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IEP Meetings: How to Sharpen Your Advocacy Skills
and Help Other Parents

by Pat Howey

"I dread going to IEP meetings. I get a knot in my stomach for days ahead of time. When I provide information and observations about my child at meetings, the team ignores them."

"How can I be a better advocate for my child and not be basket case before these meetings?

The best way to become a good advocate for your child is to do what you would do if you wanted to catch the flu. Expose yourself to as many opportunities to advocate as possible.

Ask other parents if they would like to have a friendly face at their IEP team meeting. Assure them that you don't know enough to go with them as an advocate, but you will be there to support them and reassure them.

When you go to IEP meetings as a friend, you can be more detached and less involved emotionally. You can better observe the personalities and the games that are being played. You can see what some people do to push the parents' "buttons."

You will become more aware of meeting dynamics and what is going on because you do NOT have the same emotional attachment that you do when you go to your own child's IEP meetings.

You will find you can put this knowledge and information to good use when you go to your child's IEP meetings. You will be prepared for the games that are played and you will know and understand the personalities you are dealing with.

Finally, you are likely to find that advocating for other children is much easier than advocating for your child. You will be motivated to become a real advocate.

When you advocate for other children, you will continue to make progress on the advocacy learning curve. When you do attend your child's IEP meetings, you will be less emotional and more detached.

You will be surprised at how many parents would LOVE to have just one friendly face at their IEP meetings. You may discover that you LOVE learning how to advocate for other children.

Then, we all benefit.

Read more articles by Pat Howey in Ask the Advocate

Advocacy Strategies: Filing a Complaint with the State

Understanding the Playing Field: Power Struggles, Meetings, Follow Up Letters

What to Do When the School Ignores Your Requests

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

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

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
E-mail: specialedconsulting@gmail.com
Webpage: https://cmklawfirm.com/

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Created: 10/10/05
Revised: 06/28/19