Advocacy: DO I HAVE TO TELL THAT I WILL BRING ADVOCATE TO IEP MEETING?

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Michelle: Do I have to tell the case manager that I will be bringing an advocate to my next IEP meeting and if so how far in advance? The reason I ask is that I was not going to have an advocate with me but something came up that worried us (some comments made to my daughter and myself by school staff). I don’t want to tell them if I don’t have too as they become very defensive..

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8 Comments on "Advocacy: DO I HAVE TO TELL THAT I WILL BRING ADVOCATE TO IEP MEETING?"

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I apologize if I am intruding. As a special education teacher, I was looking for an advocate to bring to an IEP meeting and this was the first link to come up. In my experience, an advocate is an impartial member of the team, that can listen to everything said and advocate for what is in the best interests of the child; not necessarily in agreement with either the school or the parents. Knowing that you are bringing an advocate may very well lessen the tension all around. I hope everything works out well for you.

Thank you for all the comments. I definitely understand, I don’t want to stress this relationship even more then it already is. I will read all the recommended.

Michelle, I understand that you don’t want to get their hackles up ahead of time; but on balance it is usually better to let them know, because no one likes surprises. In the long term, you want to build a relationship of trust and collaboration, no?

Yes, I would like a relationship of trust and collaboration however after a 5 year battle, I am scared of these people and my anxiety is through the roof thinking I might have to tell them I am bringing someone with me. My meeting is Friday and I still do not have a guarantee that someone will be coming, although the advocate group is trying to find someone who can. I do not have the option of rescheduling due to my employer (I would have to wait at least another month), and my daughter in the meantime is in inappropriate placement that is causing increased behavioral and emotional problems.

I am going through the exact same thing right now….I hope the advocate helped you. I am bringing one too….

Re fear and anxiety, I can relate!
Okay, your guest is up in the air. In that case, perhaps you could send an email saying, “I wanted to let you know that I might be bringing a guest, but my guest hasn’t confirmed yet.” In the meeting, during the introductions, you can be polite and say, “I apologize for not notifying you in advance that Mary was coming. She wasn’t sure she could come and I didn’t want to confuse things” and then say something about what organization she’s with, and the years of experience she brings to the table. Then Mary can say something pleasant and it will be fine.
(The only absolute no-no is when it comes to lawyers. If you’re going to bring a lawyer, and you don’t tell them, that’s not good.)

This is not required in federal rules, but might be in your state rules. However, it is generally considered “best practice” to inform them ahead of the meeting. Not telling them could make them even more defensive.

As Sophie wrote, no one likes surprises. You say you don’t want to tell the team because they will be defensive. Won’t the team be defensive and mistrustful if you show up with an advocate that you did not disclose ahead of time?
You can tell the truth (as I understand it) – that you want to bring an advocate but things are up in the air. If the advocate can’t accompany you, I suggest that you bring a sensible, non-emotional person who can act as a notetaker. You can also ask about rescheduling the meeting until next month, after the long break over Christmas.
I’ll give you a little homework. Read:

Understanding the Playing Field: Different Perspectives, Power Struggles, Threats, and Advocacy Strategies” and “Preparing for IEP Meetings” Both articles are by Pat Howey, an experienced advocate who writes”Ask the Advocate” a column on Wrightslaw.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/tips/howey_advice.htm

http://www.wrightslaw.com/howey/iep.plan.produce.provide.htm

http://www.wrightslaw.com/howey/ask.htm

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