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Fighting the good fight

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By GreatSchools Staff

Resolving conflict and restoring relationships

If all your attempts at avoiding problems fail — which, at some point, is bound to happen — try these parent tips on restoring your relationship with the team.

Parents answered:

  • Allow for a cooling-off period.
  • Apologize and admit to your role in the conflict. “The best thing to do is apologize. If there is nothing to apologize for, then apologize for a breakdown in communication," said Stacey from California.
  • Wipe the slate clean and then focus on facts, not feelings. “Remember that you don't have to like someone to have a working relationship with him," advised Cheryl from California.
  • Communicate in person, and be sure to listen.
  • Enlist a mediator or an advocate. A lawyer or advocate can help write a proper IEP and establish a level playing field. A mediator can help with the healing.

Building a support system 

No one should walk this path alone. Having support is the key to managing the myriad practical and emotional details that being an advocate entails, parents said.

We asked parents who they turn to when they clash with a member of their child’s team. The vast majority said they get support from their family (with lots of shout-outs to spouses) and friends. Others turn to fellow parents of kids with special needs, and around the same number rely on a therapist. Another great source of support and information, many parents reported, is books and websites.

Learn from your experiences

We asked parents about the one thing they wish they’d known when they first started advocating for their child. The number one response was: Trust your instincts! “When I listen to my gut, I know I will always be my child’s best advocate,” said one mom. Other parents said they wished they’d been better versed in the law and in their child’s specific disability.

“Don’t be intimidated by authority figures,” said another parent, while several wished they’d known more to “document, document, document.” Last of all, one parent offered this advice to newcomers: “Be prepared for a long, hard journey. Develop patience and persistence.”

Comments from readers

"this was very helpful to me my son has pdd-nos and several other diagnoses and its been a struggle this year at school. "
"My PDD-NOS son is 14 and in the 9th grade and I have been advocating for him since Kindergarten. Along the way I've learned the following: always know the law/district & school guidelines & code of conduct; administrators typically say 'no' first to accommodation requests, so as a parent & advocate you must know the legal rights of your child; always trust your instincts; never be afraid to walk away from a school meeting if your child is not receiving everything necessary; ARD Cte. decisions (verbal or written) can supercede and are more binding than district policies. Lastly, I believe that teachers and administrators generally have good intent when it comes to my son, but they need to manage the good for all of the students. I only care about 1 student and I know my singlemindedness makes me a force to be reckoned with. "
"It's been a long hard road for me and my child. I think that the hardest part was (even though you've already heard the hard truth from other parents) accepting the fact that these people are ALL programed to say NO! to everything that will help your child because it's all about $$$$. Here is a little secret too they don't want you to get a diagnoses cause that means they actually have to do something for your kid."
"be careful how do you advocate. some administration staff will take their frustration on defenseless kid."
"On my journey to advocating for my daughter which finally lead me to finding out my daughter's true diagnosis I have learnt so much. I have even become political and have tried to speak up about learning disabilities. This is of course in UK. First of all I would suggest you sign up for newsletters on websites for disabilities. This keeps you up to date with news of what is happening in the disabled world. Keep records of everything and put things in writing. Keep a diary of visits of your concerns to your doctors and anything that was discussed. Keep a record of what was discussed with teacher because in a month you will forget. You have to be persistent and keep following up each appointment not by phone but in writing. Take photocopies of everything and make a file. Keep everything factual rather then emotional. Find out all about your child’s condition. What the doctors tell you is not always enough. In Uk we have Carers forums and local Carers support groups. However very often you are alone and it is up to you to fight for your child’s rights. Make notes at the meetings as sometimes I was quoted on things I later forgot. Read reports very carefully and question anything you disagree with."
"This is good advice as far as it goes, however, everybody has to play nice in the sand box. We gave the school a neuropsychological report stating that our apraxic son was of average intelligence and the SPED director continued to maintain that he was mentally retarded. The one thing I wish I had known going in is that you can't trust the schools to give your disabled child what he needs. I trusted the school for several years and regret every day that I did. In may respects they just want to push disabled kids through. It is easy to say 'keep your emotions in check' until you see your child's life going down the drain. If an 18 wheeler is getting ready to run your child over do you keep your emotions in check?"
"Fantastic objective, useful advice .Hope lots of parents will read it"