Annette is back and talking about special needs advocacy with Leslie M. Leslie, project director for The Federation for Children with Special Needs based in Massachusetts. This is an important podcast about parenting, special needs and advocacy.

Annette and Leslie discuss the importance of advocating for what you feel you need for your special needs child and they discuss important tips to remember when advocating as well as ways to make meetings with administrators and others more effective.

Leslie takes listeners through her top tips for effective advocacy for your special needs child.

She says to know who you are talking to when you get into meetings such as IEP meetings and educate yourself on how that system works. Also, when it comes to knowing who is at the table, find out if that special education director is an attorney because it is becoming more of a trend.

Leslie says to try hard to build relationships with everyone regardless of the situation. That also includes meetings about healthcare where you may need to be an advocate.

Take time to listen carefully and know exactly who in the room is authorized to make any decisions for your child.

Leslie says to be the expert on your child and the situation. Always know what you are walking into if you can. You should be the one that knows your child best. And do everything you can to not go into any meetings with administrators alone.

Leslie also advises listeners to get creative with solutions. For example, can you or your insurance company purchase needed equipment for your child to use in school and then take it home for further use? Annette points out that you have more answers than you think you have, so create solutions.

Effective communication is vital to advocating properly for your child. Watch the tone of your voice and ask administrators to explain anything you do not understand and always be courteous. Be a problem solver and be prepared to focus on the goals rather than letting emotions take over a meeting.

Leslie and Annette also make a point to let listeners know that you should be prepared to make arguments to reach your goals but always stay positive. In the end, know that teachers and administrators are trying hard to meet your goals for your child and that compromise may be a solution.

Learn more about The Federation for Children with Special Needs here:

The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education as Leslie mentioned is here.