Intersectionality in Advocating for Children with Disabilities

Intersectionality in Advocating for Children with Disabilities
Impacting the Classroom
Intersectionality in Advocating for Children with Disabilities

Sep 12 2023 | 00:42:46

Episode September 12, 2023 00:42:46

Hosted By

Marnetta Larrimer

Show Notes

This episode deeply delves into the complexities of special education and intersectionality with Cheryl Poe. Cheryl Poe is the founder and Executive Director of Advocating 4 Kids, Inc., a Special Education Advocacy organization that provides resources, information, and workshops to parents and professionals with a special focus on addressing the needs of Black and Brown children with disabilities.

Cheryl shares her inspiring journey as she transitioned from being a mother battling racism within the educational system to becoming a tireless advocate for her son and other children. Throughout this episode, listeners are invited to explore the intricacies of special education advocacy, shedding light on the pressing need for systemic change. 

Cheryl shares valuable insights about parental rights, the long-term support required for neurodivergent children, and the importance of creating safe spaces for neurodivergent students and breaking down barriers to ensure inclusive learning environments.

Topics Discussed in This Episode

  • [00:00:56] What an advocate is and what they do
  • [00:02:49] How Cheryl got to where she is today
  • [00:12:55] What Cheryl wishes more people knew about the system
  • [00:18:41] Supporting people in making sure they have the right diagnosis
  • [00:21:57] Helping families where parents have language or educational barriers
  • [00:26:04] How advocacy intersects with a lack of inclusiveness in the classroom
  • [00:27:41] Cheryl’s advice for school leaders
  • [00:30:33] How the system needs to be addressed at the higher education level
  • [00:33:58] How the system can help parents find a safe welcome place for their children
  • [00:36:41] The first advice Cheryl would give to parents of Black or brown children
  • [00:39:54] The importance of early intervention
  • [00:41:03] Encouragement for parents to advocate for their child


Marnetta Larrimer

Cheryl Poe

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Marnetta: Hello, friends. Welcome back to Impacting the Classroom where we tackle those big topics in education. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer. We've had episodes where we discussed inequity. We've had episodes where we talked about supporting children with disabilities. Today we're exploring the intersectionality of the two. What does the education system feel like for families of color who have children that have IEPs? We are joined by advocate Cheryl Poe, Executive Director of Advocating 4 Kids, which is an advocacy organization in Virginia Beach. Cheryl, welcome. Cheryl: Thank you. Hi. Thank you for having me here today. Marnetta: I'm looking forward to this episode. To start off, we hear this word a lot, advocacy. I want to make sure that we are centered for our conversation. Cheryl, can you tell us what an advocate is? Cheryl: In the industry of special education, there are advocates. We are individuals that are usually very well-versed on what the federal regulations and requirements are for students with disabilities. We understand how the laws are supposed to be implemented in our schools, so that our children with disabilities can have access to what's called a free and appropriate education. An advocate is someone who fights with the family and helps me support families in getting the services, supports, and evaluations that they need so that their neurodivergent child can be very successful and do wonderful things in life. We also provide training. A lot of advocates also train their clients as they're going through the processes. Let's face it, if you're a neurodivergent like myself, you are a lifelong neurodivergent. If you're a parent and you're starting to advocate for your child and they're in elementary school, you really need to understand that that's going to be something that you're going to have to do until they graduate. Even in college sometimes they need support. The more that the family understands about the processes, about the responsibilities and obligations of the school district, then the better outcomes that we hope our children will have. An advocate is somebody who really helps families access resources so that their neurodivergent child can be successful. Marnetta: Thank you so much for that. This isn't where you started, right? Cheryl: No. Marnetta: There's a whole story behind this. Tell us about your story and how you got to where you are today. Cheryl: I didn't know what an advocate was either. To those that are listening, I was in the club with you. What is a special education advocate? Even though I was a neurodivergent growing up and received support and services, you forget about it after a while. When I got into a relationship, was married, and decided okay, let's have some kids, my oldest son had some difficulties. He did meet his milestones for speech very early on. He had some issues with touch and texture, so he received OT early on, like an early [...]. We were vigilant. He really did well. Then when we entered into the public school system, some of the other traits of what we know now as autism started to show in school settings. I really struggled with how the IEP team treated me and viewed me as a black woman and as a black mother. I experienced racism. My family experienced racism. My son was receiving speech and language therapy services because he still had some expressive language difficulties. He still wasn't clearly articulating the milestone that he should be. Even with that being true, the speech pathologist wanted to discontinue his speech and language therapy services that he was receiving in school. Her rationale for that was because I was speaking black English to him at home and I was confusing my son. When we were at home away from people, I somehow all of a sudden lost my ability to communicate effectively, I guess. She used my blackness as a way to weaponize my son's true inability to form the muscles in his mouth, to articulate the words and the sounds of letters correctly. That hurt in a way that even 20 years later the sting isn't nearly as bad as it was but it still hurt. It still hurts the idea that professionals in our educational system feel comfortable telling black women that our blackness is the cause of our children not being able to thrive. It's disgusting and it hurts. Another part of it was my husband's white. I'm a dark skinned black woman and my husband's white. You look at my kids, you could see there was some mixture there. Her rationale of me speaking black English to my son at home, which is why he wasn't able to articulate or pronounce words, was a bigger insult. I just got angry. I'm from Jersey. I really am right outside Philly and it took everything not to jump across the table. I really did use that hurt because I say that I'm angry, but my feelings were hurt. I was hurt. I was devastated. I don't believe that I experienced that in-your-face avert racism before. That's pretty bold. I really didn't know what to do with that other than to be angry. But I used all of that energy to learn every single thing I could about my rights as a parent under special education. I joined every group because this is before Facebook groups. I'm dating myself. We had Google groups, I think they were called, and I did everything that I could possibly do and learn and surround myself in anything special ed. I was in post grad school at the time, too, and my goal was to become a licensed professional counselor. I was getting my 2000 or 4000 hours of supervision from another licensed professional counselor who happened to work in a different school district. I was sharing with her some of my struggles. She gave me so many resources and insights onto what was supposed to happen versus what was really happening. Once I was able to feel more stable, comfortable, and competent about understanding what the process was supposed to be, I was truly able to advocate for my child. They still tried me and I did have to file complaints, but I was very successful in those complaints. I wasn't scared. I filed due process complaints against the district at times when they forgot to provide services. I did all of the things that we have to do sometimes to ensure that our children are successful. After I got to a space where I was like, if I am experiencing this and I have the privilege and the resources that I have to get in there and fight for my child and make sure that they're getting what they need, I just couldn't imagine what it was like for other parents that either don't have the personality I have, which is a personality of no, I'm going to investigate this and I don't believe it. Also having the educational background and fortunately having enough of a financial stability in my home that I could change my trajectory of wanting to become an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and instead tackling this special education issue. That's how I became a special education advocate. I am doing it for my oldest. He is in his mid-20s now or almost late-20s. I hate to say that. His birthday is September 1st. I've been doing it for a while and just watching the intersectionality issues within special education, IEPs, IDEA, just watching them grow and become bigger and they're very much ignored within the last couple of years. I will be honest, ever since George Floyd, I really, really, really have focused more of my energy in making sure that the black community is not holding onto old myths about what special education services are or what disabilities are, because that old mindset prevents us from moving forward and getting the actual services and supports that we need so we can stop the school-to-prison pipeline, so we can ensure that our children are graduating on time with diplomas that will allow them to be functional and get jobs, or go to college, or live independently. That's my story. That's how I became a special education advocate. I come from the perspective of a parent. A lot of the advocates that are out there come from education. They were former educators. They got out of it because they themselves saw that the system was broken. I think when you experience it from a parent's side, it's a different experience because of the emotions that you have with it. Also being a neurodivergent myself, I really can connect, especially with some of my ADHD clients. I can really, really connect with their thinking and how they process information or how they may make a decision to do something that may not be the best and may get in trouble. I get that thinking and I feel like I can help them. I can help bridge that I get this and this is why I get it, but when we do this, this is a better outcome and these are the reasons. That's my story and I'm here. This is what I do. I love my work. I love knowing that just giving information to people, information that's out there can help them better support their children. It's a wonderful feeling. Marnetta: You said something that stuck out to me. There were lots of things that you were saying. I was just envisioning my own journey with my youngest child who had to go through that IEP process and just the struggle to get services, but also the right services. You mentioned something about ensuring that our community has diplomas and that their future success depends on this. It really starts at the beginning in making sure that they get all the resources. We identify what's happening and they have all the support and resources in order for them to get to that point. I had read the 2022 Bellwether report titled Ignored, Punished, and Underserved. Have you read that? Cheryl: Yes, Dr. Bell. I actually had an opportunity to interview him. He was doing research and some of my clients I was able to send to him for the research that he was looking at around the suspensions, expulsions of black students that are neurodivergent. I love that. Marnetta: This report looked at the experiences of black students with disabilities. Researchers found that starting from birth that those students have a harder time getting resources and support that they need. My question to you would be, we talked about how important identifying, releasing that stigma, really understanding how to dig in and advocate for those supports. What do you wish more people knew about the system? Cheryl: I'd like to start with what I wish more people—when I say more people, the black community—understood about what it is to have a disability or a mental health issue. Let's start with that. If your child is learning differently, if your child's emotions seem big, if your child is displaying behaviors or lack of skills, it doesn't mean that they can't get those skills. It just means that this the way that our public education is set up, it is not meant for them. I want parents to remember that there were two laws. One is Brown versus the Board of Education, which allowed black kids to get a public education in predominantly white settings. But then we also had the bill, the law that came in in the 70s that we built [...] of saying students with disabilities have a right to be educated in our public system. One of the things is our society needs to shift how they see black children, how they see neurodivergent children. They have value. I need our community to recognize our children have value, even though they may learn differently. The stigmas need to go. We need to stop using inappropriate terms like MR. I hear that in the community. I confront it with my family all the time. We need to respect the idea that it is okay for your child to be a little energetic, but these are things that we can do to fix it. It doesn't always have to be medication. I want to break the oldness, the old stereotypes that do go back to slavery. It's the idea that white America never believed that black people could learn and that's why they had the schools that were separate and that was an issue. It's inbreded like a thing in us of thinking that we have to do better. We have to prove ourselves. We need to change that to say that we are enough. Our children are enough, but our children may need help. What do we need to do? We need to get an evaluation. We need to find out what is it that's going on in our child's brain. What is it that's going on that's causing our children to need those extra supports. That's where we start not being afraid to find out what that is, what those behaviors are. We have to use labels. That whole thing of I don't want my child labeled. Let's be clear. It is the language of the process, and special education is not a label anyway. It's a service. We have eligibility categories, but they don't mean that that's who your child is. A child isn't OHI. A child is getting services under OHI. It's a category for which we understand that my child needs extra help because they're a little bit hyper or they like to daydream or they're not reading on grade level if we have an SLD. For me, I think it's breaking down the language barriers that scare our community, understanding that language, that the terminology is the key to getting the services and support that you need so your child can be successful. There's something called twice exceptional that exists, too. That's when your child both has a disability, but they're also gifted. Their IQs are over 115. An IQ over 115, anything 116, 117, 118, 120, that means your child's gifted in some area, but they can still have a deficit that has a disability. You can still get services for both. That's one of the things that we need to look at, too. Not just looking at the weakness, but also identifying, wait a minute, is this child twice exceptional? A prime example is I had a case—I have to share this—this particular client was adopted. He came from a really rough, rough, rough situation. Definitely had some behavioral issues probably associated with trauma, a lot of trauma in his life, but his IQ was 136. The school ignored that and only focused on the areas of deficits. I was able to get in there and say, people, his IQ is probably higher than most of us in this room. This IEP or these services are inappropriate for him. He's bored. He's acting out because he is bored. He can do this stuff. Acknowledging both the strength and the weakness together and developing a plan that moves our children forward. Those are some of the big pieces that I hope people hear in our community. Marnetta: As an advocate, because of how the system—whether it be the healthcare system or school system—looks at our children with that adultification, the same behaviors in a white child are deemed differently in a black child. They're expected to be older all the time. Do you also advocate to support people with misdiagnosis? It's not just about getting the resources and stuff, but sometimes there's a mismatch of what's happening. What does that look like? How do you support people in making sure they have the right diagnosis for their children? Cheryl: When I take on a case, one of the first things I do is I ask. I get copies of all the evaluations, whether it be from a doctor, a private doctor, or from the schools. I look at it and I look at the IEP. I just finished up on a case like that. I'm going to say this. This sense of black teachers will help reduce over representation of black kids in ED, or being labeled as ID, or even being suspended is a white myth that black teachers don't have the economy within the system to really do what they would need to do to address those issues. This is the setting where everybody was black—the parents, the principal, the speech pathologist. I'd never met a black OT before. Everybody was [...]. This kid was an elementary-age kid. I'm looking at his IEP, and the mother was concerned about it because she knew he could do more than what they were giving him. I'm like, wait a minute, you have this child labeled as intellectually delayed, which is the old MR, but he has scores in the 100s on his achievement tests. How can you say that this kid's IQ is 56, but on all the achievement tests, he's a 100 or above? It made no sense. I remember saying to the team, because I am that advocate, you are all black people here and you know there's an issue with misdiagnosis of a black children as ID, and you allow this to happen. Shame on you. Shame on you all. I found it. We re-evaluated the child. Got updated data. The IQ score was not an accurate score at all that they had been servicing the child for four years. We were able to add the SLD. He had a specific learning disability in specific areas. When I find it, I am annoyed, but I correct it. Then I make sure that I'm meeting with that parent to let them know, this is what you need to look for moving forward so that this never happens again. Again, I wholeheartedly believe it's important to give the parents as many resources as possible to continue this journey without an advocate, because they need to know. I believe parents are their child's best advocate. I'm just a supplement. Marnetta: I love that. You said something earlier that also resonated a bit with me. If I did not know any better, as an educator, I know the signs. I knew what to look for. I remember sitting down at that first IEP meeting and just the stack of papers given to you. You have to sign for them, but there's really no explanation as to what that information is and what you're signing. It was challenging for me as a person who knows what I know. I can only imagine those families who may not speak the same language. Can we talk about that? Cheryl: Or even parents whose education themselves has been limited. Parents who maybe dropped out of school early on for various reasons, but want better for their children. Understanding the legal language is tough. It really is. You're right. When English is your second language, it's very difficult in those meetings. Now there are some protections that are within the law where if English is a second language and you need an interpreter because again, the language in IEP meetings is very dense, very specific, very niche, they have to have a person there that can interpret it so that at least they're able to communicate. What you're talking about is one of the hallmarks of IDA. I had someone look at it once and I think they said over 233 times the word parent is in the law. One of the key hallmarks of SpEd ed, whether you all know it or not, anybody listening to this, is parent involvement. Your voice is so important. In fact, in certain states like Virginia, they can't add a service or take off a service unless you, as the parent, sign and give consent. That's true across the board for certain things like evaluations. You have to sign and give consent the first time your child is presented with an IEP in other states. You have to sign and agree and give consent. You have a voice. When you are unable to communicate with your IEP team because of cultural barriers, you have the right to have something in place to remove those barriers so that you can understand what's being said and what's being presented to you for your child. Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much for that. When you're signing it, it's a legal document. Cheryl: Yeah, it's a legal document. In Virginia, I've had situations where I've had to file complaints and even heard back. It's like you know what they developed was inappropriate and was outside the realms of what they should do. You file a complaint because you know they forgot to do an aspect of it or refuse to do an aspect of it, but then because you signed consent, then you have to deal with explaining why you still gave consent to something that wasn't appropriate for your child. School districts know that parents don't understand it all, so it puts them in a hard spot to be able then to complain because the response is you signed consent. You didn't have to sign consent. You didn't have to agree to it. That becomes an issue. My recommendation, my free tip, is don't sign it if you don't understand it. It's that simple. You don't understand it, you don't sign it, and you have them explain it to you over and over and over again until you are comfortable with understanding what it is that they are proposing to add or what it is that they're proposing to take away. If you don't agree with it, you have options. You have options in Virginia, and there's another state that has informed consent for everything. But in Virginia, you have the option of not signing that IEP, sending it back to the IEP team until it gets fixed. Other states you have the option of disagreeing with it and then using your dispute resolution processes to say this is why I disagree with it. It's not providing my child with fate. It's not addressing the fact that they're reading on a third grade level and they're in ninth grade. It doesn't provide me with any idea on how long it's going to take for my child to catch up even though their IQ is 120. You just list out all the reasons why what they're presenting is incorrect and then you go through your dispute resolution processes. Marnetta: Through your experience, has your advocacy work extended to supporting the lack of inclusiveness in the classroom? Cheryl: I think that you can't be a good advocate and not address the least restrictive environment, which is from an IDA term, the process terms of inclusion, which is making sure that your child is in with general education teachers and students as much as possible. That may include having a special education teacher and a general education teacher in a classroom with special education kids, general education kids. That is considered an inclusion class or a general education class with support. There may be pockets though where you might be able to do the inclusion class for math, but your SLD, your specific learning disability, the category not your label, the category for which you're getting services maybe in reading because you're not reading on grade level. You may need a more restrictive environment, meaning less exposure to general education students to catch up on those specific skills in your IEP role. This restrictive environment and inclusion is extremely important because we all know the more exposure you have to neurotypicals, all the research supports that that is a benefit for a student that has a neural divergence. Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you for that. You've given us some really great nuggets throughout this. I would like to know what your advice is for school leaders? What can they do to help their teachers understand the law? Cheryl: Oh gosh, that question is so big. I'm going to do my best to answer this. It's not the school leaders. It's the system itself. The public education system in Virginia and any other state is broken. It is centered in white supremacy. It's centered on neural typical students. It has not been developed and we have to fight. When I say we, myself, black and neurodivergent. We have to fight to make sure that we are valued in the system. I don't think it starts with a building leader because a building leader is only doing what they're directed to do from a system that's already broken. However, if there are opportunities for building leaders to be innovative with addressing and tackling disproportionality of suspensions of black students with disabilities or students with disabilities overall, yeah, there are restorative justice practices. Those are some things that can be very helpful in building community. Building a community in your school environment where it is not about penalizing. It's not that old prison mentality of we just punish. We need to move it to where we are healing and teaching our kids. If our children don't understand the expectations and the norms of the setting, or if they're having a hard time fitting into those norms or settings, punishing them and kicking them out of that setting doesn't teach them jack. We need to identify what is that pocket that's missing in that child's understanding of what is expected of them, or is what is expected of them unrealistic based on where they are and who they are. How do we have flexibility? How do we have leaders that actually have the time and the resources to commit to that aspect of the whole child? That's what's missing in our public education. Our public education isn't designed for that. That's why we have so many educators leaving, I think, because they know the system is broken. They know the system isn't doing what the myth is supposed to do. Marnetta: I think from my experience, I have several friends who work as SpEd educators. Some of the challenges that I've noted visiting their classrooms or just having conversations is not having the skill set for those specific diagnoses. Would you say that education on some part of that would be a good idea? Cheryl: Yeah, that's part of the system's failure. It's starting at higher ed. That's why I don't necessarily think it's building level. It's higher ed. If higher ed isn't giving our teachers the skills that they need so that when they come into the classrooms to hit the ground running, we're going to continue to lose teachers. We're going to continue to have the kinds of academic loss, instructional loss, that we've been seeing over the past several years. Of course training is helpful, but I don't even know. All school districts do personal development training. The problem, what I understand from educators or SpEd ed directors when I'm saying to them I don't understand how this could be happening in a meeting, we give tons of personal development. But that's on top of everything else they have to do. It may not be a priority at that time when they're getting that because they just learned how to address the whole science of reading now because we're changing instruction so much. Again, I think it starts at our higher ed departments, making sure that teachers are coming out understanding the science and reading and knowing how to teach from that model standpoint and getting away from guessing. I think we need more instruction in higher ed about what disabilities are, how they present themselves, what are their symptoms, and how they can be also strengths so that they can learn to really differentiate instruction with a background knowledge of this disability presents this way, so when I'm developing my lesson plan, I can keep that in mind, especially if I'm in inclusion class, or even not in inclusion class. I'm of the belief that some of the accommodations and supports and services that students with disabilities get, if the school district did it on a universal matter, they wouldn’t need IEPs. As soon as a kid got into school, preschool, we started with the science of learning. We provide very explicit sequential instruction in reading, we would have less kids needing services under SLD because the educational system will already have integrated a way of teaching reading to anybody. I also believe accommodations that some of our kids get and need, if those were universal kinds of practices in education, we would have less need for 504 plans, less need for IDA, and more kids would be getting service because there's always a group of kids that need the support that aren't getting it. We have to rethink our public education totally. We really, really, really do because it is failing our children, especially if you're black and especially if you have a disability. If you're black with a disability, you have to fight. You can get it, you can do it, but you just have to fight. The black community is used to having to fight things uphill battle. That's our life. This is just one additional layer that we need to start paying attention to if we want change in our society overall. Marnetta: What would your advice be for the system in how they could help parents find a safe welcome place for their children? What are your thoughts around that and how can they support that? Cheryl: That's such a big question. You and these big questions. Are we talking about my population as a black neurodivergent or are we talking about schools in general? Because I think I have two different answers. Marnetta: You can go with both of them. Cheryl: Okay. I think for community engagement for the black neurodivergent or just the black community, it needs to be in the community. ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), has funding attached to doing community engagement because I believe if our schools were more involved, more aware of the needs, the temperament, the culture, and the vibe of the community for whom the kids that they are serving, then there'll be a real connection within the school. The school is coming and they are interacting in events where family members are together having big events. Then when the parent comes to the school, it's not just to complain. They would've already developed a relationship and be like hey, Mrs. Smith, I haven’t seen you since the last community event that we had. How can I help you? It needs to be pushed into our community. We don't need white saviors. We don't need white people coming into the community like we're going to save you and this is what you need to learn. No, we need you to come into the community and learn who we are and then take it back to your school and figure out how you can duplicate some of that sense of community, that sense of connectedness, togetherness. That'll change because that's what we need. Right now it's not that, it's like you do what we say and that's it or we're going to have a spaghetti event and you come and eat. It's not about understanding where the children come from. It's not about understanding the whole child. It's not about understanding their culture, the values, or the priorities. It's siloed, and in order to bridge we need to break those silos. We need to have systems, schools, and leadership that truly are authentic about engaging and understanding the black and disabled community, so that they can feel like they're part of the community of the schools, because generally, we're not. Marnetta: As a black parent with beautiful brown children and I suspect that something might be going on developmentally, what would you tell me as a parent the first thing that I should do? Marnetta: The first thing you should do is get a notebook out, observe your child, and identify what I call the mommy gut. Please trust that. It is invaluable. It's a spiritual gift. Whatever your religious belief is, I believe it's a spiritual gift that we have when we become parents. Trust that gut. Then put it on paper or if it's not on paper, put it in a text. Talk about it to understand and articulate what it is that you're feeling and seeing. Being able to concisely say I notice my son walks on his tippy toes and I notice his brothers and his cousins don't do that. I notice my son won't touch cotton or respond when I put socks with thick ridges on them. Comparing it to what's considered neurotypical. Make a list. Take it to your pediatrician. Tell your pediatrician you want a referral for an evaluation for neurodevelopmental per specialist. Again, when we talk about resources, there aren't a lot of those around. Go to your pediatrician first and try and identify who is the right person you need to see to have this evaluated. That is my recommendation. Trust yourself. Take notes. Communicate with your primary care to identify who you should be referred to to follow up on an evaluation. Once you get that evaluation, then take it to the school. Let them know that you suspect your child has a disability. They may want to evaluate. They may accept the evaluation. Now, the reason why I say take it to your doctor first is because even though there is something in the regulations called Child Find which means each school district is responsible for identifying, evaluating, and determining eligibility for children that they suspect to have disabilities. However, they do a horrible job with that. I filed complaints and I filed huge complaints against districts that failed on Child Find. They suspend the child. I just got to share this. This is how bad it is. The child is engaging in all kinds of behaviors. The parents are saying, I think there's something wrong with my child. The school is suspending the child almost every other day. Parent finally asks for an evaluation. The school's like, oh, we don't have enough data to determine that an evaluation is needed. They're like how about the idea that you're kicking the kid out every other day? Isn't that data? The fact that the child is missing instruction because of something, that's your data to say you need to evaluate your child. I don't trust the Child Find system. It's not effective. To save the parent from going through the stress of regulation that is not implemented in our districts, at least go to your pediatrician first. You have something behind you that supports you and that helps you then be able to get the school to actually listen to you. Marnetta: I do want to say that early detection is important. Parents don't wait until school age to reach out. As you're taking those notes when they're two, two-and-a-half, three, and you're identifying those things, the sooner the better. That is also my note. It's important in school, but the sooner they can get resources and support, the better the outcome. Cheryl: Very much so. Early intervention services. My children, one of them got early intervention services and it's so much easier to get. It's what you're in the school, too. Early intervention is the most important. The reason why that is so important is because you're catching the child very, very, very young so you're putting in interventions and supports and helping train the brain in a way that they can build on. I wholeheartedly agree and you are absolutely correct. Early intervention is important and don't wait until school age. Marnetta: Wonderful. This has been amazing, Cheryl. Thank you so much. Do you have one last thing you want to say to our audience before we go? Cheryl: I think the biggest thing is yes, you are your child's best advocate and you may need support in ensuring that your child gets what they need, and that's okay. The other thing is in the black community, we have to move away from myths that aren't true about what it means to be neurodivergent. We need to trust that we, our community, have the ability to advocate and make sure that our children are successful in our public schools. Yeah, we are up against a lot. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. What I'm saying is it’s going to be worth it. That the outcome will be worth that fight, that struggle, that advocacy, that determination, and that belief in your child. Marnetta: My black sons are worth it, definitely. Cheryl: Exactly. Marnetta: It's everything I do. Thank you again, Cheryl. Cheryl: Thank you for having me. Marnetta: You can find today's episode and transcript on our website, As always, behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. Thanks everyone.

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