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Help! I Dread Going to IEP Meetings

by Pat Howey

I get a knot in my stomach for days ahead of time. When I provide information and observations about my child at IEP meetings, the team ignores them. How can I be a better advocate for my child and not be basket case before these meetings?

The best way to become a good advocate for your child is to do what you would do if you wanted to catch the flu.

Expose yourself to as many opportunities to advocate as possible.

Ask other parents if they would like to have a friendly face at their IEP team meeting. Assure them that you don’t know enough to go with them as an advocate, but you will be there to support them and reassure them.

When you go to IEP meetings as a friend –

  • you can be more detached and less involved emotionally
  • you can better observe the personalities and the games that are being played
  • you can see what some people do to push the parents’ “buttons”

You will become more aware of meeting dynamics and what is going on because you do not have the same emotional attachment that you do when you go to your own child’s IEP meetings.

You will find you can put this knowledge and information to good use when you go to your child’s IEP meetings. You will be prepared for the games that are played and you will know and understand the personalities you are dealing with.

Finally, you are likely to find that advocating for other children is much easier than advocating for your child. You will be motivated to become a real advocate.

When you advocate for other children, you will continue to make progress on the advocacy learning curve. When you do attend your child’s IEP meetings, you will be less emotional and more detached.

You will be surprised at how many parents would LOVE to have just one friendly face at their IEP meetings. You may discover that you LOVE learning how to advocate for other children.

Then, we all benefit.

So you want to be an advocate? What do you need to learn? What skills do you need to acquire?

You can find out in Wrightslaw’s 2013 Summer School Series – So You Want to be an Advocate?

In this four part series you will:

  • get the basics of becoming a special education advocate
  • read what advocates do to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families
  • find out what training and certification, if any, is required
  • learn where and how advocates train

Or, get Pat’s game plan. So You Want to Be an Advocate? at

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2 Comments on "Help! I Dread Going to IEP Meetings"

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04/21/2011 7:01 pm

When will the this “war” on our kids end? When will kids with disabilities get their educational rights met in their neighborhood schools with open arms, rather than with dispute and contention? Where is our Martin Luther King? Where is our Gandhi? Where is the change we all want to see?

I cried the first time the pediatrician suggested our son was delayed. If I had known then what I know now about the endemic anti-disability attitudes entrenched in our nations’ public school systems, I doubt I could have mustered the resolve to take the first step on this… Read more »

Debbie Larson
04/20/2011 5:15 pm

There are a few techniques that can help reduce that knotted stomach. You might consider:

1. Before the meeting, write down your questions and the points you want to make. If you think you know what the response will be, write down why that response is inaccurate or inappropriate. Having notes of what you want to say will help you remember and use them. You won’t worry about forgetting to bring up an important concern or question.

2. Use a Parent Attachment – see “How to Use a Parent IEP Attachment” at
This will list your proposals and provide… Read more »