking in a way that it's been very helpful for them. I want to emphasize that one more thing before I turn to wrapping up that I mentioned earlier,

00:38:04:
and I want to now in light of everything that I've said, explain why it matters so much. It's important as you do this to be, uh um, firm in ensuring that your child's needs are effectively met. But on the other hand, be flexible about how they are met. We can talk to our, the people in our circle of support and come up with some ideas,

00:38:28:
but it may be that in presenting those ideas, the school board will have ideas that we should consider. And I, I encourage you to be open to that, but also just as you should be ready to ask the school board, to try out an idea you've shared with them. You should be open to try out an idea that they've shared with you.

00:38:49:
If you think it's, it's worth giving a try to, and at the end of trying it out, you, you may find out that, you know what, they had a good idea that worked, or you may be in a position to say, look, we tried it your way. We tried it. It didn't work. Now we've got to go back to the table and figure out how to a better way to proceed to meet my child's needs.

00:39:12:
That's important to remember this. Isn't just a once only thing where you negotiate an individual education plan at the start of the year. And that's it. These are, this is an ongoing process. You can ask for a resumed meeting at any time. If you think it's appropriate, either to find out how things are going or to make suggestions about changes.

00:39:30:
And the school may reach out to you for that, if you don't reach out to them, but it's always helpful after a few weeks or at the start of the next term to reach out either in person or through zoom or whatever, and, and asked to have a follow up meeting, which serves a couple of functions. It can be both an opportunity to discuss what's been going on and how it's working,

00:39:52:
and to make suggestions about things that might need to be changed because their actual plans can change over the year. And the IEP can be revised over the year. Now, one thing that I should just add here, if any of you who want to take part in any of this process, you're a parent, you're a guardian, you're a friend you're helping out.

00:40:14:
If you have a disability, you should, of course, feel free to ask the school to ensure that your disability re disability-related needs are accommodated in this entire process, whether it's meetings or correspondence or whatever. So, for example, if you need captioning or sign language, language interpretation, let the school board know you want to let them know in advance.

00:40:43:
If you need documents in an accessible format, you may have a vision loss or dyslexia. And if PDFs present a problem to you as a blind person, I will tell you, they present a lot of problems. To me, tell them the format you want them in. If you need other accommodations in the process, let them know the sooner you let them know the easier it is to arrange for it.

00:41:06:
But remember that we've been talking throughout about the, the right of students to be, have their disability related needs accommodated. But of course, there's also an important right of you, the parent, if you have a disability or other advocate for the child to be accommodated as well, it's open to you to consider including your child in some of these discussions and meetings,

00:41:33:
especially if they're old enough. And if you think it would help the child and the process, and indeed it can be an effective way to help your child learn how to do this kind of advocacy. Because anyone growing up with a disability needs to learn to advocate for themselves. And this can be an informative way for that process, uh learning process to go on.

00:41:57:
And of course, to have their voice heard in the process of developing plans for them, if they're age-appropriate and otherwise, if it works, certainly consider, give that, giving that a go. So let me turn to concluding. I have, as I explained earlier on carefully not been giving legal advice, and also not explained a lot of the details of the specific procedures and structures,

00:42:26:
certainly, here in Ontario for dealing with some of these needs, there's a process called the identification and placement review committee or IPRC that deals with some kid's needs, but not all kid's needs. You may never have to use it. And there are, there are other avenues formal avenues that I've not dived into. You want to learn about those and to help you,

00:42:51:
there is an excellent series of short videos that are available through the ARCH disability law center's website. And I will post with this video, a link to that video series. And I encourage you not only to reach out to ARCH for advice if you need it, but to, to look at those videos, to get that kind of information that I'm not covering here.

00:43:14:
I'm just trying to give you practical suggestions on how, how to move things forward for your child. If it is you reach a point where you think you might need some legal assistance, do reach out whether it's to ARCH or to a lawyer you know, or, or to others who might be able to assist you. They might represent you. If you need that representation,

00:43:42:
they might go over your options with you, or they might give you some practical tips on how to present your needs more effectively. If you've been trying and aren't succeeding. I also want to conclude by inviting you to learn more about the activities of the accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act Alliance, we are a, uh um, a volunteer nonpartisan coalition that advocates for full inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities throughout society,

00:44:12:
including in the education system. We don't advocate for individual cases. We can't do that cause we're just volunteers. We don't have a staff; we don't have the capacity to do that. So we can't give you advice on how to handle an individual case, but we do hear stories from people of what they're experiencing and use that to help fuel our advocacy efforts.

00:44:34:
How do you find out about us? If you go to our website, you can learn lots. It's a www.aodaalliance.org, aodaalliance.org. On our homepage, you'll see a link to sign up, to get email updates from us. I strongly encourage you to do that. Click on that link, plug in your email address. We will send you updates about our campaigns on accessibility and,

00:45:01:
and give you ideas of what you could do to, to help us in our advocacy across society. One of the important areas where we do advocacy is in the area of education for students with disabilities. You can learn all about that efforts by going to our education page, it's at aodaalliance.org/education. I'll repeat that it's aodaalliance.org/education. We're very active on Twitter. Please follow us and retweet our tweets at aodaalliance.

00:45:33:
That's at aodaalliance, one word, and we have a Facebook page. You can like our posts and share them with your Facebook friends. That's facebook.com/accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act Alliance. I want to wish you and your children there, your best of luck as you draw on these tips. If you have practical feedback that you want to share,

00:45:58:
you can use our email address or which is [email protected] to let us know if this lecture was helpful for you [email protected] or you can send us a tweet at, at, at, uh, at aodaalliance to give us your feedback. We very much welcome your feedback. Last thing wishing you all the best of luck and stay safe. Thanks so much for listening to this highly informative audio version of David Lepofsky video.

00:46:37:
And again, if you want to see that video, you can find it at goodthingsinlife.org/david. And if you're interested in working on your child's IEP and getting that support, you can check out inclusion Academy, our membership at goodthingsinlife.org/join, take care.

 

Special thanks to David Lepofsky for joining me this week. Until next time!

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Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.