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10 Tips for Parents: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice
Pat Howey, Advocate from Indiana


Everyone has a little inner voice that speaks to them. Our inner voice tries to tell us when something is not right. Often, we do not listen to our inner voice because we believe others are smarter than us.

We should always listen to our inner voice. mom thinking

When others who we think are experts tell us everything is okay, it is hard for us to listen to our inner voice. More often than not, your inner voice is right.

When your inner voice is trying to tell you something, listen. Here are some tips to help you learn how to do this.

1. When my child was born, the cord was wrapped around his neck. The doctor tells me he is fine. I am still worried. Should I be?

The doctor may be right. Listen to your little inner voice anyway. Watch your child carefully. If your child is late in crawling, walking, or talking, your inner voice may be right. Your child is entitled to early intervention services from birth through age three. Ask your local early intervention program to test your child if you see things that worry you.

To learn more about early intervention programs, go to:

2. My child is two years old. I notice that she does not talk like other children her age. Everyone says not to worry. My pediatrician wants to wait and see. I think I should do something now.

Listen to your inner voice. Often, the first sign of a language-based learning disability is a child who does not talk as early on time. Even babies can be tested for delays. Ask your early intervention program to test your child. Contact your local school district for the name and phone number of your local early intervention services.

3. My child’s teacher says he is doing fine. When he reads to me at home, I see he has a hard time. His older brother could read much better at the same age. I don’t think he is doing fine at all. Isn’t the teacher the expert about reading?

Not always. The teacher may be comparing your child to children in the class who read worse than he does. You know your child best. You were your child’s first teacher. You taught him how to eat and tie his shoes. Listen to your inner voice. Get an independent educational evaluation. That evaluation will tell you how your child reads compared to other children his age.

To learn more about why you should get an independent educational evaluation, go to:

4. My child’s teacher wants him held back. She says he needs another year of instruction. I am against holding him back. I don’t think it is the best thing to do. How can holding him back help him to read better? The teacher knows more than I do, doesn’t she?

Listen to your inner voice. Holding a child back is called “retention.” There is no evidence that retention helps a child to read better. Giving a child another year of the same program that didn’t work before will not help him. Remember the rule of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!

Tell the teacher that you do not want your child held back. If the teacher says you do not have a choice, ask in writing how you can appeal the decision. Get an independent educational evaluation. After you have the results from the evaluation, give a copy of the report to the school and ask for a meeting to see if your child is eligible for special education and related services.

For more information about retention, go to:

5. The school tested my child. The teacher says the testing shows she does not need any special help. I do not agree. Do I have a choice about this?

Listen to your inner voice. Disagree in writing with the school’s testing and get an independent educational evaluation. In your note to the school ask the school for their policy on paying for an independent evaluation. Sign and date the note. Keep a copy of the note in a safe place.

For more information on independent evaluations when you disagree with school testing, read this article by educational consultant Dr. Ruth Heitin:

6. The teacher says I will have to pay for more testing for my child if I disagree with the school’s testing. This does not sound right. What can I do?

Listen to your inner voice. Write a note to the teacher saying that you do not agree with the school’s testing. Ask for names of people who do testing on a child like yours.

7. I have hired an advocate to help me with my child’s education. He is telling me to do things that make me uncomfortable. Should I listen to the advocate? Isn’t he the expert?

Learning to be an advocate for your child is not easy. Nice people who do not like conflict are often uneasy when learning to advocate for their child. Look at why you are uncomfortable. Is the advocate telling you to do something that is against the law or in conflict with your moral and ethical beliefs? Does the advocate want you to do something that may hurt someone? Is he asking you to lie about something or to withhold information? These things should make you uncomfortable.

But if you are uneasy because you are afraid you will make someone mad, you must overcome that feeling. People tend to get mad when you disagree with them. You must weigh your discomfort alongside your desire to have your child get an education that prepares her for further education, employment, and independent living.

On the other hand, special education lay advocacy is an unregulated industry. Advocates are not licensed or certified. They are not required to have any level of education or training. There are no laws to standardize the practice of lay advocacy. Advocates have no Code of Ethics or Professional Responsibility to look to for guidance. Anyone, regardless of their background, training, or education can call themselves a special education advocate. You must be a good consumer when hiring an advocate because it is truly an industry where the buyer is required to be aware.

8. My child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). I do not understand it. The teacher says I should trust the Individualized Education Plan Team because they are the experts. Shouldn’t I be able to understand my child’s EP?

Listen to your inner voice. How can you know whether you child is making progress if you do not understand the Individualized Education Plan? You are a critical member of the Individualized Education Plan Team. You are supposed to help develop the Individualized Education Plan. You are also the person who has a vested interest in your child’s education. Keep asking questions until you understand what the IEP is supposed to do for your child.

9. My child’s father had dyslexia and never learned to read well. I see my son struggling with reading. I asked for him to be tested. The school says he is too young. My inner voice says that does not sound right.

Listen to your inner voice. Dyslexia tends to run in families. The sooner you get your child tested, the sooner the school can provide specific special instruction for dyslexia. If possible, get an independent educational evaluation.

10. I got an independent evaluation. My son has dyslexia. I gave the evaluation report to the teacher, who told me that they do not recognize dyslexia. This doesn’t sound right to me.

Again, your inner voice is correct. The word, dyslexia has always been recognized as a learning disability in federal law. But, the label is not important. What is critical is that your child is identified as being in need of special instruction and that he gets the proper instruction.

To learn more about dyslexia and why you your battle should be about appropriate instruction, go to:

"Dyslexia is Not a Learning Disability?" at

Trapped in Whole Language - Will 504 Accommodations Do Any Good? at

More Tips

10 Tips about Placement

10 Tips for a Successful School Year

10 Tips for Schools on Avoiding Confrontation with Parents

10 Tips for Parents: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice

10 Tips for Good Advocates

10 Tips for Ending the School Year

10 Tips on Hiring an Advocate

14 Tips for Reviewing Your Child's Educational Record

18 Tips on Filing Complaints

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPat Howey has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is a member of Lamba Epsilon Chi. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal, an affiliate member of the Indiana and the American Bar Associations, and a national known parent advocate with over 35 years of experience helping families.

The author of Special Education: Plan and Simple, Special Education, The Commentary series. Pat has numerous articles published on the Wrightslaw website, Ask the Advocate. Pat has been a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau since 2005 and has presented on special education and advocacy from coast to coast.

Pat is a charter member and past Director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and a faculty member of the Institute of Special Education Advocacy at the College of William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia from 2010 through its closing in 2021. She currently works as a paralegal in the Education Division of Connell, Michael, Kerr Law Firm in Carmel, Indiana.

Pat presents From Emotions to Advocacy programs. In these programs, parents learn how to assess their children's strengths and weaknesses, build healthy working relationships with school personnel, about the "gentle art of disagreeing," and how to participate as equal members of the IEP team.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117

Last revised: 01/17/2023

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