Share your love
Spread the love


IEP Help Advocating for Your Child

Advocating for your child can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging aspects of being a parent of a child with special needs. The road to obtaining the services that your child needs often takes months and sometimes years. Advocating for your child will require the study habits of a Rhodes scholar,  the stamina of an athlete, and the negotiating power of a world leader. As in any situation, the road to success starts with a plan.

6 Step Advocating Plan for Parents

  1. Get Organized

In order to be able to advocate for your child, you need to have your child’s special education paperwork at your fingertips in an organized manner. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in a 3” three ring binder with pockets and dividers. The dividers should be labelled in the following order: IEPs, District Assessments, Outside Assessments, Health, Grades, Correspondence, Miscellaneous, and Parent Concerns.

As a former special education administrator and now advocate, I have reviewed hundreds of special education files. Some literally in boxes with no organization, and some in folders that are clearly labelled and easy to access. From these experiences I have learned two very valuable tips to use when organizing a file. First and foremost, always put the most recent paperwork on the top. Although this goes against our natural instinct to file everything in a chronological order, it makes it ten times easier to access the current information that you will need to work with. The second tip is to use paper clips instead of staples. This makes it much easier to look at two pages in the same document. An example of this would be when you are comparing the goals with the present levels of performance and making sure that all the areas of need are addressed by a goal.

An additional tip to help you stay organized is to write, “received on” and then the date, at the top of all paperwork that you receive. As you do this, if it is a multi-page document that is not numbered, be sure to number the pages.

  1. Study, Research and Learn

The key to step number two is to stay focused. Do not try to learn everything about special education.  Instead, focus on your child’s IEP and use this as a springboard to help you obtain the knowledge that you need. Start by studying your child’s IEP. Read it word for word and make sure you understand what is in the IEP. If you don’t understand what something is, or why it is on the IEP, start your research. There is a plethora of information on the internet, as well as the school will most likely embrace your desire to understand the IEP.  As you are reviewing the IEP, write down your questions and share them with the teacher or school administrator. Request a time to meet with them where they could explain these items to you. Remember this meeting would be to learn about the IEP, not to discuss concerns about your child’s program.

  1. List Concerns

As you are reviewing your child’s IEP and learning what each item means, you may find that you have concerns regarding your child’s program. Be sure to write these concerns down. Concerns regarding your child’s specific special education program are best addressed through an IEP meeting where all members of the IEP team are present to provide their input. If you are uncertain whether your concern requires an IEP meeting, discuss your concern with the teacher. She may be able to provide information that addresses the concern you have.  If you feel your concern isn’t being adequately addressed by the teacher then request, in writing, an IEP meeting. This will ensure that your concerns are heard by the IEP team.

  1. Develop solutions

If you have concerns about your child’s IEP program, take a proactive approach by calling an IEP meeting and developing possible solutions. Remember you are a member of the IEP team and your input is vital to developing an appropriate program for your child. If you are unable to come up with a specific solution, this is all right just be prepared to share you questions and concerns. Being prepared to share this information will help the team find solutions.

  1. Negotiate

If you understand the special education process, negotiating with a team can be very productive for both sides. Any services or supports a child receives, or is denied, must be backed up by data and/or an assessment. This is the process that drives eligibility, the IEP document, as well as the exit procedure from special education services. This is your leverage point as a parent. If the team is suggesting a change in services, ask to see the data that supports this. If the team is unable to provide this, then request that they collect data for a certain amount of time and that the team then reconvenes to review the data. If the team has collected data but you feel that it wasn’t for a long enough time period, or wasn’t collected under the right conditions, negotiate for a longer time frame and clarify the conditions.

  1. Monitor

Even when you are confident that your child’s special education program is right for her, you must monitor the program and its impact on her. Is she making adequate progress on her goals, as well as her academic studies? Is she struggling with homework? Are you seeing changes in her behavior toward school? These are all indicators that the team should reconvene to discuss what might be causing this. Often times, the parent is the first one to be aware that something is not right. Trust your instincts and request an IEP meeting to address your concerns.

Be Aware of Your Limits

Advocating for your child can be very rewarding as a parent but it can also be very frustrating and time consuming. If you find advocating for your child is too time consuming and or frustrating, consider working with a special education advocate. They will be able to work with the IEP team to get the services that your child needs and you can focus on being a parent. Advocating is not for every parent. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the whole special education process, an advocate will help you understand the process and free up your time to be a parent.

Spread the love
Share your love