A great deal of progress has been made in understanding individuals with Down Syndrome. Prior to the 1980s, history records that the vast majority of individuals with this genetic anomaly spent their lives in institutions. Experts generally believed those with the condition couldn’t learn. Today, we know that isn’t true. Indeed, the tide has shifted such that most children with Down syndrome in Alabama attend regular schools. Many live full lives. Some have even obtained college degrees.

One key law supporting this movement is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). That law guarantees other-abled individuals the right to a free, public education in the least restrictive environment. And by requiring Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for each student, the law strives to ensure the greatest level of learning success. Parents play a crucial role in protecting those rights.

Sometimes it takes dedicated work

As we’ve noted before, rights by law are not a guarantee of rights delivered. This is something that experts in special education advocacy know well. To help parents play their role to greatest effect, here are one expert’s recommendations on what guardians can do.

Build relations with IEP teammates

There are many with roles in crafting and fulfilling the IEP for your child. That includes teachers, therapists and others who deliver special services that might be needed. Work to build relationships with each of them. Find what means of communications they prefer and when it’s best to reach out.

Ask questions. Get answers.

The law requires an IEP review at least once every year. Ahead of each of these, it’s wise to review the current IEP and write down any questions you have in anticipation. Education, like all industries, has its own language. Special education has a few extra. In your IEP meetings, if you don’t understand something, be brave enough to ask for more information – especially as it might affect your child.

Expand school involvement beyond special ed

The special education needs outlined in the IEP will be your primary focus, but by getting involved in broader school groups, you have a chance to influence the culture of the broader education system.

Aim high, but be ready to accept less

You have a right to express your goals and aspirations for your child. However, the professionals on the team have skill and experience worth acknowledging.

By working together, you have the opportunity to advance your child’s success and to share in celebrating the gains.