Crystal Sanford is an SLP, Autism Mom, and owner of Sanford Autism consulting. She is sharing her professional and parental journey. Crystal’s focus is on IEP advocacy and parent support.
It’s really integral to include parents as part of the team. The whole process can feel daunting for parents. To begin with, parents can feel isolated in dealing, and navigating the special ed process can make it especially hard. Therapists can feel defensive and nervous, but parents can be really overwhelmed and advocates play such an important role. IEPs are really a different language for parents. Advocates go in as a liaison and support person to bridge the gap between school and parent. They will ask some of the parents’ concerns, discuss goals, and make sure the parents’ voice is heard.
One thing about the pandemic was the creation of Zoom IEP conferences. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to 20 sweaty people sitting around a room. The addition of Zoom conferences has allowed the setting to be more flexible and collaborative. In the past, it’s been very “us against them” in some cases, now we’re all together and we’re focusing on the success of the child.
Parents should always trust their gut and ask questions. For parents that are new to the process, think about your child and what works well for them. Use that information. If things are coming up that you’re not sure about, ask those questions. Be persistent in what you want for your kids, but also be a listener. The law requires special education staff and therapists to provide what is appropriate for your child, not what’s best. Crystal works with parents on understanding the difference, and how to find balance.
It is so important for parents, therapists, and other professionals that are involved in the IEP or service process to remember that the key focus is the child. Parents really are the expert on their child. Crystal’s tip to convey this is to develop a “Parent Input Statement”. Every year they should draft a statement to include who their child is, their diagnosis, what works well at home, focus points for the school year, and the best way to contact them. As the child gets older, include them in that process as a segue to self-advocacy.
It is okay to think out-of-the-box for kids. It’s important for therapists to advocate why they are teaching things and how they are working for them. Oftentimes, skills and therapy gets generalized; it’s necessary to get therapy into real situations, especially in older grades in middle and high school when you’re working on big life skills.
Crystal has such a great perspective on therapy and parent involvement as a professional and parent. I hope that by listening to this episode, you’ve found some tips to put into action in your next IEP meeting or therapy session, whether you’re the parent or the provider! If you have any questions, please reach out to me and be sure to sign up for my free webinar, Autism Strategies for Toddlers and Preschool Aged Students.
Crystal is the owner and director of Sanford Autism Consulting, a consulting practice offering IEP advocacy and parent empowerment classes for fellow special needs families throughout the U.S. Crystal specializes in supporting fellow families impacted by Autism, as well as other unique challenges such as learning disabilities and ADHD. To learn more about IEP assistance and help advocating for the special education your child deserves, contact Crystal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Register for my new FREE live webinar- Autism Therapy Strategies for Toddlers and Preschool Aged Students
— California IEP Help. IEP and Autism Advocate
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— Thriving Special Families
— From Diagnosis to Empowerment: A Guide for New Special Needs Parents
— Understanding Your IEP Rights
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