Rules of Combat
I recently came upon a t-shirt printed with these rules of combat. Parents of children enrolled in special education programs may find these rules useful in their journey from emotions to advocacy.
1. If the enemy is within range so are you.
Everything you do can have a lasting effect. Do not allow your actions to backfire on your child.
2. The cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue.
In a pinch you may not be able to find or afford a good parent attorney. Use persuasion instead of due process threats.
3. Bring the biggest gun you can handle, lots of ammo, andplenty of reinforcements.
Come to IEP meetings prepared. Give other members of the Team all relevant information before the meeting. Bring extra copies with you. Do your homework. Learn everything you can about research-based instruction. Take a friend to the meeting. Bring refreshments.
4. Incoming fire always has the right of way.
The school is responsible for chairing the IEP Team Meeting. Thus, school staff has the right of way. Your greatest weapon is paper and pen. Document everything, even if it seems unimportant. Who fires the first shot is less important than who has the most strategic position after the shots are all fired.
5. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
Be careful about using the law is your weapon. IDEA is a critical tool but your information may be outdated. Quoting the law only polarizes the positions of both sides making the possibility for peace more difficult.
6. Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.
It is difficult to fire at someone who is kind and considerate. Concentrate on influencing people. Be polite. Treat others as you would like to be treated. When others are rude be a better person than them and walk a straighter path.
7. If at first you don’t succeed, bomb disposal is not for you.
Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Not everyone can defuse difficult situations. If you have not yet learned this skill work with an experienced parent advocate who specializes in dispute resolution.
8. Any ship can be a minesweeper . . . once.
It is easy to burn bridges. A good negotiator causes change without burning bridges. Take care of your child’s school relationships. Remember, s/he may be in that environment for a long time.
9. If you see a bomb technician running, make sure to keep up with him.
Is the head special education bomb technician -- special education director or school attorney – to be at your IEP Team meeting? Pay close attention. Either you should be worried or you have other members of the IEP Team worried. Either way, you need to be prepared.
10. If at first you don’t succeed, call in an airstrike.
When all else fails, contact a good parent attorney for advice. Do not threaten due process.