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As a school psychologist serving K-12 students in the Upstate, owner and founder of BrainFood & Co., Kendra Tamaklo, has witnessed numerous Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings where student self-advocacy has unfortunately not been given the priority it deserves. In these meetings, crucial discussions about life after high school have been rushed, and middle and high school students have often been left out of conversations about their own IEP goals and strategies that could benefit them in the classroom. Regrettably, she's even attended IEP meetings where the student was not invited at all, unintentionally but effectively denying them their right to self-advocate. While the efforts of school teams is deeply appreciated and respected, Kendra felt compelled to sit on the other side of the table — with the students and their families.

As many have said before, "We don't know what we don't know." However, with proper guidance, students and their families can learn to ask the right questions and successfully navigate the complex world of special education and beyond. The educational jargon, procedural safeguards, placement and services discussions, retention considerations, disability categories, eligibility determinations, credentialing, and post-secondary transitioning are just a few of the important factors that students and their families face. Each decision made in these areas can have lasting repercussions. BrainFood & Co. applies unique training and diverse expertise to directly impact real-life outcomes for young people.

While my the field of school psychology may seem to be an uncommon background in this space, Kendra is confident that her skills in initial disability identification and re-evaluation, educational and behavioral intervention, high-volume case management, and mental health counseling will seamlessly translate into the provision of robust programming, such as Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) for students in the Upstate.

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