IEP Meetings: How to Sharpen Your Advocacy Skills
and Help Other Parents
by Pat Howey
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."
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.
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.
Patricia 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 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.