Article by Rachel Preibisch
Jenna Prada, career educator, has experience in classrooms, school leadership, and behavioral and academic interventions. She currently heads the Learning Link, an organization that helps parents effectively advocate for their children in educational settings. Jenna specializes in differentiating, goal setting, and communicating to create a diverse community of learners.
Jenna’s work incorporates various reasons why a family might seek an educational consultant. Many families think of advocacy in the context of legal rights and conflict in an educational setting. However, more commonly, when parents seek an educational advocate for their child, everyone involved in the child’s education is doing the best they can to support that student yet different individuals have a different understanding of the situation. This can lead to communication challenges and the help of an educational advocate can be beneficial to everyone involved.
An educational advocate can play a crucial role when it comes to evaluations and whether they are done correctly. Part of Jenna’s expertise lies in situations where an advocate helps parents understand how to highlight the very real needs of their children, giving educators tools to understand how to best help. With special education instructors at a shortage in the United States, there are often not enough professionals to read all of the reports that come into their hands and to effectively understand the needs of each and every child. Additionally, in certain situations parents may not understand how words need to be used to trigger some of the systems that schools have in place.
Jenna’s work assists families and educators in understanding something like EEG so that they can recognize what the results mean for families and classrooms. Few educational advocates are able to point out from EEG where a child is struggling and how far they deviate from the norm, such as showing how an excess or slowing of activity in a certain area of the brain can manifest itself in a classroom. Examples of this could look like a student appearing to drift off, a child not finishing their tasks correctly, or through a student’s sensory sensitivities. With this information in hand, an advocate can work with the educators on what interventions would be most appropriate given the brain activity.
Covid has introduced new challenges to school advocate work. An important theme from the past few years is how kids’ executive functioning has suffered due to lack of structure from remote schooling. Additionally, teachers report struggles in effectively redirecting students’ attention and supporting students in general in their study habits. Academic expectations have dipped in terms of assessment performance as students have dealt with the stress of being isolated and experiencing worry about their health, and it is hard for educators to fill content gaps when executive functioning skills are low.
Jenna’s goal is for children with diverse learning and behavioral needs to have a positive educational experience.