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A Day in Our Shoes Brings Passion and Hope to Special Education Advocacy

No parent expects to be raising a special needs child.

It’s a surprise. It’s a shock. It can be overwhelming, terrifying, emotionally draining, and isolating. And yet, any parent of a special needs child or disabled child will tell you how that precious little one has changed their worldview forever – in the best possible way.

Every child is a treasure. And every child, according to special education advocate Lisa Lightner, deserves an education that’s tailored to their needs.

That’s why she started A Day in Our Shoes, initially a blog designed to share information and resources, helping parents to make more informed decisions when it comes to disabled kids and – specifically – their IEPs. An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, is a tailored plan designed to support students with disabilities in the educational setting.

“Think of it like a personalized roadmap that outlines specific learning goals, accommodations, and services that cater to a student’s unique needs,” Lisa explains. “It’s incredibly important because it ensures that kids with special needs have equal opportunities to succeed in school, just like their peers, and helps educators and parents stay on the same page about the best ways to support the student’s growth and development.”

Lisa has been in the trenches – in fact, her journey with special needs and IEPs is both personal and professional. As a dedicated Special Education Advocate, she’s worn many hats, from serving on the boards of various disability organizations to earning the title of Arc Advocate of the Year in 2012. With a rich history in advocacy, including a stint as a Compliance Monitor for the PA Bureau of Special Education, Lisa’s commitment to the cause runs deep. She’s even championed the Right to Education Task Force in her county, a testament to her belief that every child in Pennsylvania deserves a fair shot at education.

But Lisa’s advocacy isn’t just limited to boardrooms and official meetings; she extends her support to families navigating the complexities of IEPs through her informative blog, A Day In Our Shoes. Here, she delves into the nitty-gritty of IEP meetings, offering guidance and resources to parents. Lisa’s passion is also fueled by her own experiences as a parent; one of her sons battles the challenges of dup15q and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, making her fight for disability rights all the more poignant and heartfelt.

Dealing with these types of disabilities isn’t easy. Dup15q is a chromosomal duplication on chromosome 15, and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy characterized by frequent seizures and cognitive impairment. This means that Lisa’s child faces complex medical and developmental challenges, requiring specialized care, interventions, and unwavering support from loved ones and professionals alike.

“I’m well aware of how important a good IEP is,” Lisa shares. “It can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your child’s education. But it’s a complicated process, and both parents and teachers can often feel lost.”

So she created the Don’t IEP Alone TOOLKIT to combat this struggle. “It’s not an e-book,” Lisa explains. “There are plenty of those out there, and they’re really limited in how they can help. This toolkit is a comprehensive resource, packed with step-by-step guides, templates, video tutorials, and real-world examples. It’s designed to empower parents, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to advocate effectively for their child’s education.”

She adds that she wanted to create something interactive and hands-on, a lifeline for families navigating the often overwhelming IEP process. Lisa shares, “I’ve helped over 3,000 parents over the past decade. And you know what? Our kids are different, but the IEP process never changes.”

Lisa, with years of experience attending hundreds of IEP meetings, emphasizes that while every child is unique, the IEP process remains consistent. She offers tools and methodologies, distilled from her professional expertise, to guide parents through a structured IEP process, stressing that preparation and documentation simplify IEP meetings, enabling parents to actively participate and effectively advocate for their child’s educational needs.

The toolkit offers a structured 4-step approach, simplifying the intricate IEP process and turning overwhelmed parents into empowered advocates. This comprehensive online library provides printable resources, so that parents and advocates are well-prepared to champion their child’s educational needs.

In addition, the toolkit offers over 200 pages divided into nine sections, accompanied by printable PDFs, to assist parents in advocating for their child’s IEP needs. Users will learn a 4-step process to address any IEP concern, enabling them to comprehensively review their IEP, identify evaluation areas, suggest goals, and recommend strategies. The toolkit now includes video tutorials for each section, ensuring parents are well-prepared and informed.

While this toolkit is designed for parents, Lisa recognizes the integral role that teachers play in the IEP process – and so she is now launching a special IEP toolkit for teachers. “This is important because teachers are on the front lines, directly interacting with students and implementing the IEP on a daily basis,” Lisa explains. “They need tailored resources and strategies that not only help them understand the intricacies of the IEP but also support them in effective communication with parents and the broader IEP team.”

Lisa believes that by equipping teachers with their own toolkit, the future can hold a more collaborative and informed environment, ultimately benefiting the students who rely on these plans for their success.

Learn more: https://adayinourshoes.com/