Advocacy 101

Do you remember your first IEP meeting? 

Did you have a variety of feelings all at once? Scared.  Overwhelmed.  Nervous.  Angry.  Relieved.

Did you blindly following the recommendations of the team?  Not having enough knowledge to know what questions to ask much less offer meaningful input as the IEP was developed.

Most parents have a similar start into the world of education advocacy. We don’t know what we don’t know. Our child did not come with an instruction manual and we weren’t taught how to navigate the school system.

We talked with a new parent the other day and she shared how difficult it’s been for her to get a grasp on everything she needs to know to help her child. She feels like she needs a medical degree, a law degree and an education degree to be able to effectively work with all the professionals now in her child’s life. The good news is you don’t really need all that formal education to guide your child’s services, but you do need to learn how to work within a system and solve problems.

We recommend a 5 step process to become a better advocate for your child.

  1. Gather Knowledge – become familiar with the federal, state and local laws and policies that govern the education system.
  2. Track Date and Issues – develop an organization system and regularly follow up on your child’s progress.
  3. Develop Problem-Solving Skills – identify potential issues early, gather information, have a strategy, know what you want as a resolution, and take an action-oriented approach to working with the school team.
  4. Assemble Your Expert Team – build relationships, before a crisis occurs, with your school partners, private practioners and evaluators, a local advocate, and a special education attorney.
  5. Know Your Resolution Options – familiarize yourself with the formal procedures available to parents to resolve concerns.

The reason we are building a parent community and adding various resources at IEP for Parents is to help you work through the process of becoming a better advocate for your child. Check out the links in our Legislative Guide section for federal laws related to special education and other disability issues. We also have links to statutes or annotated code for each state in the country. Check back frequently as we continue to add new information.

Our parent portal offers a secure, digital binder to help you organize your child’s educational record. Once you’ve uploaded your scanned documents you will be able to sort by date or title to easily find information as your prepare for an upcoming meeting or to quickly access data when you’re in discussion with your school team.

In our Resource Section we offer a Problem-Solving worksheet that walks you through the steps of resolving an issue.  Having a plan before you tackle a problem leads to a better outcome for your child.

Watch for our community forum feature in the near future. This will be a member-only communication option to talk with other parents and our staff in a private area. Ask questions, request resources and get assistance with all of your IEP needs.

Parents raising children with disabilities need continuing education to keep up with the changes in the laws, rules and procedures in the education system. Our expert team of parent advocates, attorneys, psychologists and other professionals are developing webinars, online classes and publications to keep you up-to-date. Working together we can ensure our children have a voice and the education system stays focused on meeting their needs.

Remember, Never IEP Alone!

#Team IEP