I experienced an amazing 504 Plan meeting this morning. Everyone was on the same page and the child will continue to thrive as a result. I really appreciate these meetings because this isn’t always the case as I’m sure many of you are aware. IEP and 504 Plan meetings can often times take on a negative tone and little will get done. The Special Education process doesn’t need to be this difficult.
There’s many reasons for this process to break down. This includes confrontational parents, unprepared staff members, or disruptive advocates. Parents don’t always prepare well enough and staff members can be overwhelmed by countless meetings crammed into one day.
Just because someone says they’re an advocate doesn’t mean they know what the heck he or she is doing. I’ve seen plenty of advocates make the process more difficult by yelling and screaming during the meeting. This isn’t football and not every staff member is evil. Instead of making the meeting about the child, he or she will make it about fighting and arguing. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for this, but an advocate doesn’t need to go on the offensive right away.
With the above being said, the right advocate can be of HUGE help in a meeting. By know the right questions to ask and having an understanding of the school district and Special Education procedures, it can make huge difference. It’s important that you bring the right advocate to a meeting. Here’s some things to look out for…
- Promises to get accommodations. No one can guarantee anything.
- Disgruntled parent. He or she will usually have an agenda that has nothing to do with your child.
- Lowest price. This isn’t a charitable adventure, so don’t go price shopping. Experience and quality do have a price tag. It’s worth it to spend the right money on the right person.
- Individuals recommended by the school or school district. You don’t want anyone that has a direct connection to the place. They’re looking for work and not results.
If you choose not to hire an advocate, be sure to do your homework. It’s important you script out how the meeting should go and dictate your position. It’s OK to disagree and remember you’re as much a part of the process as the school. Just don’t be selfish or greedy. Don’t ask for the moon when all you need is a rock. As a great attorney once told me…you should want a well-running Chevy not a Cadillac.
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