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Advocacy: How to Get Services by Asking Questions
When I began advocating for my daughter, I felt insecure when I requested services or supports for her. Because I felt insecure, I supported my requests with lots of documentation -- articles, reports and recommendations from experts, test results, and information about specialized equipment.
I was calm, polite, and in control. I was surprised when the "powers that be" would not provide the services and supports I requested for my daugher.
How Do They Perceive Me?
was I having this problem? What could I do?
Now when I go to an IEP meeting, I have a mental list of the accommodations my child needs. I NEVER ask directly for what my child needs. Instead, I ask questions so the educators come up with the desired solution, NOT me.
Strategies: Asking Questions to Identify Solutions
This is how it works. My child Susie has a hearing loss. I wanted Susie to sit near the teacher OR to have a speakerphone in the classroom. I did not ask the team to allow Susie to sit near the teacher or have a speakerphone.
Instead, I said, "Gee, Susie loves her teacher, Mrs. Smith. Its so sad that Susie can't hear much of what Mrs. Smith says. You know Susie has a hearing loss? (submit medical report) Susie really wants to do well on the new state tests. I wonder what we can do . . .
At this point, someone is likely to say, "Let's have her sit by the teacher" or "Let's get a speakerphone for her."
I say, "That's a wonderful idea. I'm so glad you thought of it."
Strategies: Saying "Thank You"
I thank the team members for letting Susie sit near Mrs. Smith, the teacher she likes so much. I know this sounds crazy but it works most of the time. Educators/experts are happy when THEY come up with the way to meet the childs needs! Sometimes, they have ideas that I had not considered either!
I decided it doesnt matter who comes up with the solution as long as my child's needs are met!
Last year, we moved to a new school district in a different part of the state. We had a "clean slate." I had a chance to try out my techniques with a new group of educators. I gave them my childs IEP and told them about the equipment our former school used (the former school was willing to sell the stuff to them).
could tell them everything they needed to know about my daughter but
until they met her and got to know her for themselves, I was just another
IEP Day: My Child Has Many Advocates
When IEP day came, more people were advocating for my daughter than I could imagine. I sat there listening to the comments, feeling stunned, not saying much.
"We need to base her services on what she needs, NOT the availability of a TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired)"
"We need to have some training in this area"
"We need to order these Braille books immediately."
Whenever I meet or talk with school staff, I explain that my daughter needs access to the general curriculum. She needs instructional materials in Braille, services from a teacher of the visually impaired, and orientation and mobility instruction.
also explain that she wants to be like other kids. I don't expect the
school to do cartwheels for her!
I look at it this way: If an educator came into my home and told me what color to paint my walls and how to decorate the rooms, I would not be very happy!
cant say that everything has been smooth sailing we have
had some bumps and are still getting things in place for next year.
But I think this happens whenever people who have different interests and perceptions work
together for a common goal.
It's sort of silly when you think about it -- like a game!
you struck out, you spent time thinking about the meetings. You thought
about how you were perceived by school people (a Know-it-All or "yappy
parent). You understood that if you took over the role of "Expert,"
you would leave no role for the educators.
Many parents do not understand these issues. Since many parents feel insecure in their dealings with school people, it's hard for them to put their egos on the back burner.
In our book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, we describe these issues and provide strategies to deal with them.
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