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Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Advocating for Appropriate Education

boarder of brightly colored pencils with text: "IEP Individualized Education Plan"

Dawn connected with Disability Network Southwest Michigan for assistance in advocating for her daughter’s education. Her daughter, Shayla, is 15 and has an intellectual disability and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Shayla was attending a very large high school in her region and was struggling with both online instruction and in-person classes; her attendance was poor due to the stress the school environment created for her. Dawn felt Shayla would do better in a smaller setting. When Dawn contacted a smaller alternative high school, she was told that they were full and Shayla would have to go on a waiting list. At that point Dawn was very frustrated. She was considering enrolling her daughter in another small school in a neighboring community; however, that would require a 60 mile commute each day. That’s when Dawn contacted Disability Network Southwest Michigan for assistance in advocating for her daughters’ educational needs.

Our staff reached out to the Director of the county Intermediate School District (ISD), which is the agency that oversees special education. The ISD Director contacted the alternative education high school to discuss Shayla’s needs. The Director was able to bypass the waiting list and get an enrollment meeting for Shayla right away. Our staff accompanied Dawn and Shayla to the enrollment meeting to ensure their questions were answered and they were comfortable with the new setting.

When Shayla enrolled in the alternative school they were not going to test her for evaluation, even though it has been several years since she her last test. Dawn went to the school and advocated for the need for testing and was able to get them to agree to it. Dawn told us she never would have been able to advocate for her daughter before working with our staff and learning advocacy skills.

The alternative school has turned out to be a good fit for Shayla in many ways; she is happy to be attending school consistently now and is thriving in this environment.