Special Education Advocacy Tips:
- Work together with the school as much as possible. It’s not always easy, but in the end you are married together so you might as well keep it amicable.
- Contact the school as problems arise. Don’t let problems build up.
- Document all phone conversations. It’s as easy as sending a follow up email that confirms your conversation and the key points that you discussed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. There are many supports and services out there available to parents, but they most likely won’t be handed to you and you might not know what they are. Let the school know what’s going on and ask for them to solve the problem and you may wind up pleasantly surprised with what is offered.
- Never ask for what is best for you child. The key word is appropriate. While we all want what is best, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) only provides for what is appropriate (a free and appropriate public education a.k.a. FAPE). That does not mean that what is appropriate can not be what’s best. It’s semantics, but it’s important. Ask for appropriate supports and services and you will sound like you know what you are talking about.
- Keep good records. I have found that parents with the best records usually prevail in special education proceedings. As a special education attorney, I spend a good deal of time sorting through paperwork. It’s always better to have too much than too little. Cases are made out of paper.
- Special education advocacy isn’t about winning, it’s about making sure your child is successful. Don’t let egos get involved. Don’t ever put your foot down and ignore a chance to negotiate because you feel as though you’re giving in to the district. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t maximize your negotiations, it’s just a point that too often it becomes Parent v. School rather that School/Parent on behalf of child.