Ep. 101: How Parent Education and Perseverance Made the Difference with Raja Marhaba

Oct 4, 2022 | 0 comments

Today’s guest is a force in the special education space and her journey began as a parent of a special needs child. Raja Marhaba joins the conversation today to tell you about her traumatic experiences navigating the special education system and how her journey led her to create The Jonathan Foundation.

The Jonathan Foundation for Children With Learning Disabilities is a non-profit organization that raises funds for parents who can’t afford assessments for their children. In many unfortunate situations, a child’s struggles go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and without support for too long and that wasted time impacts their education and their future.

This conversation with Raja will put you in her shoes as a parent who has learned through the eyes of her own children. She hopes that, through the work she does with The Jonathan Foundation, fewer families will experience the challenges she faced and more families will get the support they need.


Show Notes:

[1:50] – Welcome to the show, Raja!

[3:15] – Raja’s experience began 26 years ago and she has a parent’s perspective.

[5:27] – As a new mom, she didn’t know how to navigate the special education process. But, she knew her child better than anyone and she learned to be her child’s best advocate.

[7:16] – At the time, Raja found that not every piece of information was given to her.

[8:15] – Raja realized that not everything that was suggested was happening at school to help her son, Jonathan.

[9:57] – Raja describes the journey of learning her son has dyslexia.

[11:37] – He lost a lot of confidence, but acting classes helped to build it back up.

[12:42] – Raja had a lot of questions and lost faith in the school system.

[14:54] – This experience set Raja on a new path. She knew she needed to fight and advocate for her children. She sees this as a turning point in her life.

[16:35] – Back then, there was no Google. Raja’s resources for information were limited, but many of the same problems exist today.

[19:38] – This process and the lack of understanding leads to wasted time.

[20:53] – Because a psychologist took the time to explain and answer her questions, Raja understood the data from assessments.

[21:57] – The assessments could cost a family up to $15,000.

[23:55] – It is important for parents to have a professional in their corner. Raja describes some situations where advocacy was crucial.

[25:57] – Raja focused on assessments with The Jonathan Foundation because of her experience with the huge cost of assessments for her sons.

[27:23] – This experience hurt her family and her own mental health.

[28:20] – Raja describes what she learned about her children and what she learned from them.

[30:11] – Understanding her children opened up the world for her.

[32:05] – Having one child who took so much of her attention, Raja’s youngest son was impacted.

[34:51] – The sooner the better when it comes to an assessment.

[36:29] – If you feel that your child is struggling and the school has said that their  evaluation revealed no difficulties, you can request another assessment.

[39:02] – The data from an assessment tells a story.

[40:41] – Donations can be made to the Jonathan Foundation to help children and families without the funds to afford a quality assessment.

[43:29] – Sometimes schools are missing a piece to the puzzle without an assessment.

[44:27] – Raja is currently writing a book and she provides a sneak peek.

[49:57] – Raja’s book will connect you with her story; she hopes that others can learn from her experience.


About Our Guest:

Raja B. Marhaba is the Founder and President of The Jonathan Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, Inc. The motivation for establishing The Jonathan Foundation was driven by her personal struggles with having two children with disabilities and the multiple battles she endured to obtain appropriate special education and related services from their school district over a period of eight years. The result: eight due process complaint filings, including a hearing; an appeal to the Federal Ninth Circuit District Court; as well as periods of extreme financial hardship from the cost of paying for private assessments, specialized interventions, and placements, retaining legal representation, and witness fees. Thus, Raja envisioned The Jonathan Foundation to be the vehicle she would use to assist families, like her own, in dealing with a “broken” special education system, “one child at a time”. Since its inception in 2001, The Jonathan Foundation has provided families of children and adolescents with various types of disabilities with information, resources, referrals, and direct advocacy services by Raja in both special education and regional center matters.


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.