Through the Peer-Parent Mentor Program, the Parent Training and Resource Center (PTRC) provides direct support to parents/guardians accessing special education services or other supports for their children with disabilities in public schools. Peer Parent Mentors are individuals who have children, or close family members, who have (or have had) special education needs or they are individuals with professional experience in the field of special education. Peer Parent Mentors receive extensive and specialized training each year from Mitchell Yell, Ph.D., Professor in Special Education in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina. The training includes information on the IDEA, Section 504, ADA, effective communication techniques and South Carolina special education policies and procedures.
After completing the training program, Mentors are partnered with parents/guardians of children with disabilities who have contacted the PTRC in need of assistance. Mentors can explain to parents their rights and responsibilities under state and Federal law and provide information and direct support. Mentors may accompany parents to Individual Education Program (IEP) and other school-based meetings to plan education services. Peer Parent Mentors provide each of their parent partners with our comprehensive Parent’s Guide to Special Education Services. The purpose of Peer Parent Mentor support is to improve a parent’s understanding of the complicated special education system and to strengthen their ability to advocate for their child. In so doing, Mentors can:
- provide answers related to special education services,
- review records and discuss their meaning and significance,
- help prepare for the IEP meeting,
- help prepare correspondence to school personnel or others,
- model good skills and provide constructive feed-back,
- help identify local/state/National resources.
A Mentor can not attend meetings unrelated to special education services, take responsibility for preparing a parent’s correspondence, or meet with school personnel on a parent’s behalf in his/her absence. A Mentor’s help is not meant to be an open-ended or indefinite service and funding prohibits this. Peer Parent Mentors do not act as lawyers, social workers, service coordinators, physicians, or mental health professionals.
Peer-Parent Mentoring is a free service available to families in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties.