The type of help the family may receive depends on the disability, said Roz Welch, the parent consultant for the Utah Parent Center serving the Davis School District.
Within Utah is a myriad of agencies geared to helping disabled children.
Some, like Autism Information Resources, provide information, referral and training on autism and autism spectrum disorders.
Others, like the Family to Family Network, provide information and support to families with a disabled member.
Most provide information and support, while some state programs, through the Department of Human Services, can provide services which would otherwise require funding from the families.
The UPC is one of the agencies parents of disabled children most rely on, and is referenced by nearly every disability specific organization in the state. There are similar parent training centers in each state.
The non-profit center works with organizations providing resources for disabled children throughout Utah, but four school districts, including Davis, have a parent consultant, like Welch.
The consultants work with parents to help them start the process of finding the help they need specific to their child’s disability.
The consultants are not just educated professionals. Each has a child/children with disabilities, making them uniquely qualified to understand the fears and frustrations parents often feel.
Welch has an autistic child.
Within the Davis School District there are 7,000 students in special education, and each is entitled to “free appropriate education,” Welch said.
That means each student has an IEP (Individualized Education Program). “Many parents don’t know what they’re entitled to, and want to know about related therapies and services.”
“Special education is an entitlement,” Welch said. Once a student is 18, they’re considered an adult,” Welch said.
However, there are still many support services available to the disabled after high school. Parents need to know what programs their child is eligible for.
Welch said she and her counterparts talk about issues related to the child’s disabilities. They don’t discuss funding resources, but can refer parents to agencies which can help with that too.
The UPC works with the families of children, newborns through high school.
Welch said when she gets a call from a parent that something in their child’s program is not working, she interviews the parents to try and figure out what’s not being done.
Sometimes, Welch said, it’s because the parents don’t understand the IEP process, which must be done at least once a year.
“A lot of parents are amazed at how much is being done for their child when the plan is explained to them,” Welch said
Often, she said, parents don’t know what their child is entitled to, and often they want to know about related services and therapies which may not be a part of what the school district offers.
But there are times when IEP or not, things don’t go well.
Sharla Jordan, of Kaysville, has four sons on the autism spectrum.
She said there are times teachers don’t believe a child is disabled, making it difficult on the child and the family.
The family hasn’t lived in Kaysville long, and Jordan said problems with one of their sons in school is one of the reasons the family moved.
She said sometimes teachers have to see a behavior, or they don’t believe the problems exists.
Jordan said she would like to see more training offered to teachers concerning the range of disabilities.