Special Education Advocacy


Newly Classified-Need Help Understanding IEP

What’s a parent to do?

Has your child recently been classified as having special needs at school and you don’t know what to do next?

Stick with me and I will get you through!

Welcome to my page!

I am a Special Educator that provides services to parents, students, basically families of all those of us that just don’t live within the box of mainstream society.

So, add this page to your favorites and stay tuned for invaluable information, resources, events, and yes even advice of how to get through that IEP meeting, diagnostic testing, or Child Study team phone call.

You’re not alone!

We can get through this together.

I’m so glad you’re here and look forward to helping you through the challenges of advocating for a special family member

Call Special Needs NJ today 973-534-3402 to start services for you and your child.

Related articles
•Top IEP Tips for Parents (pattidudek.typepad.com)
•Advocacy: Special Education (specialneedsnj.wordpress.com)

Bullying and the Special Needs Child

Bullying and the Special Needs Child

Recent research indicates that a child with a disability is more likely to be physically or verbally bullied than typically developing peers. As a special needs teacher/care provider, and therapist with over twenty years experience, I can attest to this data. However, by teaching children to understand that not everyone sees the world the same way, parents can facilitate understanding and healthy interaction between all kinds of children. Developing  social skills and an action plan to prevent bullying can decrease the odds that kids will be bullied, or that they themselves will become bullies when faced with situations that produce social anxiety.

Although children with disabilities are more likely to be the object of bullying, sometimes they are tagged as the bully, often as a result of low self-esteem or being bullied by others. No matter how your child is affected by bullying, these steps can go a long way in preventing this hurtful practice:

When a Special Needs Child is Bullied:

  • Talk to the child about situations that invite bullying.      A child with developmental delays such as Down Syndrome or Asberger’s syndrome is many times to trusting and friendly. Because he does not understand the concept of others playing tricks, he becomes an easy target. You as a parent can help with some simple advice. For example, you can talk to your child about where to sit on the bus for example; when possible sit near the driver or a friend. Sometimes knowing where to be and where not to be can stave off confrontation with bullies.
  • Teach your child about body language. This is very hard for children who are autistic or with learning disabilities,  because they often don’t pick up on social cues such like facial expression, stance, and body language. Help them to understand that a bully will most likely demonstrate quick or jerky movements,      use a loud voice, and distorted facial expressions. Teach your child to assess… “Is this person too close to me?” “Is he speaking very loud?” If so, your child needs tools to use confident body language of his own.
  • Using appropriate social language is a skill many Special Needs children almost never learn. Children with     language delays and processing difficulties cannot come up with a quick response to verbal bullying on their own. Practice confident positive social language (not threats). Try role play practicing scenarios with your child at home, so that he is prepared for a bully if  it comes his way.
  • Children need be ready to take safe action like  leaving the situation or going an adult. A child with a disability which causes her to think very concretely could be reluctant to approach an adult because she thinks she may be creating a problem.  We need to teach them to overcome these feelings, using hypothetical examples, and emphasizing that it is responsible to report unsafe bullying situations.

When the Bully Has Special Needs:

Often the child with a speech difficulty or the child who leaves the “regular” classroom for special instruction is teased and ridiculed by his peers. This child may have been teased for poor academic or social skills, and may look for someone who is weaker in those areas. Bullying in this case may also be the result of misreading social cues or lacking the communication skills to ask for something appropriately. Developing skills in social confidence can reduce the tendency to bully. Here are some examples:

  • Explain the rules. Talk about when something is his and when it is not. Sally’s turn on the swings is just that – Sally’s turn! Whether or not another child wants to swing at that moment it is not an option because someone else is taking a turn. Fair play is an incredibly difficult concept for Autistic and Asperger’s children so extensive practice and role play are important.
  • Teach them body language. Make sure your child knows that a head shake, turning away, or standing up to someone (as well as the verbal “No”) means no. This body language should tell the child to stop. If your child is struggling to pick up on social cues, practice different scenarios at home, role play and discuss what  happened afterward. Reading or telling some of these scenarios at bed time may help to solidify the concepts.
  • You also must use appropriate social language! Help your child practice using her words, not actions, to get what she wants. If she wants to play with a ball or borrow a pencil, remind her to wait for a positive response before just taking the item she wants.

Parents of typically developing children should explain that children with special needs may be struggling with the aforementioned social skills. This is an opportunity for them to take a leadership role and show respect to their classmates. They can help stop the cycle of bullying by supporting their special needs peers.

Stand up!

Stand Up!

This is a video made by a couple of young brothers to combat the bullying and attacks made against their family because their two young sisters are down syndrome. It’s a must see and share!

Loving Brothers Stand Up for Bullied Sisters With Down Syndrome:

One day a family woke up to a horrific sight outside their house…someone had
spray painted awful things about their 2 daughters with down syndrome. Meet the
Hollis Boys, age 6 and 7 that wouldn’t let hateful people treat their sisters or
anyone like that. Here is what they have to say. Watch, share, join
http://www.godtube.com/untilweflyaway/and http://www.facebook.com/everyonematters – to create a
world where EVERYONE is free to be EXACTLY who they are, without shame, apology
– or attack.

down syndrome


Advocacy: Special Education

word jumble spedWhat is Advocacy?

A good education is the next best thing to a pushy mother.” – Charles Schulz, cartoonist


If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools. One of those tools may be an advocate.

ad-vo-cate – Verb, transitive. To speak, plead or argue in favor of. Synonym is support.

1. One that argues for a cause; a supporter or defender; an advocate of civil rights.
2. One that pleads in another’s behalf; an intercessor; advocates for abused children and spouses.
3. A lawyer. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition)

An advocate performs several functions:

Supports, helps, assists, and aids
Speaks and pleads on behalf of others
Defends and argues for people or causes

Educational Advocates:

Why an advocate?

As educational advocates we evaluate children with disabilities and make recommendations about services, supports and special education programs. When we go to eligibility and IEP meetings, we are acting on your child’s behalf. As your child’s educational advocate we can negotiate for services by relying on our knowledge of the special education laws to implement tactics and strategies that will provide instruction that “fits” your child’s disability.

What Advocates Do:

Advocacy is not a mysterious process. Here is a quick overview of advocacy.

A. Gather Information

As your advocate we gather facts and information. As we gather information and organize documents, we learn about your child’s disability and educational history. We then use these facts and independent documentation to resolve disagreements and disputes with the school.

 B. Learn the Rules of the Game

As your child’s co-advocate it is your responsibility to educate yourselves about your school district. You will need to know how decisions are made and by whom.

Advocates know about legal rights. They know that a child with a disability is entitled to an “appropriate” education (FAPE), not the “best” education, nor an education that “maximizes the child’s potential.” They understand that “best” is a four-letter word that cannot be used by parents or advocates.

Advocates know the procedures that you as parents must follow to protect your rights and your child’s rights.

C. Plan and Prepare

We know that planning prevents problems. Advocates do not expect school personnel to tell them about rights and responsibilities. We have read and are familiar with the special education laws, regulations, and cases to get answers to your questions.

We have learned how to use test scores to monitor your child’s progress in special education.

We will help you prepare for meetings, create agendas, write objectives, and use meeting worksheets and follow-up letters to clarify problems to nail down agreements.

D. Keep Written Records

Because documents are often the keys to success, as advocates we must keep written records. We have learned that if a statement is not written down, it was not said. We make requests in writing and write polite follow-up letters to document events, discussions, and meetings.

E. Ask Questions, Listen to Answers

We are not afraid to ask questions. When we ask questions, we listen carefully to answers. As your advocate we know how to use “Who, What, Why, Where, When, How, and Explain Questions” (5 Ws + H + E) to discover the true reasons for positions taken by the school professionals, administrators, and parents.

F. Identify Problems

We can define and describe problems from all angles, by using our knowledge of interests, fears, and positions to develop strategies. We are problem solvers not “the hired gun.” We will not waste valuable time and energy looking for people to blame.

G. Propose Solutions

As a parent of a special needs child we know that you must negotiate with schools for special education services. As your co-advocate we will negotiate, discuss issues and make offers or proposals. We are all seeking “win-win” solutions that will satisfy the interests of you the parent, the child, and school professional.

Your Assignment:

Plan for the Future

What are the long-term goals you have for your child? What do you envision for your child in the future?

Most parents are focused on the present and haven’t given much thought towards the future. Do you expect your child to be an independent, self-sufficient member of the community? Although some children with disabilities will require assistance as adults, most will grow up to be adults who hold jobs, get married, and live independently.

In order to achieve the goals of what you want for your child in the future you need to have a vision. Through this vision your child is more likely to achieve these goals.

If you believe others will make long-term plans for your child and provide your child with the necessary skills to be an independent, self sufficient member of society, you are likely to be disappointed.

Answer These Questions:

What do I want for my child? What are the goals for my child’s future? Do we have a master plan for our child’s education?

If your goal is for your child to grow up to be an independent adult, what will he/she need to learn before your child leaves the public school system?

And finally… what do you see for your future as the parent of a special needs individual?

Develop a Master Plan ;

If you are a typical parent, you don’t have a master plan. You have no idea where you are, where you need to go, or how to get there, and when you get there what to do? It is your responsibility to make long-term plans for your child, do NOT expect school personnel to do this for you.

Begin by thinking about your vision for your child’s future. What are your long-term goals for your child? What will your child need to learn? What services and supports will your child need to meet these goals?

Are you ready to be a co-advocate? Run out and pick up this list of supplies that will help you get started:

You will need:

  • Two 3-ring      notebooks (one for your child’s file; one for information about your      child’s disability and educational information.
  • 3-hole punch
  • Highlighters
  • Package of      sticky notes
  • #10 Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Calendar
  • Journal
  • Contact log
  • Small tape      recorder
  • Special Needs NJ phone number
  • A co-advocate

Call Special Needs NJ today 973-534-3402 to start advocacy services for you and your child.


banner blue puzzleUnderstanding Aspergers:

A   Anxiety seems to come out of nowhere sometimes for no reason. I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing. Sometimes I worry a lot and am scared that I might be a bad person.

S Strange thoughts run through my head at random. Sometimes I can make them stop but other times I can’t. I associate strange things (like the number 11 with white bread dipped in tomato sauce).

P People don’t understand me sometimes and I’m afraid regular ed. kids will never accept me. They don’t think the way I do and don’t understand me.

E Eye Contact bothers me. I don’t know why I have trouble looking at people when I talk to them, nor do I know why I don’t like being touched?

R Routine is important and helps me focus. I hate major change and fear the unknown. I worry a lot about the future and find it hard to organize my life when my routine changes.

G Games, especially video and computer games that let you escape from reality are favorites of “Aspies.” I have an excellent memory when it comes to navigating tunnels in an RPG

E Escapism is vital. I don’t always understand the world around myself or the way others think. I protect myself by escaping into my own world.

R Rejection is hard to deal with, especially if it’s by peers of your own age group.

S Safety, Security, and Satisfaction are things all “Aspies” crave but seldom find unless they try. We don’t succeed in “normal” ways but many of us have special talents and are truly brilliant, something most of us are!

Do some of these describe your child? Aspergers is not a disability but a state of uniqueness! Children on the Autism spectrum live their lives outside the “norms” of society, or so we are taught to believe. However, I see these students as individuals, each with their own set of rules by which to play. With the right instruction, coping mechanisms, and life skills tools they can learn to tolerate those things that separate them from the mainstream.

Contact us today to get started on helping your unique child manage the world he/she lives in.

call 973-534-3402 for free 1/2 hour phone consult

or email specialneedsnj@hotmail.com to schedule a session

Special Needs NJ

Who are we and what do we do?

We provide:

  1. Tutoring for both Special Needs and academically struggling students
  2. Applied Behavioral Therapy (ABA) Therapy for Autism and other disabilities in your home.
  3. Advocacy to parents understanding your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), which includes:  A. Interpretation, B.Preparation C. Monitoring and observation, D. Meeting attendance, E. Letter Writing, etc…
  4. Provide in home care for your disabled family member
  5. In home care for elderly, companionship, meal prep, med management etc…
  6. Errands and transportation to Dr’s., store, pharmacy

Has your child been newly classified?

banner contact us

What’s a parent to do?

Has your child recently been classified as having special needs at school and you don’t know what to do next?

Stick with us and we will get you through!

Welcome to the Special Needs NJ page!

I we are  Special Educators that provide services to parents, students, basically families of all those of us that just don’t live within the box of mainstream society.

So, add this page to your favorites and stay tuned for invaluable information, resources, events, and yes even advice of how to get through that IEP meeting, diagnostic testing, or Child Study team phone call.

You’re not alone!

We can get through this together.

We are so glad you’re here and look forward to helping you through the challenges of advocating for a special family member

Call Special Needs NJ today 973-534-3402 to start services for you and your child.

Need Academic Tutoring for your child?

Do you have an aging parent and need assistance, home care, or just a night out?

Call Special Needs NJ today 973-534-3402  we can get you and your family the help you need.