Advocacy Tips: 2-Focus On The Facts

Hello, Parents!

Sometimes when we need to advocate for our child’s FAPE, we are doing so because schools are not doing all they could or should be doing.  In that case, we parents feel a deep sense of betrayal.  We expect that people who take a job working with children will do what those children need without being asked, told, or forced.  The bureaucracy of a school system sometimes prevents that, not all school staff are as generous as we would like them to be, and not all school staff know what our children need.  The sense of betrayal is often accompanied by a lot of anger and a desire to blame someone.  Perhaps those are a natural response to our unmet expectations, but we can’t allow ourselves to be caught in the trap of our emotions.  Emotions don’t think, reason, or plan, and they can wreck our case if we don’t manage ourselves properly.

When advocating for your child’s FAPE, FOCUS ON THE FACTS.  Your best and most effective advocacy statements will start like this.  “My child needs….”  Follow this with a statement of facts about what your child needs in order to access and benefit from his education.  Here is why this works.

First, schools are not there to give parents what they want, so statements like, “I want my child to have ….” are ineffective.  IDEA, ADA, and Section 504 say nothing about granting parents’ wishes.

Second, schools do not have to give the cadillac version of anything.  If a skate will get your child where he needs to go, in the eyes of the law, a skate will be sufficient.  We have to get brutal with ourselves and admit that sometimes a skate really is all that is needed.  There are strategies to use if more than a skate is needed, but stick to the facts and use them as your tools.  You may know that your child needs something more than a skate, but you must present that fact along with solid evidence (more facts), not with emotionality.

Third, even if there has been wrongdoing in your child’s case, dwelling on it will not advance your child’s education or get the IEP corrected.  Facts will.  Facts will tell what your child needs, and IDEA, Section 504 and ADA all support meeting a child’s educational needs.

The most powerful thing you can do is to say, “My child needs…” because it triggers everything in the law to give your child an equal opportunity to learn and equal access to his education.

It is enough to focus on the facts and use them for your child’s advantage because you have some of our nation’s best laws to back you up.

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