Parents of children with disabilities are learning how to navigate Mississippi’s public education system and ensure kids receive the services they need.
Children with 13 conditions such as autism, visual and hearing impairments and physical disabilities in public schools must receive special services by law. That’s according to Mona Spells-Adou with the Mississippi Department of Education. They’re hosting a conference to educate parents about their children’s rights.
“Because in order for parents to be able to hold district staff accountable and to hold us accountable, they need to understand what that law says and how it affects the outcome of their student,” Spells-Adou said.
Joy Hogge with the advocacy group Families as Allies says accessing services children need doesn’t always happen, that’s why parents building relationships with educators is important.
“With COVID going on and all that has happened with that, the laws didn’t change and the rights didn’t change but helping them to access that during the time of COVID is more challenging,” Hogge said.
Lenora Cooks of Vicksburg has a 15-year old daughter with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia and a 17-year old son, with ADHD. She is at the conference talking to educators and other parents.
“I’m learning that they can improve their education and I asked about dyslexia and I’m getting help with that so I’m learning a lot,” Cooks said.
This year the annual conference was held virtually and in-person with about 170 participants.
According to Mississippi Lifetracks, which reports data on K-12 public education in the state in 2018-2019, 408,589 students were enrolled in public schools and nearly 69,130 had disabilities.