Toni Nelson is the coordinator of the Family Support Resource Center, and she assists parents of children and young adults with special needs. However, she too, has personal experience in the matter.
“My son completed his education at the age of 21, and that encouraged him to get more job skills,“ said Nelson. “And that’s where he’s working now, he works on job crews, and he goes out into the community and works.“
But Nelson also encourages parents to become more involved in their child’s education.
“Parents have a great responsibility of being at the table to give their information about their child because they know their child the best,“ said Nelson.
Especially when it comes to developing Individualized Education Plans (IEP).
“And that lays out goals and objectives for them based on their needs, accommodations, services,“ said Amber Shingler, elementary special education specialist. “So just making sure that they have a level playing field in the general education classroom.“
Shingler says that parents work together with an IEP team to help develop a plan. And because of that, she notes how important it is for parents to stay informed.
“Because we want them to feel comfortable with the process, understand the process,“ said Shingler. “We can help them understand the process better, so they can participate more fully.“
And while the process has changed over the years, Nelson believes it is more important than ever for parents to be involved.
“It can’t be left up just to the school to provide these services,“ said Nelson. “It needs to be wrapped around home, community and school.“
The Maryland State Department of Education is conducting a survey for parents or guardians of children who are receiving special education to determine how well one’s school is promoting parent involvement.