Today I am re-featuring one of my very best friends. I am so honored to know this lady. She’s always been such an inspiration to me. I have one boy and there are many days when I can’t handle him, then I remember she has 4, 3 of whom have special needs, and she never bats an eye. She knows when to let it be. She knows that there is no such thing as normal. She’s realized that some days its just easier to let Chewbacca and R2D2 hang out.
She’s moving up in the world too. She’s run for the school board, she’s a tutor, and she just got a writing gig with a special needs magazine. Most of all, she is a parent advocate.
She’s a fantastic friend who has been there for me even when things in her own life were falling apart.
Who is this wonderful, loaded up on patience blogger who also happens to be one of my very best friends?
It’s none other than Missy of 4 Little Monkeys!
I asked Missy why she chose to become a parent advocate and her answer will amaze you.
When Stephanie asked me to write a guest post about why I became a parent advocate, I didn’t have to think twice about it. I am advocating because parents need to be aware of how to advocate correctly for their children.
I started my career as a Special Education teacher and case manager. When I taught, I made sure that the laws were followed, kids were taught well and in their correct settings. I made sure that kids and their needs were first. If that meant that I spent extra time in school, gave up lunch time, gave out my home number/cell number, or e-mail to make sure that kids succeeded that’s what I did. I naively thought that is what all teachers and case managers did.
After I had my children, I went into IEP meetings thinking that the teachers and case managers were there to 100% help them. I didn’t realize I’d have to outwardly ask for things because that’s now how I ran my meetings and my classroom. I automatically thought that if I mention my concerns, the teachers and case managers would do something about them. I learned the hard way that they don’t. Unfortunately, I learned that rather slowly! Most of what I have learned I have within the past year. We’ve been in our school system for 3 years.
Not all districts are created equal! There are a few tips that I share with parents going into IEP’s that can help though.
- Show up to meetings dressed professionally. If you look put together people will take you more seriously.
- Remember that schools are looking for how your child’s disability will affect their school performance in the general education classroom. In other words, can they be in a typical class with no supports and function? School doesn’t look at the medical necessity for a therapy or program.
- Do not sign an IEP right away, legally you have up to 15 days to agree or disagree. Take your time and look over the document. Look over the present levels of your children, goals, and time tables. Make sure you are comfortable with everything before you sign!
- Avoid emotion in IEP meetings! I know this sounds easier said than done but it is really is necessary. Use facts and documentation to make your points.
- Be familiar with your state’s educational code. I can’t tell you how powerful it is in a meeting! The last meeting I attended for one of my sons I was able to cite the educational code and had it highlighted for all to see as I made my points to our child study team.
- Know your federal code IDEA and how to use it as well. Again, I pulled IDEA code at the same meeting and was able to make some headway with what needed done.
- Know what Wright’s Law is. I refer back to it while writing letters, gaining information for meetings on codes and researching information to questions I have on my children’s programs.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree but if you do have proof and documentation why you disagree.
- Last but not least, remember an IEP is a work on progress. You can revisit it at any time you may need to.
Parents need to be our children’s advocates. You need to know how to work within the school system to get what your children need to make the most out of their education.
I really hope you get to know Missy too. She’s awesome!!