Advocating for your own kid is hard. I’ve been reminded of this the past several weeks. Although I spend most days advocating for other kids with disabilities, I’ve been forced to spend a great deal of time lately fighting for my own child. It is hard, much harder than working on behalf of other kids. And that’s because I’m my own kid’s Mama Bear.
We all know how fiercely we love our own children. We love lots of other children, as well, but when it comes to our own kids, well, watch out. We’re willing to do just about anything (within limits, of course) to protect them from harm.
Advocating for our children’s’ educational rights is one of the things that makes our job as parents of kids with disabilities so challenging. Not infrequently, we literally have to walk into a room full of other people – people we might at times believe are harming our child by lowering the expectations for them, taking services away from them, or depriving them of something we feel they need. If it weren’t enough just to be so outnumbered in an often tense and adversarial setting, we also have to be professional, articulate, and persuasive. All really hard things to do when the Mama or Papa Bear in us is just aching to bust out and let everyone in the room know how great our kid is and how much they deserve a fair shake at a good education.
This is why – and I try to heed this advice, as well – it is always wise for parents to take someone with them to their child’s IEP (link to our definition of IEP in the SED glossary) meetings. It could be a grandparent or a friend or another parent of a child with a disability. Or, if trouble is anticipated, it could be an advocate or even an attorney. Don’t get me wrong – parents can and often do excel at advocating for their kids in IEP settings, but even the best parent will feel more empowered if they are accompanied by someone who supports them. So don’t go it alone the next time you have a meeting – find someone to go with you. You’ll be glad you did.