I did a survey recently, and discovered that the second biggest challenge facing parents is:

I research on the internet, but I don’t know how to apply what I’ve learned.  34%

This isn’t surprising.

Effectively advocating for your child at an IEP meeting in real time requires active skills.  Reading about advocacy is passive.

It’s like the difference between learning to count in a foreign language in the classroom and trying to haggle over the price of an item in an open air market in that language.

Big difference.

Sometimes you can get by with a tidbit that you’ve read, but that usually only works when the other side is playing by the rules.

Unfortunately, they often are not.

What to do?

First you must realize that effectively advocating for your child is a skill that requires

  • Knowing your rights
  • Knowing how to articulate what your child’s needs are
  • Understanding the special ed process
  • Understanding special ed paperwork
  • Knowing how to navigate a bureaucracy
  • Knowing the roles of the various people at the table, and who is accountable to whom
  • Knowing who has the power at the table
  • Knowing the basics of negotiation

Reading this may be enough to make you want to throw up your hands and go binge watch something.

Girl with hands on her head in frustration

But you know what?

You’ve Got This

I learned this skill.  Countless other parents have learned this skill, and you can too.

All you need is the willingness to learn and the determination to keep trying.  And you’ll get there.

Remember, even the three story Ponderosa Pine started from a tiny seed.

However, you won’t get there from reading a couple of articles on the internet the night before an IEP meeting.

I needed a couple of years of intense & focused study:

  • attending every special ed conference I could find,
  • attending parent support groups,
  • talking to other parents & advocates,
  • reading A LOT and
  • practice, practice, practice.

Most parents don’t have that much time, which is why I created my on-line parent training course.

If you don’t have time even for that course, I will give you the three best resources to get you started.

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The Three Best Beginner Advocacy Tools

  1. The Procedural Safeguards.
    (Hey don’t roll your eyes at me—I know you’ve got a dozen of them mixed in with your child’s paperwork)BUTThe Procedural Safeguards are the best description  of your rights and options of actions you can take when you disagree with what the school is doing.  Period.Do you fall asleep just opening the cover?  Then call your local parent training center (Parent Training Center) and ask them to explain it to you.  PTI’s are funded by IDEA in every state to help parents understand their rights.

    Better yet, sign up for any webinars offered by your local PTI.

  2. From Emotions to Advocacy. By far the best intro book ever written on parent advocacy.  I know a lot of parents who have only used what was written in this book to become more effective advocates for their kids.
  3. Getting to Yes. One of the best books on negotiation I’ve ever read.Most people get so emotional about their kids that they forget that the IEP meeting is essentially a contract negotiation.

Have you ever negotiated for the price of a car, a house, your salary, or whose turn it was to wash the dishes?

Likewise, all the strategies for negotiating a contract apply to the IEP meeting.

It just feels like the stakes are bigger because this is about your child and all those people on the other side of the table are experts.

Well, what you’ve forgotten, is that you are the expert on your child.  And you are supported legally to participate powerfully in the process as the expert in your child.

And there they are—the four top resources to help you advocate better for your child.  The procedural safeguards and anything from your Parent Training Information Center is free.  The books you’ll have to buy, but you may be able to borrow them from a local parent support group library.

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