IDEA. IEP. What Do Those Letters Mean to Me???

IDEA. IEP. What Do Those Letters Mean to Me???

Families as Allies brings together many different families across geographic regions, political persuasions and all kinds of demographics.  But one thing that unites almost all of us is knowing all too well that heart-stopping moment when we see the school’s, sometimes even the preschool’s, number pop up on our phones.  Dreaded questions immediately arise. What now? Are they going to tell me to come pick up my child? Do I even want to answer? What do I say if I do?



School issues, often related to special education, are by far the most common reason families contact us. That pattern is consistent with calls to family-run organizations across the country.

Our mission at Families as Allies is to make sure families are partners in their children’s care. By that, we mean that services and supports should be family-driven. Family-driven means “families have a primary decision making role in the care of their own children as well as the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community, state, tribe, territory and nation.”

Feeling that you have a primary role in the care of your own child can feel like the furthest thing from reality in the midst of conflicts with the school. It helps to think about these three things: 1) You know your child better than anyone, 2) You care more about your child than anyone, and 3) The law is on your side.

SpecialEdbw.jpgThe federal law governing Special Education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), can feel overwhelming to understand. Keep in mind that you don’t have to know everything about IDEA to use it for your child’s benefit. Also remember that IDEA and other civil rights laws are about how systems should respond to your child – not about how you or your child should be for the system.

The online site offers a wealth of information about learning and attention
issues that is helpful across disabilities. They recently published an advocacy toolkit based
on the Supreme Court’s landmark Endrew F. decision with step by step instructions on how
to use language from that decision to help your child have the most helpful Individual Education Plan (IEP).

I strongly encourage you to look through the toolkit if you are having challenges with your child’s IEP. also provides a helpful overview of the Endrew F. case here. As always, if we can support you in advocating for what you want for your child, please reach out to us.

I’m also very interested in how all of you think Families as Allies can make our training about education and other issues as effective as possible, including the best ways to partner with our fellow family-run organizations like Mississippi Parent and Training Information Center  and Family Voices. We treasure them and want to maximize our opportunities together. Let me know your thoughts by emailing me at or calling 601-355-0915.


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