ARD. Three letters that are unnerving for even the most level headed of people.
ARD stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal. If you have a child eligible for special education services through your school district, these three little words will become ingrained in your being.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most ARD meetings are going to be done virtually this fall; however, the structure and content will be the same as an in-person meeting.
What is an ARD Meeting?
What is an ARD meeting and what can you expect at your first one? An ARD meeting typically takes place at least once a year, but sometimes more often depending on the child’s educational needs. It is made up of a committee and the members are usually the child’s teacher(s), administrator(s), a diagnostician, possibly a speech pathologist or a licensed school psychologist, other therapists, and the parents. The number of people may vary, but the most important part of this is that YOU, the parent, are an integral member of the ARD committee. Your voice, wishes and comments must be heard and respected.
I still vividly remember the intimidating feeling in the pit of my stomach when I walked into my first ARD meeting and saw all of those people sitting around the table. There was lots of paperwork, acronyms, percentages, and an agenda to follow. It was all so structured. So sterile. But aside from all of those things, the most important element was my child. Please know dear moms, that at the heart of it all, the school district also wants what is the best for your child. As do you. There are many things I would have liked to know before that first ARD meeting.
Know Your Rights
Did you know that you have the right to ask for services for your child if you feel he or she is missing something that can help them be successful?
This could be preferential seating, alternative lunch seating, a shadow to help them transition to a different class, a nurse, headphones to mute loud noises, and many other things. Talking to other parents that have gone through special education is a great way to learn about many of the possible accommodations that could be available for your child.
Did you know that you have the right to bring an advocate to your ARD meeting?
An advocate is a person that is well versed in special education needs, services, and laws. Their job is to help families ensure that their child is getting all of their educational needs met and to be a support system for parents. Navigating the world of special needs education can be confusing, and an advocate can be a big help and well worth the expense. If hiring an advocate is out of the budget, then I recommend taking another person with you in order to have someone that can also listen, take notes, and ask questions. They can be your support system if it becomes too much. And if it does become too much or you need some time to think things through, you can ask for a recess period.
Did you know that you have to the right to say NO if you are not in agreement with what the school district is proposing for your child?
If something doesn’t feel right, you do not have to accept it. Remember that you are also part of the ARD committee and the entire ARD committee has to agree in order for services to be in place. Not agreeing will most likely mean that you will have to reconvene in 10 days in order to find some sort of resolution. But again, you do not have to agree. You know your child the best.
Make sure that you have any reports that will be discussed at the ARD meeting at least 5 days before your scheduled date so that you have time to review them and make any notes. If you have not received any paperwork, ASK! Writing down all of your questions beforehand is also helpful so that you have a clear thought process during the meeting and so that you are able to remain calm and even keeled. You have the right to record your ARD meeting; however, if you are recording, the school is likely recording the meeting as well.
ARD meetings can be emotional and intense, but keeping steady will allow you to ask those important questions as needed. And it is hard to do, mommas. Because those are our babies and we want to ensure that they are getting the accommodations needed in order for them to be their best.
As both a special needs parent and an educator, I can tell you that being prepared is key. Take notes, make suggestions, talk to other parents in your community that also walk the special education road, but most importantly, never stop believing in your babies. They are destined for great things.