Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide

Posted by nliakos on July 27, 2008

by Pam Wright and Pete Wright.  Harbor House Law Press, 2006 (2nd edition).

Pam and Pete Wright are the founders of Wrightslaw, a website devoted to special education, advocacy, and the relevant laws.  They also have a free online newsletter and have written several books to guide parents of children with special needs through the legal intricacies of IDEA and NCLB, including Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, which I own and also recommend, From Emotions to Advocacy, and others, as well as DVDs and other websites.  I wonder when the Wrights have time to do anything else; maybe they don’t.

For me, the most important benefit from reading Special Education Law was actually reading the law for the first time.  The Wrights stress the importance of reading the statutes and regulations for oneself.  This was how I first realized that schools are obligated by law to prepare children with disabilities for independent living (insofar as possible) and employment — not only to educate them in the traditional sense of the three Rs.  I had been led to believe that skills not directly applicable to education (math, reading, writing) were not the responsibility of the school to enhance.  Wrong!

Legal language is difficult to read, but the Wrights explain and clarify, giving plenty of examples.  They use the same strategy in From Emotions to Advocacy (in fact there is quite a bit of overlap between the two books).  In this book, I learned how to collect all the reports, IEPs, medical records etc. that had been languishing in 30 different folders and organize them into a chronological master file.  (They recommend using a large 3-hole binder to keep the documents–I already have three!)  I am now in the process of creating the index for this file.  It has been very educational for me to go back and look at these documents again, and the Wrights point out that in order to be an effective advocate, a parent must become very familiar with the contents of the file, because no one else is ever going to read through all of it!  There are useful chapters in both books about keeping a written record of all communication with the school and how to write effective letters that will serve as solid evidence if there is a dispute or due process hearing.  They assume that school systems may need legal coercion to provide FAPE (a Free Appropriate Public Education, guaranteed by IDEA), so the books are geared toward preparing a strong case.  I hope I will not need to use my Master File for this purpose, but if I ever do, the Wrights’ books and websites will certainly provide excellent guidance in how to proceed!

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