Ask the Advocate
by Pat Howey
"Your material was informative and will benefit my law practice. Your thoroughness and your lively presentation made this program a huge success." - Charles Weiner, Esq.
10 Tips About Placement - Many parents make the mistake of putting the cart (the placement) before the horse (the IEP). Decisions about placement are to be made after the child’s IEP is developed. If the school does not have an appropriate placement, it must create one.
10 Tips for Good Advocates - Pat says parents need to understand that the law gives them power to use in educational decisions for their children. Parents should not be afraid to use their power. But, there are better ways to obtain positive results than to roar through IEP meetings in a Mack Truck.
10 Tips for Avoiding Confrontation with Parents - Tips to encourage and inspire members of the IEP Team for more effective and efficient meetings.
14 Tips: Reviewing Your Child's Educational Records - How to review and request records from your child's school, step-by-step.
10 Tips for Ending the School Year - Great tips for wrapping up the school year, reviewing your child's program and services, and steps you can take to plan for a successful year next fall.
Present Levels: The Foundation of the IEP. Until the Present Levels in your child's IEP are up to date, you will never be able to get the program, placement, or education your child needs. Pat explains why parent input is so important during the IEP Team's assessment of your child's present levels of performance.
School Says, "No Advanced Classes for Kids with IEPs? Children with IEPs receive protection from discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). Does your child qualifies for advanced classes and the school will not enroll her because she has an IEP? That sounds like discrimination.
Written Opinions: A How-To Manual.Your written opinion ensures that the IEP team understands what you think happened at the meeting. Tell the team that you will be sending a written opinion later. You do not have to be an expert on “the law” to write a written opinion. In fact, it may be best not to quote or interpret the law in your written opinion.
Good Grades: Does My Child Still Need Specialized Instruction? Teachers give out grades based on many different factors, this does not mean your child is learning. If your child is struggling, consider an evaluation to determine if she needs special instruction and related services.
Advocating for Field Trip Bus Transportation: How to State Your Case. The school says they can’t provide timely transportation for a field trip and asks Mom to drive. When Mom asks “how do I state my case?”, Pat provides tactics and strategy to get the school to “reevaluate” their position.
Protecting Students with Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education. Good advice to assist your child in learning about her civil rights, the two federal laws that provide protection at the postsecondary level, and how to find out about other state and/or local laws that may provide protection.
Friend or Foe? Is My Attorney on My Side? This question comes up all the time, not just in special education cases. People assume that it is a “good old boys” club, and that it is impossible to obtain a fair hearing. Attorneys have an ethical obligation to vigorously defend their clients. The legal system is adversarial, by design. That does not mean that all adversaries are enemies.
Will a 504 Plan Provide a Scribe & Reader for GQE Testing? Schools often suggest readers and scribes for children who do not read or write well. This is appropriate as long as the school also provides reading and writing instruction. Too often, schools provide accommodations instead of special instruction.
IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About Suspending Children with Disabilities from School. Pat Howey answers questions from parents about suspensions - how long schools can suspend children, under what circumstances, what services schools must provide when children are removed from school, in-school suspenions, and basic issues of fairness.
Male Aides for Female Students - A parent is uncomfortable with the school's plan to assign a male aide to help her adolescent daughter with bathroom and feminine hygiene needs. Pat suggests ways to get the school to reconsider their plan and a list of IEP goals and objectives to help this young lady live safely and independently.
My Child with LD/ADD is Not Allowed to Play Sports Because of Grades - Pat offers advice to a parent whose child is often excluded from sports because of poor grades - despite the fact that he has an IEP that is supposed to provide him with help.
Threats: Refusing to Sign the IEP -
Pat has advice for a parent who is refusing to sign the IEP until the school provides
the services she wants.
Understanding the Playing Field: Power Struggles, Meetings, Follow Up Letters - Pat talks to parents about the impact of different perceptions and expectations, trust, power struggles, and the dangers of making threats.
How Advocates Can Help Parents Advocate. Part of your responsibility as an advocate is to help parents move beyond the emotions that prevent them from being effective advocates for their child. If you are unable to do this by using all of the measures available to you, then it may be time to refer these parents to another advocate or attorney..
Meet Pat Howey
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.