Advocates unite! – How not to accidentally uphold the status quo

You may have seen a meme going around that has a statement along the lines of:

“Every time the IEP team gives access to one child, the doors open a little wider for others.”

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if that statement was actually true? Unfortunately, it’s largely not.

Watch this webinar with Dr. Priya Lalvani, hosted by Inclusion for ALL, PAVE, and The Governor’s Office of Education Ombuds to learn about the potentially detrimental impact individual parent advocacy can have – for the parents themselves and for the larger community, and what to do instead (Hint: Unite!).

And then scroll down for more ways to make an impact for each and every student.

To find the slide deck and transcript click here.

What you can (and should) do now:

Share information about best practices (i.e. inclusive education) with the school board, the school district administration, the state educational leadership, and legislators. Give comment at the school board meeting and the state Board of Education meeting. Click here for examples on public comment, and look to our resources tab for research, articles, and trainings to share. Persevere in this – one conversation is rarely enough, but don’t let this reality discourage you or make you seek out a different path for your student. Even if you’re privileged enough to do that.

Join a grassroots organization (preferably a disabled-led one), that advocates for inclusive education. If you’re in Washington State, join Inclusion for ALL Facebook community! Make sure to listen to the real experts, disabled folks themselves.

Make an effort to talk to other families in your school community, in your district, in your area, and even in your state (if that’s all old hat, you can always also participate on the national or international level). If you’re successful in your advocacy efforts, don’t keep quiet about it. Inspire, motivate, and share your experiences with other families. The I in the IEP can often trip us up and divide us, but it shouldn’t. Show up and keep showing up in numbers!

Seek out system solutions, not individual workarounds.

Avoid advocating for your child in ways that undermine inclusive efforts for all, such as saying things like “My child doesn’t belong in the self-contained classroom,” when segregated settings shouldn’t exist in the first place, or “My child performs at grade level/ doesn’t have behavioral issues/ doesn’t need that much help, so they should be included.” It’s a dangerous path to deepening inequities to try to qualify for an inclusive placement.

Look around in your community and find out which students are not included. Look around and find out which families aren’t involved in inclusive efforts. Disproportionality isn’t simply a word that we use about unfavorable district data, there is also immense disproportionality in the families whose children are included and who engage with schools and school districts. We need to see who is not at the table and not just make room, but make a real effort at engagement, involvement and shifting leadership.

Rally the families of nondisabled students. Get involved in the PTSA, not by starting or participating in a a separate group, but by making sure there’s meaningful representation in the existing organization and that events and activities are accessible to all and designed universally.

Make sure students are leaning about Disability History and Pride at school and have meaningful representation available. Take a look at this Disability History and Pride Curriculum from the Office of Education Ombuds called One Out Of Five.

Do you have other ideas to share or ways to ensure each and every child is included? Tell us.

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