Authors Rich Weinfeld and Michelle Davis are cofounders and directors of the ACB Weinfeld-Davis Advocacy Training Institute, and they provide intensive training to both parents and professionals who work with special needs children. “Wait a minute,” you might say, “my child is gifted; not special needs!” But stop and think: gifted children DO have special needs. The typical classroom is not geared toward their needs, especially since the enactment of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) legislation. Some gifted kids are twice exceptional and do have disabilities such as Asperger's Syndrome or ADHD, it is true, but even a gifted child who does not have learning challenges deserves to have a plan in place to have his needs met.
This book has a broad scope and addresses all sorts of special needs. It is an important educational tool not only for the parents and advocates of gifted children, but for those who seek to to help any special needs child. The author's intention is to educate the people who act as advocates, whether they are paid consultants or concerned friends or parents. An advocate will be less likely to feel intimidated by edu-speak, and less likely to have emotional reactions that may hinder progress. But to be an effective advocate, one must be well informed. The introduction states, “Knowledge is power. When partners in education are armed with accurate information, positive outcomes will happen for children.”
Additionally, an advocate can interpret for the parent and ask the hard questions or suggest more radical accommodations than the school may feel they can offer. Once an idea has been raised by an outsider”, school administrators may be willing to consider it. The guide suggests that advocates should be well informed about the law and sure of research data.
Throughout the book, there are sections highlighted under the heading, TOOLS. These contain various charts and lists, such as the “best practices checklist” which is a 19 point listing of what you will find in a successful classroom. Examples from the best practices list include:
open ended outlets for the demonstration of knowledge
various modes of expression, materials, and technology
activities that focus on individual students' gifts and interests
The guide will acquaint readers with mysterious sounding acronyms such as NCLB, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), FAPE (free appropriate public education), and my personal favorite, PLOP! (I won't spoil the fun by revealing what PLOP stands for!) If you don't know the difference between an IEP and an FBA, you should read this book before that next school meeting.
Page 80 contains a list of websites that pertain to legal information regarding education. A handy glossary will ensure that you are fluent in educational acronyms and terminology. This is a great little guidebook, just loaded with information. I wish I'd had it's wisdom before I had to attend my first school meeting!