The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

I am NOT Powerless. I am a Parent Advocate.

by Susan Bruce

You say parents have rights but I don’t think they do. I think parents are powerless. The only parents who have rights are financially able to afford the implementation of the IEP. Schools call those who cannot a “constant complainer.”

Parent Credibility

You sound a lot like I did about 6 years ago. Three of my four children have IEPs.

When I began advocating for my kids, the principal of my kid’s school told other parents that I was mentally ill and…… she said my kids could not read because I was a bad parent. Was I mad!

The hardest thing I ever had to do was to leave those emotions out of the parent/school equation. When I learned to do that, it gave me the credibility, not the principal.

I built my credibility when I left my emotions in the parking lot. The principal called in the school district.  The district saw that I was not the “crazy” the principal made me out to be. The district eventually sided with me.

The Over Emotional Parent

We are a working family who could not afford lawyers to advocate for our children. I felt powerless to do anything.

I knew one thing. I had to find a way to get my kids what they needed.

A lady named Pam told me to stop playing the overly emotional parent and do what was necessary to advocate for my kids. This was hard.

[Read Susan’s story: From Victim to a Mighty Force, the Numbers Do Not Lie ]

Parent Power

My struggle has paid off. I am NOT powerless. I am a parent advocate.

My kids now have good strong IEPs.  The school follows the IEPS. You CAN do this. The change we seek will come from parents advocating for their own kids!

[ Wrightslaw Note: Susan Bruce is now an education coordinator and parent trainer for South Carolina’s Parent Training and Information Center, PRO*Parents of South Carolina and graduate of ISEA 2012. ]

Susan has trained thousands of parents and professionals on the IDEA and effective advocacy skills, empowering them to effectively advocate for appropriate services for students with disabilities.

Print Friendly

Tags:   · · · 18 Comments

Leave a Reply

18 Comments on "I am NOT Powerless. I am a Parent Advocate."


I have a question and hopefully someone can answer this question or referr me to get info on this information…. Since the beginning when the lauds had asessed my son they disagree with him not having autism disorder. They say he does not have autism disorder. Can they diagnose him?


Thank you so much for advocating for the advocates!! I feel so alone here most of the time that I frequently feel like throwing in the towel and just letting the school do what they want. Then I always find some sliver of hope, or read something like this that is empowering and I just redouble my efforts and revamp my game plan. I’ve always been overly emotional, but to everyone’s surprise I’ve been able to conduct myself with dignity when it comes time for the meetings!! If anyone could be painted as crazy, it’s not this momma!!! I am still learning though, and have recently figured out that even though something is on a 504 (which my ADHD son has) or an IEP, if it’s not qualifiable, quantifiable, and/or verifiable, it doesn’t matter how good of an idea it was, they can just “say” they are cooperating with your 504/IEP and not really be!


Hello Susan- My son was abused at school. It started with not feeding him, to dragging him around the school naked, to keeping him in a separate room, to bruises. The school refused to provide copies of home logs, observations, notes, or anything that would prove their wrong doing. The IEP was written, but never implemented. After so much money spent in attorney’s bill, we still dont have so much as an apology. Our only option is to move away from here! No wonder our education system is one of the worst in the world.


I don’t know if I agree fully with the advice you have been given about your son and sports. Indeed, you have to assert his rights. But, you and I both know that the sports culture is a bit different. You cannot force anything on the coaches. You can get a lawyer but if you make a formal complaint–what will that do for your son who simply wants to play a sport. Change your game plan. Can someone else work with your son who has a better understanding of OCD/ADHD to help him focus on the drills, games. Coaches are busy so work with the school for that wonderful designated person who is skilled as opposed to anyone who is available or just a coache’s aide. Walk in their shoes and see how you can help them so your child can have fun. I may be wrong..but you cannot force this on the coaches. The school should work with you.


Personally, I tell parents to collaborate as much as possible. It is easy to tell a parent to hire a lawyer or an advocate. Parents are spending a lot of money on lawyers or advocates who charge them by the hour or just for asking the questions on the phone or emails. In the end, the parents have spent a lot of money when collaboration would have been a better approach. I would like to say that a good advocate or lawyer will work themselves out of a job very quickly and not promote due process, etc. a good advocate will give the parents the tools to collaborate and work with the school system with such an intention. Advocates ad. Attorneys should not be involved for a long period of time. Parents should be given the tools and confidence to work with the school by the lawyers and advocates.