Friday, October 11, 2013

Advocacy 101: IEP's and the Self-Advocate

The power of an effective IEP meeting cannot be denied.  If the proper tools and techniques are used, the entire process can be extremely beneficial for teacher, parent, and student alike.  However, many parents forget that they have the most powerful IEP tool right in front of them.  Correctly used, it can be the stepping stone into a world we like to call... inclusion

We are very lucky to have Heather Molzer as our guest blogger for Advocacy 101 this week.  Please read her story below to learn more about this extremely valuable tool.  ~Leslie

I never realized the importance of having my son Cainan, who experiences a developmental disability, participate in his IEP until after I began attending Partners in Policymaking (PIP), a series of intensive advocacy and disability rights trainings.

Because of PIP, when Cainan was in second grade, we worked with him so he could do a short presentation during his IEP meeting, as well as his placement meeting at the end of the year. His desire to be in a general education class with his peers and attend the same school as his brother (our neighborhood school) was an important part of the placement decision. I’m not sure we would have been successful in advocating that placement without his involvement, demonstrating his own desire to be there and his ability to utilize technology to get his message across (we put his presentation on the iPad and he presented by himself).

To say the team was surprised and impressed is an understatement.  In fact, one of the team members commented, “Any kid who can create and conduct a presentation like that can be successful in a general ed second grade class if we get the supports he needs”.  Now, we always talk to Cainan about upcoming IEP meetings and topics we have to discuss.

I helped Cainan prepare another presentation for his IEP last year. This time he talked about how much he has enjoyed going to his new school, what he identified as goals he wants to work on and what accommodations he likes, as well as his desires for next year. Here's a video of him running through the presentation before his meeting:

While I do the work in PowerPoint and convert it to SlideShark for the iPad, the content is fully Cainan’s ideas and words. We discuss how best to say something.  I ask him questions about how he feels he’s doing in certain areas, where he thinks he still needs help or areas where he doesn’t feel he needs help anymore. We sum this up together to create his presentation.

His presentation always makes a big impression on the team and I'm so proud of him for being involved and sharing his opinion. He’s becoming quite the self-advocate!

SASN guest blogger Heather Molzer is Program Coordinator for FACT, Oregon's Parent Training and Information Center, providing training and resources about special education to parents.  She is a 2012 graduate of Oregon's Partners in Policymaking class.  Heather is a wife with two amazing kiddos and is the author of Our Hungry House


Is your child able to be their own self-advocate?  Every step, no matter how small, can teach them how to become more independent and responsible for their own advocacy.  Please comment below with your child's story (successful or not - we can all learn from each other). 

If you are interested in being a guest blogger for SASN's Advocacy Series, please contact me at

Leslie is so happy to be surrounded by strong parents, who see the full potential in their children. Both parents and children alike may be a little afraid, but by letting them use their own words and communication, the children are being empowered beyond belief. 

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