As you and your child settle into the new routine this fall, whether your child is attending school virtually, in-person but physically distanced, or some combination of the two, you may find that your child needs new or different assistive technology (AT) for support. When this AT is necessary to enable your child to access a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE), it is the responsibility of your Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 team to include the AT in your child’s plan, and it is the responsibility of your local educational agency (LEA) to provide that technology (read about how LEAs fund AT).
Advocacy and Informational Resources for Parents of Children with Disabilities
Getting your school-age child the AT they need through an IEP or 504 plan can be a challenging process in the best of times, but with the entire education system in upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process may be even more complicated now.
To help you understand your child’s rights and advocate for your child effectively, we’ve rounded up a few resources. These organizations have information and resources available online, and some can directly help with your advocacy needs – whether you’re trying to acquire new assistive technology, or set up any other education-related supports your student needs.
- The Arc of Pennsylvania – provides resources and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. They have posted a recording of a detailed webinar hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) (also available on the PEAL Center’s website) called “Students with IEPs and the 2020-21 School Year: What Families in PA Need to Know.” You can also visit their COVID-19 resource page, which includes sections on education.
- The Arc of Philadelphia – provides advocacy for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their parents in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. Learn more about their child advocacy services.
- Disability Rights Pennsylvania – provides information, referral to other organizations, advocacy, and legal action to help people with disabilities who are experiencing problems or have questions related to their disability, including the areas of education and assistive technology. They have a COVID-19 Announcements and Resources page with a section on education.
- The Education Law Center – advocates for access to school and needed services on behalf of underserved students, including children with disabilities. They have a 2020 Back To School Guide for Pennsylvania Public School Students that includes a section on students with disabilities and accessing supports and services through IEPs and 504 plans.
- HUNE – provides free bilingual English and Spanish training, technical assistance and individual assistance to families of children with disabilities on all aspects of special education and supports. They are currently hosting a series of special education intensive trainings for parents and their website lists a variety of resources.
- PaTTAN – an initiative of the Bureau of Special Education in Pennsylvania that helps build capacity of local education agencies to serve students with disabilities. They have a page devoted to COVID 19 Pandemic Support for Education.
- The PEAL Center – provides education and advocacy for families, youth, and young adults with disabilities. Their website has a wealth of information, including the same webinar mentioned above from PDE as well as a list of resources shared during the webinar in both English and Spanish. They also have an entire page dedicated to the 2020-2021 school year and resources related to COVID-19.
A Few Final Words of Wisdom
Our staff members who are parents of children with disabilities shared a few final insights:
Build Your Own Support Network
“If I wasn’t able to check in with another parent or a trusted teacher and get either help or validation about the madness of trying to virtually support my child right now, I think I would have given up. It’s really important to have people you can check in with to be able to feel empowered so you can go back out there and do what you need to do to help get your child what they need.” – Bonaia Rosado
Remember These Systems Exist for Your Child’s Benefit – Use Them!
“You have to assume that you are your child’s only advocate, and you have to be their biggest advocate, because sometimes it feels like the system is trying to give you the bare minimum. But in the end, these systems are in place for your child’s benefit – it is your child’s right to have a free, appropriate, public education. So don’t give up! Gather the information and support you need to get your child the support they need!” – Sarah Love
PATF Can Help
“Our borrower Lindsey said it best, ‘After going through all the stress with doctors, DME suppliers, and insurance… PATF was a true blessing.’ Her daughter Maci needed an iPad for at-home use, and Lindsey was running in circles trying to find funding and she felt she was running out of time. Our loans are available with no fees and with no- or low-interest. We work hard to keep the process straightforward and fast and to combine funding resources whenever possible to lower the cost of the loan. We know the difference the right assistive technology can make in a young person’s life, and we want to help people get it.” – Susan Tachau