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Fewer Parents Go It Alone At IEP Meetings


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Increasingly frustrated by difficult negotiations with school districts, more parents are turning to special education advocates and attorneys for help.

Once a rare presence at individualized education program, or IEP, meetings, advocates are oftentimes parents who began navigating the special education system for their own children and now assist others as volunteers or for a fee.

Advocates don’t need any special credentials, but they typically accompany parents to IEP meetings and can even help file due-process claims. And their ranks have grown in recent years, while the number of attorneys specializing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has also increased.

School districts are not always pleased to see a professional advocate across the table at an IEP meeting, but parents who have employed them say advocates can make all the difference and often cost significantly less than an attorney.

“If you have never been to an IEP meeting, you have no idea how intimidating that they can be, even for a very confident person… Everyone should have an advocate go with them,” one mom told the Orlando Sentinel. To read more click here.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. Debby says:

    I have been on both sides of the IEP table. Being a parent of a special needs young adult now. I had advocates at my child’s meetings when she was younger and now I advocate. It can be intimidating and assistance or even an experienced parent can aide in the explaination and process of the CSE meeting and the drafting of a student’s IEP.

  2. Katie T. says:

    As a special ed teacher, when I hold an IEP the 1st thing I tell the parent is they are the expert and they will be with their child long after I am gone– their input is essential. The IEP on the table is a rought draft or starting point for a discussion, one that can be easily modified based on the outcome of the meeting. All of us at the table are there because we care about the child (this is, after all, what the teachers and therapists have chosen to spend our lives doing). We are all advocates– for the child.

  3. Carol says:

    Hi my childs school REFUSES to follow what they wrote in an IEP. I emailed the school three times (everyone inviolved at the IEP table). No one responded and I then called and faxed. I called a attorney and now thirty five hundred dollars later plus three hundred dollars an hour, I can get justice for my child.

  4. MiM says:

    I concur with Katie T.’s response. MOST Special Education teachers are always going to work alongside the parents and other team members as advocates for the child. An IEP, although a legal document, is easily modified as needed, as she explains. YES, parents should be an advocate for their child and should ask questions, and I cannot imagine a school not wanting a parent to have an advocate with them if they felt they wanted support. Our district has a designated Parent advocate who herself is a parent of a child with an IEP. The district pays for her to receive training, and her contact info is provided to any parent of a child with an IEP. She is able to be at IEP meetings to assist the parent with questions and understanding, and to pre-meet with the parent to go over what to expect if the parent wishes. District’s are NOT interested in going to court; work with your child’s teacher and school, be part of the TEAM for YOUR child. IEP forms are lengthy and contain a lot of information, much that doesn’t even pertain to the individual child, but must be in the form. UNFORTUNATELY, as in all aspects of our world, a few people do not do their job at the level that is expected—no child should “suffer” because of that, and parents need to stay in touch and be an ACTIVE part of the team to be sure the IEP is being followed. I am saddened to read about Carol’s situation. That should never happen. Educators are professionals, contrary to some myths, we did not go into teaching to have summers free—except to use the time to further our education (at our expense) and become better teachers for our students. We (teachers, parents, administrators) are a TEAM for children. Make that happen in your school, it does not have to be (and should not be) done with “tempers blazing”—advocacy is very important. Be your child’s advocate, but do it as a TEAM member. Ask for explanations, go in with your questions written down, don’t allow a teacher or other professional to skim over something that didn’t make sense to you, it’s okay! THERE ARE NOT STUPID QUESTIONS! We all have questions…even teachers!

  5. Kim Yamamoto says:

    As a special education advocate and parent of a child with a disability myself, I can tell you parents sometimes just don’t know what to ask, how to ask or even if a questions is needed. You don’t know what you don’t know. I find that being able to discuss your problems and then hearing solutions that have worked with other families leads a successful approaches and effective changes in IEP meeting.

    Working together on a team to improve your child’s educational situations is not always an innate skill sometimes it needs to be modeled and cultivated. I believe advocates help all team members identify the issues, stay focused on the process, look at additional solutions and move past difficult situations in school meetings. Its important to make sure if you are a parent of a child and need an advocate that you interview them find out about the approach and get references, we are not all created the same.
    Special Education Advocacy with a Collaborative Approach!

  6. Angie Garcia says:

    I need an advocate to go with me next week for an IEP meetting for my 1st grader in Berwyn.

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