2018 marked the end of a three-year grant to the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York (“LDA”) for its Equitable Education Advocacy Program, which helps parents build their capacity to advocate for a child with a learning disability.
Parents are often not sure what kinds of accommodations can help their child succeed in school, or what is mandated by federal legislation. When it comes to standing their ground during school meetings, it is easy for parents to feel ill-equipped and overwhelmed.
That’s where education advocates come into play.
LDA’s advocates conduct an initial assessment of the child and family’s needs and gather information from that child’s school district. Based on that information, the advocates can help facilitate testing requests, research accommodation and support options to include in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP or 504 plan), and participate in Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings alongside of the family. Perhaps most importantly, advocates provides moral support to families throughout the process.
Families who require legal representation are even able to be linked to pro-bono legal support at Fair Hearings through LDA. As families grow in confidence in their advocacy skills, the advocate steps aside to let the family lead the interactions and shift their focus to newly linked families.
Over the course of the three-year grant, LDA had some tremendous successes:
- The program served 305 students and their families.
- LDA made a concerted effort to reach families from underserved urban school districts – Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Lackawanna (New York).
- LDA made a huge shift in the population served – from a small fraction of families with advocacy services from urban districts to roughly 80% of families by the close of the grant.
An extensive pre- and post-assessment of approximately 20% of the families in the first two years of the program yielded very positive results:
- The percentage of parents reporting that their child has a positive attitude about school increased from 18% to 78% after working with an advocate.
- The percent of parents who felt that all of their concerns and recommendations were addressed at the current year’s IEP meeting increased from 6% to 94% following program participation.
- The percent of parents agreeing that their child’s school communicates regularly regarding their progress on IEP goals improved from 3% to 93% following program participation.
Despite the conclusion of the grant and the need for additional funding to support the program, LDA continues to offer this critically important program to the community. For more information on the program visit www.ldaofwny.org/ or call: 1-888-250-5031
This grant maps to three of the Tower Foundation’s results statements:
- Children with learning disabilities are … connected to services that meet their ongoing individual needs.
- Families are informed about learning disabilities and can identify and navigate available services.
- Communities value persons with learning disabilities and accommodate their needs.