Wrightslaw l No Child Left Behind l IDEA 2004 l Fetaweb l Yellow Pages for Kids l Harbor House Law Press

 Home > Advocacy > How to Start an Educational Advocacy Group: An Interview with Loni Allen


The Special Ed Advocate
It's Unique ... and Free!

Enter your email address below:

 

2014 - 2015 Training Programs

Apr 26 - Little Rock, AR

May 9 - Los Angeles, CA

June 3 - NYC

June 22 - Chicago, IL

June 26 - Lawrence, MA

Aug 2 - Birmingham, AL

Aug 3-8 Williamsburg, VA

Full Schedule

Be a Hero ...

 Candle in window
... to a Hero
Learn more

Wrightslaw

Home
Topics from A-Z
Free Newsletter
Seminars & Training
Consultations
Yellow Pages for Kids
Press Room
FAQs
Sitemap

Books & Training

Wrightslaw Books & DVDs
Wrightslaw Storesecure store lock
  Advocate's Store
  Student Bookstore
  Exam Copies
Training Center
Bulk Discounts
New! Military Discounts
Mail & Fax Orders

Advocacy Library

Articles
Doing Your Homework
Ask the Advocate
FAQs
Newsletter Archives
 Summer School Series
 Be an Advocate!
 Organizing the File
 Letter Writing
 Back to School
 For Advocates
 For Parents
Success Stories
Tips

Law Library

Articles
Caselaw
IDEA 2004
No Child Left Behind
McKinney-Vento Homeless
FERPA
Section 504
Fed Court Complaints

Topics

Advocacy
ADD/ADHD
Assistive Technology
Autism Spectrum
Behavior & Discipline
Bullying
College/Continuing Ed
Damages
Discrimination
Due Process
Early Intervention (Part C)
Eligibility
ESY
Evaluations
FAPE
Flyers
Future Planning
Harassment
High-Stakes Tests
Homeless Children
IDEA 2004
Identification & Child Find
IEPs
Juvenile Justice
Law School & Clinics
Letters & Paper Trails
LRE/Inclusion
Mediation
Military / DOD
No Child Left Behind
NCLB Directories
NCLB Law & Regs
Parental Protections
PE and Adapted PE
Privacy & Records
Procedural Safeguards
Progress Monitoring
Reading
Related Services
Research Based Instruction
Response to Intervention (RTI)
Restraints/Abuse
Retention
Retaliation
School Report Cards
Section 504
Self-Advocacy
Teachers & Principals
Transition
Twice Exceptional (2e)
VA Special Education

Resources & Directories

Advocate's Bookstore
Advocacy Resources
Directories
  Disability Groups
  International
  State DOEs
  State PTIs
Free Flyers
Free Pubs
Free Newsletters
Legal & Advocacy
Glossaries
   Legal Terms
   Assessment Terms
Best School Websites

 

How to Start an Educational Advocacy Study Group
An Interview with Loni Allen, Educational Advocate

Print this page

After reading Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, Loni Allen decided to start an Educational Advocacy Study Group. Loni is an educational resource specialist at Parents Helping Parents, the Parent Training and Information Center in Santa Clara, California.

Since the first group met in 2004, more than 180 people have attended Educational Advocacy sessions. As a result of this training, 20 experienced parents now act as "parent partners" for new or inexperienced parents at IEP meetings.

We asked Loni to share the secrets of organizing and facilitating a successful Educational Advocacy study group.

Getting Started 

Pam: How did you decide to start an Educational Advocacy group?

Loni: When I read Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, I knew it would be a wonderful tool for parents and would help them understand their role in the special education process.

As I re-read the book, I started to collect websites and other resources that I could use as handouts for group members. I made a Word folder of resources for each chapter of the book.

I began the Educational Advocacy Workshop two years ago, in the spring of 2004.

Early Decisions: How to Structure the Group

Pam: How is the group structured?

Loni: I decided to structure the meetings like a book club. We would use the book, From Emotions to Advocacy, as the basis of the meetings.

I decided to use Power Point, handouts about community and state resources, and online resources to present each evening’s topic from the FETA book.

I posted an email on listservs and asked for suggestions and input from others.

I knew the group would include many types of learners with varying needs. I knew if I stood up and lectured, I would lose the interest of some members. If I expected members to take notes, they may not be able to pay full attention.

Email List of Members

I started a bulk email list of all group members in my email program. I use this list to send reminders to members about upcoming meetings. I also send Alerts to members about local events alerts that might be of interest to them.

I encourage anyone who facilitates an educational advocacy group to use a bulk email list. In addition to providing information, it keeps people connected and creates a stronger bond to the group.

Getting the Word Out

Pam: How did you get the word out? Where do the members come from?

Loni: We distributed flyers at the Education Trainings presented by our department. We also print fliers and put them in the hallways at our agency office.

Parents Helping Parents has a great website. I wrote a description of the FETA Workshop for the site.

Parents who select Support will learn about all the support activities at PHP. One click on the Educational Advocacy Study Group will take them to the page that describes that program.

We send out a monthly e-newsletter. This allows people who attend other support groups and workshops to learn about the Educational Advocacy workshop.

Nuts and Bolts of Organizing an Educational Advocacy Study Group

Pam: Other people may be interested in starting an Educational Advocacy study group. What advice do you have about the nuts and bolts of organizing a similar group?

Loni: Our Educational Advocacy group meets once a month from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Each meeting is divided into two parts.

The educational advocacy workshop meets from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and is structured like a book club. I present the topics, chapter by chapter, though Point Point presentations, discussion, and handouts. I also include useful websites. I don’t require that parents read the part of the book that we will discuss ahead of time.

We have a support group that meets from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The support group draws a smaller number of parents who may bring their child’s IEP, or request support from one another. More experienced parents and I facilitate the support group. We encourage parents to come up with their own solutions to issues, with the help of more experienced parents who share their expertise.

Parents and professionals can stay after the meeting to connect with others. This is often the very best part of the meeting!

After each meeting, I send a summary of the meeting to the members, and links to the handouts and websites. Sending this email summary keeps people connected and involved when they cannot attend a meeting.

Pam: How many people attend?

Loni: Between 15 and 35 members attend every meeting. Meetings are structured so people do not have to sign up for the entire series. They drop in whenever they can.

Some people return month after month. Some have attended nearly every meeting held over the past two years.

It is helpful to encourage more experienced parents in your community and professionals in the field to attend these educational advocacy meetings.

Since the first group in 2004, more than 180 people have attended these Educational Advocacy study groups.

Tip: Since people from different school districts attend meetings, I use nametags. I ask parents to put their name, school district, and their child’s disability on their nametag. This helps parents connect with others in their district.

Preparing for Meetings

Pam: As the group facilitator, how do you prepare for meetings?

Loni: You need to plan ahead so you have enough time to draft the show, be very prepared, and know the material in the From Emotions to Advocacy book.

Creating the Power Point slides will take far more time than you think. When you are familiar with the material, you will come across as well-informed to the families.

Ordering Books at a Discount

I place bulk orders for books at a 40% discount. With this discount, From Emotions to Advocacy (retail: $19.95) costs less than $12. Parents can purchase these books at a discount when they attend. This has been very popular.

Using Surveys

It is important that the parents and professionals who attend these meetings are involved in planning so their needs are met. I have found it helpful to offer a training survey so members can offer their input and suggestions.

Ethical Issues & District Bashing

I have a slide at the beginning of each meeting that reminds parents that we are not gathered to be disrespectful of school staff. I ask that members be ethical and not use names. I explain that it is a good idea to use hypothetical situations to describe problems.

I also discourage ‘district bashing’ because it won’t help them to solve problems but stirs up feelings of anger and helplessness instead.

Pam: Have you changed the format since you first began the groups?

Loni: Yes, In the beginning, I aligned the presentations more strictly to sections of the From Emotions to Advocacy book.

Over time and with feedback from group members, I changed the training to include more parent input and discussion. This slows down the pace of training, but it makes the training more meaningful for members. Having more discussion gives members a chance to know each other too.

Pam: Do you have an outline or syllabus that others can use as a template?

Loni: My outline is based on Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy. The book is divided into five main sections:

Getting Started: Learning about Advocacy, Creating Your Master Plan, the Parent as Project Manager

Advocacy 101: Learning the Rules of the Game, Obstacles to Success, Resolving Parent-School Conflict, Crisis Management

The Parent as Expert: Evaluations and the Child’s Disability, Organizing the File, Tests and Measurements to Measure and Monitor Progress; SMART IEPs

Special Education Law: Key Sections of IDEA 2004, Section 504, No Child Left Behind

Tactics & Strategies: Rules of Adverse Assumptions, Creating Paper Trails, Letter Writing, Preparing for Meetings, Meeting Survival Strategies

The only time I strayed from this outline was when IDEA 2004 was reauthorized. I added slides to inform parents about the major changes in IDEA 2004. In each meeting, there may be a slide or two about areas of local or state interest.

I always include information about the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and Wrightslaw so families know about online resources and communities.

Unexpected Benefit: Parent Partners

As a result of the Educational Advocacy group, I now I have a list of 20 parents who are willing to be ‘parent partners’ at IEP meetings! This is great for parents who are new to the world of special education. It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents to attend a meeting without feeling anxious.

Personal Benefit: Rewarding Experience

This experience of facilitating this incredible group of parents and empowering them to actively participate in the IEP process has been a very rewarding experience. I call the group the Educational Advocacy Workshop because there was a problem understanding that “FETA” was an acronym for the From Emotions to Advocacy book (not a cheese).

Pam: Loni, can you tell us more about your work?

Loni: I work in the education department at Parents Helping Parents, a large Parent Training and Information center [PTI] in Santa Clara, California. Our agency covers four counties and serves 57,000 children with disabilities in those four counties. Learn more about Parents Helping Parents

I also am an educational advocate for parents in Ravenswood City School District. One of our goals is to help parents become more empowered and collaboratively involved in the IEP process.

I am also a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.

To Top

Created: 05/24/06
Revised: 08/25/08



Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon The Special Ed Advocate: It's Free!

 

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright Wrightslaw: All About IEPs Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

Copyright 1998-2014, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved.

Contact Us | Press Mission l Our Awards l Privacy Policy l Disclaimer l Site Map

Check it Out!

Wrightslaw Store

The Advocate's Store

Get Help!

Blog the Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw on Facebook

Find us on Facebook

Wrightslaw Books

Student Discounts

Military Discounts


Wrightslaw: All About IEPs

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
About the Book
To Order


About the Book

To Order


Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

About the DVD Video
To Order


To Order


Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

About the Book
To Order

Wrightslaw Multimedia Training


Understanding Your Child's
Test Scores (1.5 hrs)

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores

Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $
24.95
Wrightslaw Special: $14.95

Special Education Law & Advocacy Training
(6.5 hrs)


Wrightslaw WebEx Special Education Law & Training Program (6.5 hrs)


Learn More
To Order
Retail Price: $99.95
Wrightslaw Special: $49.95