The other day, I had an IEP meeting, I think it was last Friday, and this was for a little boy who lived in another district in Florida. Last year in May, I think it was, we did an IEP meeting and we successfully advocated for a one-on-one para for him, and he’s got autism. So we successfully advocated for a one-to-one, a dedicated para, and I think he was in first grade. So we got that done. Then the parents decided to put him in a private school, because they thought that would be better for him, and it didn’t work out. They couldn’t handle his behaviors, and he’s really off task all the time. He really needs somebody to help them. So the parents were bringing him into another county, and the big concern was that one-to-one para, because districts typically, typically in Florida will, it’s not a surprise, it’s an expectation that they will fight that one-on-one.
So when we got a draft of the IEP, on the draft of the IEP, sure enough, it’s on the previous IEP, it said “One-to-one individual para throughout the school day to help with academics, independent functioning.” Okay? On the new IEP, it said something like “Staff need to support child in independent functioning, academics.” So it was a big change. It was not a one-to-one, it just said “Staff needs to help.” So mom’s all distraught and I’m like, “All right, I know what I need to do.” You know, I’m prepping for my meeting, I’m getting my attitude straight, I’m getting my reasoning set up. I mean, I do a lot of preparation for these meetings and so I’m all ready to go in and all ready to argue this.
And so before the meeting, I was talking to the mom and we hung up and she said to me “Can we pray before we go into this meeting?” And I said, absolutely. So I called her up and we prayed. We just asked for God’s guidance and His direction, and you know, if you’ve gone and seen on my website, The Advocate’s Prayer, that I wrote because before I go into every meeting, I pray. So if you haven’t read that, I’d encourage you to read it. So I always pray for the family and for the team and for my mouth, my mouth stays in control.
So I pray with that mom, and we go in the meeting and it’s a lovely team and everything’s going really well, and we’re waiting for the moment where we’re going to talk about this and that, and about the one-to-one. There was a district program specialist in the meeting, which they’re always in the meeting when I show up, which is fine. So that’s okay. I was ready. We get through the whole IEP, it was lovely, everybody’s nice, and we get to the services. We come to that particular entry and the staffing specialist reads, as it reads on the draft “Staff to support child throughout the day, independent functioning, behavior,” whatever.
And just as I’m getting ready, I mean, my mouth was open, just as I was getting ready to say something, the district program specialist says, “Wait a minute, he gets a one-to-one dedicated para. That’s what it says on the previous IEP. That’s what needs to be on this IEP. You need to change that.” And the staffing specialist said, “Well, we wrote it this way.” And the district person, program specialist says, “No, you need to write it the exact way that they wrote it on the previous IEP.”
And I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that a program administrator at that level wasn’t fighting the parent on this, wasn’t going to fight us, and she was insisting that it be changed. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before. I don’t remember that happening without me having to say something in response and having a discussion about it. It was a moment to behold. So we got through that. We finalized the whole IEP. We got everything done, and mom, after the meeting, mom and I called and she was beside herself with joy. Like the parents couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it.
So here’s what I want to tell you. You know, people always ask me, “How do you do it, Pam? What do you do? What do you say? How do you say it? What’s the secret, Pam? How come you’re just so good at this?” And it reminded me after that meeting that years ago, probably like 13, 14 years ago, before I started the company, I went to an IEP meeting for a friend of mine. We went into the meeting, I advocated and we got him, the little guy, a one-to-one para. So we come out of the meeting and the parents are so overjoyed, just so overjoyed. All their friends told them they’d never get it.
And I was talking to the dad and he said, “I have never seen anyone advocate like you.” And I said, I think I said, “Well, thank you.” He meant it as a compliment. I said, “Thank you.” He says, “Do you know why you’re so successful?” And I said, “I prepare a lot.” I said, “You know, I try and do my best.” And he said, “Pam, you’re the only person I’ve ever known who actually asks God to go in the meeting with you.”
And I’ve always prayed before I go into a meeting, but I forgot that little story until a couple days ago. There is no secret to what I do and how I do it. I am prepared and I do my part, but I will tell you categorically that the reason, the only reason that things happen, the way they do in IEP meetings and my meetings is because God shows up, and I asked him to show up, and He walks into that meeting with me. Because I will tell you, there are things that have happened in some of my meetings that can only be called miracles. That’s the only way to explain it. So here’s the deal. I love teaching. I love sharing. I love sharing things and techniques and topics and answering questions and everything, but you really need to know, it’s not a big secret.
So I would encourage you to, before you go into a meeting, before you get on a phone call, before you talk to anybody, just say, “Hey, God, I really need your help. Can you just come with me?” And here’s the thing, He’s there with you anyway, He shows up anyway, He’s just waiting for you to recognize him. He’s just waiting for you to recognize him and to ask Him for help. He’s just waiting for you to recognize that you need His help and He’s the one to help you. He’s there anyway, might as well ask Him to work. We’ll put Him to work, that’s how I look at it.
So on that note, I just really want to thank you. This has been a real joy. I’ve loved it. It was a little new technique of offering this class and just having you pay what you wanted to pay if you could pay, and not worry about it if you didn’t. That was a directive by God. I understand now why He had me do it. So it’s been a real joy, it’s been a real pleasure. If I can help you anywhere, in any way, then please let me know because I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for the long haul. Before I forget, so one more thing, John asks, “You mentioned last week, putting the medical diagnosis on the IEP. Did you say in the parent notes or the actual health section?” You can put it both, but here’s the thing. Some schools don’t want to put it in the health section and have it printed, so they tell you they can’t do it. But if you want it written in the parents section, that’s your section, you can ask for it to be stated there. Okay?
All right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a real pleasure, have a fantastic evening. We look forward to having our paths cross in another way at some other time. God bless you. God bless your families.
The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!