You might think that taking your spouse or co-parent to IEP meetings with you means that you don’t need a special ed advocate, too. But here’s why you might be wrong.
The question “Do I really need to bring a Special Education Advocate to all my IEP meetings?” is one that I answer often. Short answer-yes. I have a popular blog post called “10 most common parent mistakes in the IEP process.” That is the article she is referring to. And, as it was a popular post this past weekend, the question came up. “Is that really true? Do I really need to bring an advocate to every meeting?”
There was a little bit of banter back and forth about the pros and cons and whether it really is necessary to bring a Special Education Advocate to every IEP meeting. Then, today in the car, I was thinking over my own situation(s) and thought, heck, another blog post!
So I think it’s best to answer this question backwards. I mean, we all know the reason to hire a special education advocate.
Reasons to hire a Special Education Advocate
- Someone who knows IEP process better than you
- Someone who can remain less emotional
- Someone to act as a barrier, be the proverbial “bad guy” allowing parents to remain more neutral in confrontations
- Someone to take notes, bounce around ideas, another set of eyes and ears
- Temper the meeting-some staff are more professional with others around
So now, ask yourself, what are some of the reasons you think that you don’t need an advocate?
Reasons you think you do not need a Special Education Advocate
- Things are good with my school right now
- My spouse is there
- I’m a teacher/in education industry, I know this
- No one will advocate better for my child than I will.
- I cannot afford one.
There might be some others. But let me address those five reasons that many parents think that they do not need a special education advocate.
Things are good with my school right now: Of course they are! Things are often good….until they are not. Maybe that “not” will be erected at this meeting. First of all, in full disclosure, I went to my own son’s IEP meeting just two weeks ago without an advocate. And, at the last minute, my husband could not attend due to work commitments. For the record, my husband has been through the same 12-session Special Education Advocate course that I have been through, so he does know more about IEPs than the average dad. But, I thought “Hey, we’re cool, things are going well for us right now so I should just enjoy it while I can.”
What if it hadn’t been ok? What if they would have come to the table with the suggestion that they want to move his placement or remove some services? For you folks with high-functioning kiddos….what if at the meeting they state that they believe that your child no longer needs/qualifies for an IEP, so let’s move him to a 504. And there you are, all alone. No moral support. And now the rug has been ripped out from underneath you and your head is swirling and you are struggling to get concise, meaningful thoughts out. What then?
It doesn’t have to be an advocate, it can be another person. Grandparent, godparent, heck–partner up with other IEP moms in your district. But take someone. (finger pointed at myself thankyouverymuch) Remember, things are always good until they’re not. And we don’t always know when our “not” is coming.
My spouse is there: Not bad, and what most parents do. But, truth be told, I’ve seen way more dads than moms “lose it” at an IEP meeting. And by it, I mean their temper. Moms cry, dads yell. Either way it’s not good. Your sister, your sister-in-law, your cousin….of course they LOVE your child. But not like you do. That one baby step away from not being the parent may be just the sanity saver that you need in a meeting, someone who can listen and not get emotionally involved at that moment.
I’m a teacher/work in the industry: In IEP meetings, you have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to question college (and Masters/PhD) educated people on their recommendations. Call them out, make them qualify what they are recommending. Some take offense to this. Do you really want this to be the time you have to go face-to-face with a colleague? I wouldn’t. If you know the IEP process–great! Now, share that knowledge with someone else to take with you.
No one will advocate for my child better than I can: You’re probably right about this. But, lots of people know the IEP process better than we do. Or even if their knowledge base is the same or less, still another set of eyes, ears and ideas. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by some out of the box thinking and ideas in IEP meetings from people who have little special ed knowledge. Sometimes a new perspective is all that you need to unlock some successes.
And, with being a passionate advocate for your child comes emotions. Sometimes lots of them. Sometimes we think we have them under control and then at the most random times….there they are. And now we’re crying. And crying in a business meeting is not usually a great idea. And this is a business meeting.
I cannot afford one: A very valid concern! Some are expensive and the agencies that offer them at no/low cost are becoming fewer and farther between. If you need the IEP knowledge, you need to find help. Ask for a payment plan, ask for a budget package–but chances are if your gut is telling you that you need this, you do. Find a way to make it happen.
If you still have to do this yourself, there are options. Every state has a parent training center for special needs and special education. Find your state’s agency and take some parent training. Call around, ask. Partner with other parents and share knowledge, help each other out. Read your procedural safeguards. Join online groups.
If you have any other questions, please ask!