Valley Life for All column: You Have the I.D.E.A. workshop

Annie Uyehara Special to the Post Independent
Sandy Schroeder

Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, publishes a monthly series about fostering inclusion.

It may feel easier to negotiate a maze than it is for a parent to obtain the rights for their child with disabilities.

Sandy Schroeder is hoping to make this an easier journey. In August, she’s launching “You Have the I.D.E.A.,” which is a series of 12 workshops that will allow parents of children with disabilities to connect while also teaching them how to make an education plan for their child that is informed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

Schroeder was inspired to do the workshop after completing a 20-week diverse leadership training through Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI), designed to empower people to create a better world for children.

 “The workshops are dedicated to learning about parents’ rights, children’s rights and how IDEA is the legal document that leads the process,” says Schroeder. “Some people don’t know that process and how to exert their rights or the language that goes with it.”

The workshops are also about bonding and belonging, she adds. “Parents can be very lonely, because they spend so much time figuring out things for their children that they seldom meet parents with similar experiences.”

Schroeder knows this firsthand. Her son, Henry, has Down syndrome, and she’s gone through the confusion and frustration when it came to his educational needs and rights. “[Schools] would tell me Henry’s services were being reduced. So how or why were they being reduced? When is he going to be around his peers? Does he have friends at school? During those very bureaucratic meetings, the individual gets lost, in my experience. It can be very frustrating.”

Schroeder has plenty of expertise in special education. She was a special ed teacher, a middle school principal and has a Masters in Education Leadership Administration and a Masters in Special Education in Diverse Populations, as well as being trained through the FLTI.

The amount of need she observed with families saying, “I need help, and I don’t know what to do’’ is what compelled Schroeder to take action. “I’m a firm believer in treating the system rather than the symptoms. I want to teach them to fish rather than giving them the fish.”

For information on the workshops, contact Schroeder at For information about the Family Leadership Training Institute, go to

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Learn more at or on Facebook.

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