Workshop empowers parents to help students


Nearly 20 parents showed up for the inaugural Empowering Parents workshop sponsored by the Youth Leadership Transformation After-School Program.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.

Parents received a ton of information to help them help their special needs child succeed in school at the inaugural Empowering Parents workshop sponsored by the Youth Leadership Transformation After-School Program.

"You're your child's biggest advocate" was the message delivered loud and clear by keynote speaker Margaret H. Harris, a student advocate at Take Stock in Children, which provides mentors to a select number of students from middle school and into high school and college.

Harris discussed laws governing Exceptional Student Education and shared tips on how parents can be effective advocates for their children.

She said parents need to be educated about their children's rights to make sure their children receive the resources and services guaranteed by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

"Be observant and make necessary referrals for evaluation," Harris said. "Be an active participant in your child's education."

The workshop, which was attended by nearly 20 parents, was held last Thursday at Landmark Holy Temple of God, where the after-school program meets from 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at the church at 1220 NE 23rd Ave.

Vivian Haynes Tinker, founder of the program, was pleased with the program and the outcome.

"The parents were engaged and asking questions," said Haynes Tinker, adding that bullying and how parents can help their children will be the topic of a parent empowerment workshop in April.

Harris said children with special needs may have delayed skills, hearing difficulties, vision issues, autism, learning disabilities, speech or language impairment and other disabilities. They can also be gifted students requiring a more challenging curriculum.

Harris said children with special needs who meet a certain criteria and have been diagnosed with a disability can receive special services provided free in public schools. They also are eligible for an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, that describes a plan and services needed to achieve certain goals. Some of those services could include an FCAT waiver or a special place and extended time to take a test.

Harris said children with special needs may be eligible for services under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal civil rights law that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination related to their disabilities. The Section 504 plan can provide accommodations such as seating closer to the blackboard for children with a vision impairment.

Harris said school officials may say they don't have funding to provide special education services, but the American Disabilities Act provides that services have to be provided.

Harris encouraged parents to learn all they can about their children's rights. She suggested reading "Special Education Law" by Peter and Pamela Wright and going to Google on the Internet to search for "Exceptional Student Education."

"You need to learn all you can," Harris said. "Don't just take somebody's word."

Harris said parents should not let people label their children with something that doesn't apply, but she noted, that sometimes children miss out on services because parents don't request them.

"Sometimes a label is a good thing because it will enable the children to get services they need," Harris said.

Jane Dickerson, who, along with Candace Dickerson, serves as director of the Youth Leadership Transformation After-School program, said parents should not let pride keep them from getting help for their children.

"Put your pride on a shelf," said Jane Dickerson. "Don't let pride get in the way of getting help for your child."

For more information, call Haynes Tinker at 352-375-8822.

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