Before we get started I think it’s important that you understand how I got here, to this place where I’m serving other families through advocacy. Go check out this blog to learn a little about where this all started for me.
If you had asked me 7 years ago when we started with an IEP, if I thought I needed an advocate or IEP coach… I honestly would have told you no. I went to all these meetings where I was able to connect with the team, collaborate and I left (most of the time) feeling like things were well planned for Mason. Everything the team offered me sounded great, we all had great rapport, I offered my concerns or suggestions and felt like they were well heard. I was complacent for lack of better terms. But how did I know Mason was getting everything he needed? How did I know he couldn’t be making MORE progress? What should I have been asking for that wasn’t being offered? SO MANY THINGS! So many times I expressed a concern and was talked down from the idea by a team member, whom I felt like knew better than I did.
Specifically in first grade I remember saying to the team, “the words he is using during these meltdowns are not OK. We know he doesn’t mean them, they are just phrases he uses to cope, but someone one day is going to hear him say this, and they will REACT because they don’t know him.” As a matter of fact, I said this multiple times over the years only to be told they would work on it, they would teach him belly breathing and zones of regulation yada yada yada. (for the record those are great techniques in the right situations!) But there was no goal in the IEP, no target behavior for a BIP and when I read through those past IEP notes, it isn’t even mentioned in there. Why? Because they weren’t working on it. I trusted them to hear what I was saying, but I didn’t hold them accountable because I felt like they knew better than I did. Fast forward to 3rd grade, similar meltdown, same words, new staff… and the police are waiting for me when I arrive at school.
Guys, I get it… the school has an obligation to take words seriously in today’s age, but they also allowed him to say those things for years with no real support to do things differently. When I look back, I see so many red flags. I see so many times I let them make me feel like my concerns weren’t valid or was told they would work on things when they didn’t follow through.
Now, I’d like to put it out there that I don’t place all the blame on the team. I can’t do that. A lot of that responsibility is MINE. I didn’t follow through to hold them accountable, I didn’t pay close enough attention, I didn’t ask for more support, I didn’t do enough research and I let myself question my worth at that table.
If you ask me now, knowing what I know, if I needed an IEP coach at those meetings with me, if I needed someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to make sure we were being offered ALL the things Mason needed… My answer is absolutely. I needed an IEP coach. I needed someone the BEFORE crisis happened. I needed someone to step in BEFORE things got rocky so that those things never happened.
So what is an IEP Coach anyway?
I’m so glad you asked! My job is to guide and educate you through the IEP (and 504) process. I will help you learn your rights, but I’m not a lawyer. I will help you put your thoughts, concerns and goals into writing to become a part of the IEP document, so that YOU can officially be an equal member of the team. I will help you decode the language of special education while giving you the exact tools and phrases you need to create a more collaborative team for your child. An IEP Coach is someone who knows the special education process. I’ve been through it as a parent, and also with the families that I serve. I’ve done all the work, so you don’t have to. I’m here to bounce ideas off of, for quick messages and questions, I’m here to attend meetings with you and to give your child’s IEP a second look. I do not work for the district so when you hire me, you are getting someone who is truly ONLY on your child’s side. When I review the data, testing, IEP, 504 and more, I’m looking at it with your goals and concerns in mind. I’m here to serve your family so that your child accomplishes everything within their potential and beyond.
Master IEP Coaches are:
- Consultants who can help you see what’s missing in your child’s IEP or 504
- Professional + Personable
- Student Focused
- Creative Solution Finders
- Knowledgeable about the school system
- Resourceful beyond your imagination at getting an IEP to work!
Why do I need an IEP Coach?
1. Your child deserves someone who knows the laws and the process, to be only on their side standing up for them at all times.
2. You have so much on your plate! Mommin aint easy and neither is navigating an IEP meeting. Let me take your thoughts and concerns and put them into special education language so you can walk into the next meeting feeling confident.
3. If your school is agreeing to everything you ask for, you probably aren’t asking for enough. We don’t want your child to be average. We want to push the envelope and exceed expectations.
4. Situations rarely resolve on their own. I get it, hiring someone costs money and it’s a sacrifice. But if you think things are hard and expensive now, when you wait and things get worse, they will only cost more time and money in the future. Hiring someone before things get sticky can help things from progressing further.
5. I am the “bad guy” in a meeting. I’m the one who comes in to make the demands so that you can remain more neutral. This helps parents feel more confident in future meetings so they can advocate going forward when appropriate.
6. I’m also the “good guy” in meetings. Often times parents are emotional and overwhelmed in meetings. I’m there to help ensure you as the parent are able to get your concerns across to the team without feeling so upset that you can’t communicate. We will set a plan ahead of time so your point of view is accurately represented.
7. You need someone directing the meeting who is only thinking of you and your child. Not the district, not the schedule, not the 5 more IEP meetings they have for the day. Just you.
8. Maybe you feel confident in a meeting but need someone to look over all the paperwork. An IEP Coach is available to make recommendations and to make sure things are written correctly to help your child meet the goals you have for them.
9. I can help interpret reports and data so that you understand them.
10. I will rewrite goals for your child so that they are more appropriate and I will drafts letters, responses, complaints and written requests to the school.
Reasons you think you do not need an IEP Coach.
- Things are good with my school right now.
- I have an extra person come with me to help listen.
- I’m a teacher and sit on the other side of the table, I know this.
- No one will advocate better for my child than I will.
- I cannot afford one.
I’m here to tell you…. I had every single one of those thoughts. I was wrong. Head over to here to set up your free consultation or send a quick email to NicoleSchlechterAdvocacy@gmail.com and let’s get started. Your child deserves to exceed the expectations their school has for them.
Ready to get started? Head on over to www.nicoleschlechter.com/services so we can work together to better serve your child.