The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
October 9, 2001

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Issue: 135
ISSN: 1538-3202

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Highlights: New article about parent advocacy includes "Eight Steps to Better IEP Meetings;" What is your IEP IQ?; President Issues Executive Order about "Excellence in Special Education;" join Pete and Pam Wright in Houston on October 20.

Subscribers as of October 8 2001: 31,107

1. Play Hearts, Not Poker by Jennifer Bollero, Esq.

"As an attorney, arbitrator, mediator and loving mother of an autistic daughter, I have a unique perspective on the process by which families prepare their children's Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)."

In "Play Hearts, Not Poker," Ms. Bollero describes advocacy as an intellectual activity while parenting "involves great emotions and heavy decisions." She explains why parents need to learn the rules and strategies. When you learn the rules, you reduce the risks when you negotiate for your child.

"Your child's IEP should never be a gamble. IEP meetings should not turn into a game of nerves with everyone trying to guess who is bluffing, betting or folding on the strength of their guess. An IEP should be a strategic meeting where a talented advocate need not lie about his or her hand, but can play any facts to the child's advantage."

Read "Play Hearts, Not Poker"

NOTE: This article was originally published in The Beacon, the electronic journal of special education law and practice from Harbor House Law Press.

2. Eight Steps to Better IEP Meetings

In "Play Hearts, Not Poker," Ms. Bollero describes steps you can take to minimize conflict when you negotiate your child's IEP. "These steps will also help you prepare a solid case if you are negotiating with school district personnel who are acting in bad faith."

1. Make every attempt to sustain relationships.

2. Keep the focus on your child's needs, not the district's resources or the parents' expectations.

3. Always provide "face saving" ways out of a dilemma. Have a back-up plan.

4. Build your record.

5. Walk a mile in the other side's moccasins.

6. Listen actively, especially to the things you do not want to hear.

7. Encourage everyone to love your child, then let them!

8. Have a little faith.

"No one becomes a teacher, an aid, an administrator or a facilitator because of the money, the hours or the Nike endorsements. They do this because they want to make a difference to children. Do not demonize well- tentioned people. Utilize them. Even if they have priorities that you cannot share, they can turn out to be of great help to your child."

"Keep the game fair and in good spirits, when possible. Know what your goals are and work them. Many roads lead to the same place. Many different cards can win the game."

3. What is Your IEP IQ?

To be an effective advocate for your child, you need to know the law. You also need to know how to use the law without starting battles that no one wins.

Most parents and teachers get information about the law from training sessions, articles, advice on listservs, and informal discussions with others. Your knowledge can rise no higher than your source!

As a parent or teacher, you must read the law. Reading and rereading the law is the only way to understand legal rights, responsibilities, and issues. Read this new article and take our IEP Quiz to test your knowledge about IEPs.

4. More IEP Resources From Wrightslaw

Please visit our IEP Resources Page. This page has links to the IEP Quiz, FAQs, articles and tips about IEPs, legal information and cases, free resources, and book reviews and recommendations.

5. IDEA Reauthorization: President Establishes "Commission on Excellence in Special Education"

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is scheduled for reauthorization in 2002. If you are a parent, educator, or special education service provider, you need to stay informed about issues related to the reauthorization.

On October 2, 2001, President Bush issued an Executive Order about "Excellence in Special Education" that established the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education.

The Commission will collect information, study issues, and recommend policies to improve the educational performance of students with disabilities. Issues that will be studied include:

* providing appropriate early intervention in reading instruction on the referral and identification of children for special education
* impact on special education funding on decisions to serve, place, or refer children for special education services
* different ways to distribute funds that will lead to better results and eliminate incentives that prevent children from receiving a high-quality education

The Commission will prepare and submit a report to the President no later than April 30, 2002.

Notable Quotes

"One of the most important goals of my Administration is to support States and local communities in creating and maintaining a system of public education where no child is left behind . . . Unfortunately, among those at greatest risk of being left behind are children with disabilities."

"My Administration strongly supports the principles embodied in the IDEA and the goal of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities so that they can meet high academic standards and participate fully in American society. It is imperative that special education operate as an integral part of a system that expects high achievement of all children, rather than as a means of avoiding accountability for children who are more challenging to educate or who have fallen behind."

Are you a member of the PTA? Do you belong to a special education advisory committee? Do you provide information to parents or teachers?

We formatted the President's Order about "Excellence in Special Education" as a pdf file so you can download, print, distribute this document to others.

Get the Order and News Release from the White House site.

6. Join Pete and Pam Wright for Advocacy Training on Houston on October 20, 2001

Do you want to learn more about special education law and advocacy? Join Pete and Pam Wright on October 20 for a day of advocacy training sponsored by the ARC of Greater Houston. You can download the conference brochure from the Wrightslaw site.

Please visit our speaking schedule page to learn of upcoming events.

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