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Ask the Advocate
by Pat Howey

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Pat Howey is an Indiana paralegal and advocate who helps parents obtain special education services for their children and resolve special education disputes.

Pat is the author of Special Education - Plain and Simple: A Quick Guide for Parents, Teachers, Advocates, Attorneys, and Others that is available from Amazon as a paperback book and a Kindle e-book.

If you are new to the special education world or you simply want a refresher course, Special Education - Plain and Simple was written with your needs in mind. The book includes eleven lessons that focus on key special education topics. Each lesson includes links to more information on the selected topic.

Special Education - Plain and Simple: A Quick Guide for Parents, Teachers, Advocates, Attorneys, and Others by Pat Howey

Pat answers readers' questions in Ask the Advocate. She is a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Group.

"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.

"I loved the two-day seminar by you and Mr. Steedman - it was "just what the doctor" ordered. I know what I need to do - and how to do things more effectively. I feel so empowered! - Florida parent

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 a Successful School Year - Pat offers 10 ten tips to help you get off to a good start at the beginning of the new school year.

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.

Feel Guilty About Asking for Services? Remember the Domino Effect
- Pat describes lessons learned from her child's due process hearing, how effective parent advocacy can force the system to change, and how this benefits many other children whom you may never know.

How to Hone Your Advocacy Skills - and Help Others - Pat has interesting advice for parents who are anxious at school meetings.

How Advocates Can Teach Parents to Be Effective Advocates. 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.

IDEA 2004: Can the IEP Team Prepare a "Draft IEP?" IDEA 2004 discourages the use of "draft IEPs" because they send a message that parental concerns and parental participation are not valued. Since some IEP teams will continue to use draft IEPs, Pat Howey describes the pros and cons and how you can turn a lemon draft IEP) into lemonade.

IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About IEPs for Children with Behavior Problems - IDEA 2004 and the special education regulations include specific requirements for IEPs of children whose behavior impedes their learning or the learning of other children, including training teachers to use positive behavioral interventions and strategies.

IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About Functional Goals in IEPS - The IDEA 2004 statute and federal regulations include very specific requirements about using present levels of functional performance to develop functional goals in the IEPs for all children with disabilities. Pat also teaches you how to find answers to your questions in references that are available on Wrightslaw.

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.

Key Differences Between Section 504 & IDEA - Confused about Section 504 v. IDEA? You aren't alone. Pat describes some important differences between these two laws.

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 is Being Evaluated - What Tests Should I Request? Pat offers advice about evaluations, how to use tests to measure progress, how to use your state laws about testing, and how to find an evaluator with whom to work.

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.

Parent 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.

Preparing for IEP Meetings: Providing Information & Sharing Concerns - Pat answers a parent's questions about how and when to provide information to the IEP team, and emphasizes the fact that "no one likes surprises."

Preparing for IEP Meetings: What to Do When the School Ignores Your Requests
- Pat offers commonsense advice to a parent who is frustrated because the school has ignored her requests for help.

So You Want to Be an Advocate? Your Game Plan -
What do you need to learn? What skills do you need to acquire? Here are three essential things you need to do

What You Need to Know Before You File a Complaint with the State - Pat shares her experiences and opinions about filing a complaint with the state department of education.

18 Tips on Filing Complaints - Pat offers advice about filing a complaint, and issues warnings you should heed.

Why Must I Make Modification for a Child? It Seems Unfair to the Other Children - Pat answers a teacher's questions, and reflects on modifications we receive (and take for granted) at work and in everyday life.

Why You Need to Ask "Dumb Questions" - In this light-hearted article, Pat explains why parents need to ask questions and shares some questions she was too "dumb" to ask when her daughter entered school.

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..

"I had the wonderful opportunity to meet you at the COPAA conference. Thank you for sharing your time, energy and expertise with us all." -- From a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) Education Resource Specialist in CA

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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Revised: 09/13/21

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