Experienced Advocacy: What I Rely on Most

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Recently, we heard from an experienced advocate in Vermont who shared some insight about his years as an advocate and what has served him well. We thought we would share, and also say “thank you” for the recommendation for Wrightslaw.

“In my advocacy experience the things that I rely on most often are:

  • Letting people save face – sometimes accompanied by blackmail/extortion/intimidation.

  • Writing decent goals and transition plans in the body of a letter.  That way I know at the very least, they will end up in the file even if they are not used.
  • Documenting everything in writing.
  • Making sure something doesn’t get documented in writing.
  • Having an outside expert or an expert source of information (US Department of Education / National Reading Panel,  State Department of Education / EdPubs.org, etc.)
  • Knowing state academic content standards.
  • Understanding what test scores mean.
  • Having a growing collection of manuals for Wilson, Slingerland, OG, all the Lindamood programs, etc. and on the dark side, Reading Recovery, DRA’s, Everyday Math, etc.
  • Making sure everyone stays focused on problem solving, including me.
  • Having the ability to keep talking when I need to throw up.  I also have magic underwear, magic jewelry, and magic pencils for meetings where I am not sure what will blow up first.

The From Emotions to Advocacy (second edition) book and the Wrightslaw website are absolute necessities for advocacy.

And, the thing that school personnel seldom understand.  The last 3 meetings I went to…the parents never would have called me if the case manager had just been honest with them.  In special education this sometimes means the same as apologizing on a fairly regular basis.”

  1. As an advocate, I can tell you that there are certain manuals that are indispensable at IEP meetings. When asking for certain accommodations and/or modifications I have often been told that it is impossible to give me what I am asking for. I bring two copies of the CCSSO Accommodations Manual with me. http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/Accommodations_Manual_How_2005.pdf
    Why bring two? Because after I show them that what I am asking for is definitely within the confines of what is permitted, I offer them a copy. Districts and schools that do not know me are usually very grateful for this and I have found my copy in many offices over the years. I even received a letter of thanks from a district chairperson who did not know of its existence. This, despite it being available on the state ed website.


  2. My son, 9, did kindergarten 2x, is in spec-ed for rdg. and wrtg. I am a broke, unempl. single mom. He is in summer school in 91780. What I need is some fun for this kid. I do not have a car. Is there anything in my area such as a camp or learning center that specializes in kids w/ lds? Is there funding available for it if so? I’m desperately trying to keep him from hating school and want him to have a normal life. thank you for any help in advance.

  3. Yes, honesty means a lot. Why can’t the school be up front about things and above all listen to the parents? Advocates might not be needed.

    As far as Reading Recovery, some students benefit from it others do not. It is all about an individual’s needs and what works best for him. It is a very expensive program, though, and certainly for the cost, does not reach very many students.

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