The Limits of Parental Advocacy: Sometimes You Just Have to Hire A LawyerThe Limits of Parental Advocacy

For the first time in 2-1/2 years, Ian is in the right place. He attends a full day, in-person private school aimed at square peg students, aged 18-21. This year, he will get extra help for reading, improve his social skills, gain work experience, and get support at the local community college. Guidance counselors will teach us how to fill out government paperwork and help us map out a plan for his future. I am beyond relieved. 

Even before COVID completely derailed Ian’s schooling, his education was mediocre at best. I tried to improve this situation at his yearly IEP meetings and throughout the year, after reading copious resources on the Internet about rights and procedures and getting tips from other parents. Our advocacy was all DIY, because as recent graduates from PhD programs, we couldn’t afford a $500 per hour attorney.

Despite all those Internet resources and chats with friends, Ian never had a great education. At the best of times, he was included in a regular classroom with an aide, but without any extra help for his weaknesses. In the worst of times, he was stuck in a tiny classroom in a basement with lower functioning students who screamed all day. I should have hired a lawyer when he entered the public school system at age three. Self-advocacy, even for this highly educated mom, never worked.

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4 thoughts on “The Limits of Parental Advocacy: Sometimes You Just Have to Hire A LawyerThe Limits of Parental Advocacy

  1. Fabulous news that you have found a place for Ian to thrive.

    It is sad that it required the assistance of experienced legal counsel, which many, including your younger family, don’t have access too.

    I would love hearing about the adventures in school as appropriate. I got to hear today about how first years aren’t really ready to engage in 3.5 hour seminars and complaints about being bogged down in semantic discussions about terminology.


  2. I hear the same thing from parents of spectrum (and other learning disability) kids here in NZ.
    The schools and the MoE quite simply don’t want to know – because every intervention they make costs $$$ – and they’re rather not spend the money.

    Another part of the problem is that most of the ‘official’ interventions within the schooling system are using the same teaching strategies which have already failed the kid (e.g. ‘balanced’ literacy, rather than phonics) – so have little positive effect. The school can then point to the programme, and say – we provided the supplementary education, it’s your kid who can’t learn.

    Several parents are doing actual education (reading, maths, etc.) outside the classroom – either with tutors or low-ratio programmes, and thinking of the school time as social interaction only.

    Lawyering up doesn’t do much good here, since we have such different education and legal systems. Really most parents figure out that they have to supplement on their own $$$; or accept that, if they can’t afford it, little Johnny is never going to read.

    It gets harder as they get older (e.g. it’s fine to have someone with no co-ordination or sports skills on the 6-year-old soccer team – but they don’t want them on the 10-year old one – and forget any sports at high-school).

    In my son’s last year of primary school (Year 6 here – I think about grade 5 for you – he was 10) – I was called into the principal’s office, and told off for ‘bullying’ his classroom teacher. Apparently my reiterated concern that he was 18-months behind his age group in maths – and requests for a plan to improve this situation, made the teacher feel stressed…..


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