Self-Advocating for Reasonable Accommodations: Four Women Share their Stories Tonight

What if I’m a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

It has been nightmarishly hard for educational growth and attainment. The learning deficits are tremendous. We are seeing catastrophic numbers in educational outcomes in the special education population during the pandemic because students have been fundamentally disconnected from education and services that are provided through the local education authority.

That means I am not getting any of the services that my IEP suggests that I have. So, not only am I not getting formal education, but I am also not getting my speech therapy, I am not getting my behavioral therapy, I am not getting all the educational services that my IEP suggests that I need.

Educators and administrators are working hard to try to figure out how to solve these problems for our children, and there are not a lot of easy solutions and pathways to success, and access to opportunities when you layer on issues of poverty,

We haven’t recovered. I can’t say what special education looks like coming out of COVID, because we’re not out. We’re still figuring it out.

Find your tribe. I would love for Easterseals to be a part of everybody’s tribe. Our services are either free or pretty cost neutral even if you are uninsured or use Medicaid. These services are available to everyone.

Also, consider a special education advocate. You can reach out to Easterseals to find a Special Education Advocate in your community. These are people who know the system very well and who can be your ombudsperson in those conversations that you have with your school administrators about your students’ IEP or 504. Special Education Advocates are a fountain of knowledge and a wealth of resources, and they connect you to other resources in your community. If you do not have a Special Education Advocate, get one!

I also encourage parents to reach out to Easterseals or other organizations to find an affinity group for yourself so that you can learn to become the strongest, most effective advocate for your child possible. In doing so, you will also teach your child to become a strong and effective self-advocate.

The best way to make progress is to bring in more people and more resources into the tent

Also, always remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Don’t be afraid of being a constant presence at your child’s school, and in your teacher’s email inbox. You are their partner, and no one knows your child better than you. You need to work with your education partners to make sure that your child is getting everything they need at school, and that you are doing everything at home to make sure that there is a consistent focus on education both at home and at school.

Your child should not feel that there is one set of expectations at home and another set of expectations at school. You want to have relationships with your educators and school administrators.

I encourage more people to reach out to Easterseals. We are here to help. We want to bring more people into this tent. Right now, there is a big tent and there are not enough of us in it. Let’s get to work!

Tonight, Thursday, , I will be one of four women with disabilities on an hour-long free Zoom panel sponsored by the Skokie Public Library:

What does self-advocacy look like when navigating the world with a disability? Four panelists from different fields share stories of how they’ve advocated for reasonable accommodations.

Panelists will share lessons learned and provide tips on fighting for more fair and just treatment in the workplace and beyond.