Back to School, Back to Advocating: ARD Meetings

Advocating back to school special education services
Building Relationships for Student Success

Just like that, summer is over and it’s time to get back into the rhythm of early mornings, packing lunches, homework, endless activities, and lest we forget—ARD meetings. If you’re a special needs mama, this one is for you.

ARD is the acronym for Admission, Review, and Dismissal of special education services.

Much like anything with our children, knowing when/how to request services, working with educators, and sometimes calling in reinforcements can be an overwhelming task. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to read on or reach out.

Requesting Special Education Services

Thinking back 10 years ago when my oldest started Kinder, I had no idea what I would be in for in the realm of school. It went something like this: near daily phone calls, constant marks in his folder, plenty of time spent finding the right therapist, and plenty of anxiety for us both.

We made it through several years of elementary school before requesting special education services. Having had wonderful teachers and administration in the first couple of years of elementary school, we didn’t feel it necessary. However, there was a specific change of events that lead us to request services. Advocating for the proper accommodations at times felt like a full-time job.

Read More Here: Parenting with ADHD

There are two options for evaluation: an outside evaluation completed by a psychologist or a request for the school to complete the evaluation. If you would like the school to proceed, please note there are specific guidelines to getting the evaluation scheduled and completed and getting that initial ARD meeting set up. My personal decision was to consult an outside psychologist who specialized in evaluating school-aged children. Disclaimer: My older boys are double covered when it comes to health insurance. Otherwise testing in this capacity might have been out of financial reach for us.

Relationships with Educators

One of the most crucial pieces to any part of parenting is the relationships we have with those who support our children day in and day out. We’ve had experiences with all types of people, from Trunchbull to Miss Honey. I’ll take the latter any day of the week. Learning to successfully navigate these relationships has proven to be the most important piece of special education.

As a working mom of three, time management is of utmost importance. As our kiddos get older and move from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school, the dynamics amongst educators will most certainly shift. Nonetheless, keeping strong and respectful relationships with their entire team of educators is key to the success of the student. As moms, we know our children better than anyone else, and teachers need our honest input in order to guide them through their days at school.

When relationships come effortlessly, it’s wonderful. Some relationships require extra care—personalities don’t always jive, situations cause tensions to be high, and seeing eye-to-eye on the best solution isn’t always the case. I’ve found it helpful in these situations to have icebreaker conversations. Getting to know each other as adults and forming bonds is just as important as it is for educators and students. Remember that both parent and educator are working toward a common goal helps to bolster these relationships.

One of the most helpful things for me is to always let the education team know that I’m available via email, phone call, or text any time. A collaborative approach, one that doesn’t feel rigid by imposed rules and regulations goes a long way. Get to know your kids’ teachers, be respectful of their positions, and be willing to have crucial conversations. If all else fails, hire an education advocate to help both sides through the process.

Education Advocates

Did you know there are individuals out there who specialize in writing special education plans? This might take a little bit of searching. However, hiring an expert in the field of special education is one of the best investments I have ever made. I am not well versed in the rules and regulations of special education, but our advocate is. I don’t know how to effectively write an individualized education plan (IEP), but our advocate does. If there is one piece of advice I wish someone had given me, it would be to hire an advocate early in the process and include them in every meeting.

Back to school and back to advocating doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety and dread. We can build successful relationships and collaborate on the best solution for each student. No two children are made alike, and some might require more attention. This fact shouldn’t hinder the relationship between parents and educators but bring us together for ultimate success.

Related Reading: IEPs, 504s, & How to Advocate for Your Kid’s Learning Differences

Raising a Child with Autism: What I Wish I Knew in the Beginning


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