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Get Your Claws Out!

September 9, 2018
Maria Arias
Community Voices
A Latina family of a young girl, younger boy, mom, and dad pose for a holiday picture with red decorative trees in background.

My name is Maria Arias and I am the mother of two children with disabilities. My daughter Tatyana was initially attending a community school, but it became clear that they were not prepared to meet her needs. It was agonizing. When I got the news that she had to be placed in a special education class and receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), I didn’t know what to do. An already confusing process was made more difficult by the fact that my primary language is Spanish, but Tatyana’s IEP was written in English.

The first thing I did was attend English classes given in the NYC public libraries. However, I still struggled to understand this intense, legal document. I came across a flyer advertising a workshop by INCLUDEnyc called “Understanding Your Child’s IEP.” During the workshop, I had many questions, but the family educator listened to my concerns and offered me guidance on what to do.

I continued to fight and learn all that there was to learn. At one point, I called INCLUDEnyc’s Help Line and a family educator reassured me and guided me through the process of requesting mediation. He taught me that if I was to be properly equipped, I must take notes and keep records of emails, phone calls, and names of people I spoke with. He also provided me with many resources. I ate it up! I learned everything I could about the mediation process and on the day of the meeting, with 11 people around the table, we won a private school placement for Tatyana, paid for by the state.

I’m so grateful that I found INCLUDEnyc because their help has been crucial to me. Today, I hope to be an example for people who believe they cannot get what they need for their children, in any language. Success is possible. You have to educate yourself, look for resources, and get your claws out. If I could do it, so can you!