Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy

The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam Wright & Pete Wright


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Obstacles to Successful Advocacy

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"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -- Martin Luther King

woman holding back giant bolder As your child’s advocate, you will negotiate with your school district. When you negotiate, you will encounter obstacles. If you recognize obstacles, you can take steps to prevent problems.

School obstacles include myths, lack of accurate information, and school culture.

Parent obstacles are isolation, lack of accurate information, personal school history, and emotions.

School Obstacles

The mission of public schools is to provide students with a standardized education. By definition, standardized educational programs are not individualized - standardized programs are not designed to meet the unique needs of the child with a disability.

School Culture

School culture includes the beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes of people who work in schools – educators, school psychologists, administrators, and other personnel.

fencerSchool culture often acts is an invisible wall and prevents parents and school staff from working together. When you advocate for your child, you need to understand the power of school culture.

Several years ago, a psychologist named Dr. Galen Alessi studied school culture, and found that school psychologists do not report "school factors" when children have school problems.

Recently, researchers studied the attitudes of principals toward children who had school problems. What did these principals recommend to help these children? Retention and /or referral to special education!

School culture is not unique to you, your child, your school, your school district, your state, or region. Although school culture feels personal, in most cases, it is not personal!

Beliefs, Perceptions, & Attitudes

Beliefs affect the decisions we make and the actions we take.

While beliefs may not be expressed openly, they have an enormous impact on relations between parents and school personnel, and influence how decisions are made for children with disabilities.

Parent Obstacles

If you are like most parents, your obstacles include isolation, lack of accurate information, your personal history, and your emotions.

Your Emotions

As a parent, your emotions may be your Achilles Heel. To be an effective advocate, you must control your emotions and use them as a source of energy.

We recommend that you to join a parent support group.

When you take this step, you will begin to deal with your obstacles related to isolation and lack of information -- and you will get emotional support.

Your Personal Experiences

Many parents feel anxious and intimidated at school meetings. Your personal school experiences will affect your feelings about schools, teachers, and school meetings.

Common Emotional Traps

When you advocate for your child, you need to be aware of common emotional traps and pitfalls:

  • Self pity. If you find yourself asking, “Why does it have to be so hard?” or “Why can’t things be different?” you are falling into the self-pity trap.
  • Resistance. If you use passive aggressive behavior to defeat them, you also defeat yourself.
  • Temper tantrum. If you blow up, you prove that they were right about you!
  • Quitting. OK, you quit. Now what?

Read more articles from Advocacy 101


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