Sunday, March 18, 2012

Being an Effective Parent Advocate = Learning and Preparation!

Dear Fellow Parent Advocates,

If you're like me and many of the parents in my circle, you work tirelessly to ensure that your child has what he/she needs to be successful in life... this may include researching, attending workshops, reading, taking notes, organizing health and educational records, meeting with other parents, experts, and school staff, finding the appropriate programs and services, etc.. the list goes on.

Advocacy isn't just about being able to effectively articulate and ask for what your child needs. It's much more than that. It's about learning all you can and planning.

Joining a parent group can help parents learn the ropes of advocacy. For new parents, this can be a daunting process if you are not prepared. In the FETA (From Emotions to Advocacy) Group - Sacramento, parents will study all of the aspects of advocacy including preparation.

The FETA Group - Sacramento will study the Wrightslaw text, "From Emotions to Advocacy" by Pamela Wright and Pete Wright.

  • Parents will learn to plan and prepare for their advocacy efforts from learning all they can to executing steps. Planning can help prevent problems. Don't just wait to be told about rights and responsibilities. Take the lead. As the parents, you are the most invested in your child.
  • Parents will learn how to build positive relationships with  schools. This is a key ingredient! If there is a positive rapport to begin with, it makes parties more willing to listen, more open to ideas.
  • Parents will also examine the culture at their child's school and district and why certain obstacles may exist. How does the school view students with disabilities? What do they think about the parents? How do they view behavior problems? How are decisions made and by whom? It is important to know these things, because these are the people pulling the purse strings.
  • Parents will learn about their legal rights. Children with disabilities are entitled to an "appropriate" education. Laws will be examined.
  • Parents will work to understand conflict and why it happens. Conflict is a normal part of life. It's inevitable in almost any setting where people who have differing views, beliefs, perceptions and interests. Not only this, parents will learn some ways for effectively resolving conflict.
  • Parents will learn all they can about their child's disability and educational history in order to use facts and documentation to resolve disagreements and disputes.
  • Parents will create a master plan for their child's education. What are your child's strengths, challenges? What are his/her dreams? What does he/she need to be successful in life including during school and as an adult. What skills does your child need to develop?
  • Much more!!
These are just a few of the topics that parents will learn in the FETA Group.

Join the FETA Group!

To get involved, contact Angie at  We are still forming and welcoming new members.

Don't live near Sacramento? 

If you're not in or close to Sacramento, or if you do not have time to meet in a group setting, I encourage you to read the book "Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy."  I do not work for Wrightslaw and am not being paid to recommend them. I just find their information to be very valuable and helpful to parents.

You are also welcome to use the study questions that I am preparing on the FETA blog. These questions are my gift to you. The FETA web at Wrightslaw is also a helpful tool.

Another must-read is the Wrightslaw book, "Special Education Law, 2nd Edition" also by Pam and Pete Wright. Learn the laws that impact your child's education.

Wrightslaw also has a great 6-hour Special Ed Law & Advocacy Training CD-ROMthat I just purchased.

Or, better yet... join forces with some other parents and start your own FETA study group. I was inspired to start a group based on an article that I read. For the article, visit:  "What Can One Person Do You Ask? Start a FETA Study Group!"

     Cheers to advocacy!

Angie Sutherland


  1. You're so right about what it takes to be an effective parent. There's so much planning and preparation involved. It's usually not stuff that'll make headlines or even get noticed, but stuff that quietly makes a big difference in the course of a child's daily routines. For example--having activity materials ready in advance, or staying up the night before to read the instructions to a new game so you're not fumbling through it when everyone's ready to play. Hey, good luck with your parent advocacy group. It sounds excellent.


  2. Thanks AV for wishing me luck! The parent study/advocacy group is near and dear to my heart. I want for it to make a positive impact; still in the seedling stage, but hoping to grow. Looking forward to reading more of your ideas in Spaghetti Box Kids too! I see the benefit in the creative learning activities (play) that I do with my little girl, and she's at her best. Each step of the journey makes a difference, and with a plan -- even better! She is blossoming with each new day and I am learning.

    All the best,