In first grade, Tellez compromised, agreeing to allow Natalie back into a contained setting, while keeping up with her reading and private therapies. Today, Natalie is in a regular classroom setting all day.
While the process worked, she says, it wasn’t easy and took time.
“I can see why some parents give up. It’s very emotionally tiring,” says Tellez, who left her career in sales to manage her daughter’s therapies and education.
She advises parents to educate themselves — and to work with the educators.
“I read a lot. I wrote down what I wanted to get and what I thought was possible,’’ she said. “They have given me the knowledge that I needed to make the right decisions for my daughter. Without them, my daughter wouldn’t be where she is today, that I can tell you.’’
Finally, says Bustos-Alban, parents must continue to advocate even after they have an IEP.
“Having a written document doesn’t always guarantee that your child will receive the accommodations he or she needs,” she says. “The best accommodation any child can have is a knowledgeable teacher.’’
Over the past 20 years, Parent to Parent, which began as a support group for parents of children with disabilities, has worked with about 20,000 families, says Isabel Garcia, executive director and a founding parent. The organization now provides services to about 2,500 parents per year.
“We as parents are dealing with many different professionals, not just the school system,’’ said Garcia, mother of a 30-year daughter with cerebral palsy. “You’re dealing with therapists, you’re dealing with health insurance, with doctors, with evaluations, psychologists, so by the time you get there, you’ve had a lot of people disappoint you.’’
Garcia says, parents must understand their responsibility in the process.
“Unless you know what to ask for or you have an exceptional team, no one is going to say, ‘Oh this is what you need to do.’ You’re going to learn that from another parent, another professional in the community.”