It has been my experience that when a parent first becomes aware that his child has a disability of any type there is a grieving process that must take place.  This is an emotional time and no two people experience loss in the same manner.  It is important to allow yourself that time, if possible, prior to leaping into the advocate role.  You may have a long road ahead in advancing the needs of your child and you need to be emotionally sturdy before you head down this path.


  • Take your time
  • Build a network
  • Know you are not alone
  • Acquire knowledge
  • Be a good record keeper
  • Put things in writing
  • Read an email twice before pushing “send”


Build your foundation for what services your child needs to access his education through educators, testing, professionals, and current literature and be prepared to support your IEP requests through these foundational pieces.

Draft an outline as to what you believe your child needs, and where support for that need can be found.  Pretend you are the superintendent and can do anything you want – create a specific and comprehensive program for your child.  This does not mean your child will have this entire program, but you must start as high as possible, knowing that usually one may not secure everything.   Having this information at your fingertips will be helpful in future meetings.

Whether you are headed to your first or your final IEP meeting and whether you feel as though the school district has been completely supportive or diabolical, try to maintain a professional and personable affect. Being confrontational and accusatory does not typically produce the result you desire, or may come at a difficult cost. You likely have to continue to work with these professionals in the future.

And lastly, to coin an overused expression, put your own oxygen mask on first.  In order to be the most effective advocate for your child you truly have to take care of yourself.  Dedicating time and space for you to replenish your spirit will not only benefit you but also your child, in both your interactions and your ability to continue to push for the most appropriate services and education your child deserves.