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How to Advocate for Students with IEPs through Professional Role Empowerment Strategies

How to Advocate for Students with IEPs through Professional Role Empowerment Strategies
Lara L. Wakefield, PhD, CCC-SLP
February 27, 2019

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This text is a transcript of the webinar, How to Advocate for Students with IEPs through Professional Role Empowerment Strategies, presented by Lara L. Wakefield, PhD, CCC-SLP.Learning OutcomesAfter this course, readers will be able to: Define the term “Default Role.”Identify the top 3 reasons for burnout in special education.Select 2 empowerment strategy phrases to apply to scenarios.Introduction and OverviewI want to begin by sharing a few things about myself. I have been a parent advocate in private practice for the past 10 years. I started out representing about 12 families, and now I have over 400. My focus is to help school staff and parents work together to create meaningful and legally compliant individualized education programs (IEPs) so students can meet goals and experience success. I am still a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) in private practice as well. I do not see many clients for individual therapy anymore because the advocacy work has taken over my life. But I do run social skills groups and summer camps with my business partner in our community. I have been attending IEP meetings for over 25 years and I have attended over 3,000 of them, and I have reviewed IEPs from all over the nation. I am also a co-owner of Smarter Steps, which is a national consulting business that helps school staff and parents.I have relevant financial disclosures in that I do receive a stipend for doing this webinar. Also, I may reference my company's products, research, and services. I have no non-financial disclosures to report.My main goal is that you will learn about self-empowerment strategies that actually help students. You are going to learn about self-advocacy, which actually results in student advocacy. We also need to use professional role empowerment strategies in order to prevent burnout, and successfully sustain ourselves in our jobs instead of barely surviving them.Here is a quick overview of what will be covered in this course. We are going to look at definitions of “micro- and macro-advocacy,” which are some phrases I coined to help divide how we look at advocacy for students. Next, we are going to discuss how your professional self-advocacy is a type of student advocacy. Then we will review default roles, some research, and burnout, and we will do some “myth busting.” Finally, we will practice advocacy strategies with helpful phrases from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and by determining self-value and building relationships.As we go through this presentation you will notice that at the top right-hand corner of some of the slides there may be a “Q1” or a “Q2,” etc. This indicates that on this particular slide, we will be talking about information that will be useful in answering that particular exam question after the presentation. I also want to let you know that it may not be exactly in order; you may see Q10 before Q7.What Kind of Advocate are You?Here is a quick moment of reflection as we start this discussion. At the 2017 National ASHA Convention in Los Angeles, they had this poster (Figure 1) tucked away in a corner of one of the hotels that led into the convention hall, and the poster asked an interesting question. It said, "What kind of advocate are you?" It had various answers, and I thought this would be a great way to plant this idea in your heads.Figure 1.I would like for you to be thinking to yourself, “What kind of advocate am I?” Maybe you have never viewed yourself that way. I would like for you to start thinking on that concept. The theme of that convention was “Focus on the Big Picture.” I really like that theme, because that is really what an advocate should be doing. What are we doing in our day-to-day routines to prepare students for the long-term outcomes related to functioning in the real world one day? Without our support services, expertise, and experiences to guide these students, what will their outcomes be? If we do not start advocating for Special Education and related services to be provided at the optimal level that students really need, then what are the results going to be?We already know the current situation on that. According to the U.S. Department of Labor in their 2010 to 2012 data, which is their most recent report available, only one-third of working-age people with disabilities were employed. We also know that people with disabilities are underrepresented in management and professional jobs, and are overrepresented in service and production jobs, such as factory work. We want our students to have sustainable employment and live as independently as possible.DefinitionsAdvocacyI would like to define the concept of advocacy because when you start looking at what it involves, you realize that everyone working in schools is a student advocate. As a member of an IEP team, you are inherently an advocate for students with special needs. You may not have thought about yourself that way, but the fact that you are engaging in planning, problem-solving, and proposing solutions through your interventions makes you an advocate.Advocacy involves proposing solutions to problems. It should not be a complaining and whining type of situation. When solutions are offered, they need to be explored to determine feasibility. The aim of advocacy in your profession is to defend and promote the rights of individuals with disabilities. The fact that you are developing and delivering the services of an IEP, which is mandated by IDEA law, makes you a defender of student rights. Finally, advocacy involves collaboration. What will happen if you do not collaborate in your advocacy efforts? Your plan will collapse. I have experienced that.Micro-Advocacy vs. Macro-AdvocacyI like to divide advocacy into two general categories: micro-advocacy, and macro-advocacy. Micro-advocacy is at the individual level, and that is where you are trying to change a situation for one person, or maybe one building. IEP meetings are a form of micro-advocacy. Macro-advocacy is where you are trying to make a change to a system. If, for example, a group of...

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lara l wakefield

Lara L. Wakefield, PhD, CCC-SLP

Dr. Lara Wakefield, CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Parent Advocate currently in private practice. She is the co-owner of SMARTER Step, LLC, which is a national consulting company for parents, advocates, and school staff focused on better outcomes for students with disabilities. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of special education. She has researched the roles of the Speech-Language Pathologists in collaborative school-based settings for 15 years in several grant-funded projects, including two U.S. Department of Education grants. Dr. Wakefield has been a special education advocate for families of children with special needs for the past 10 years, focusing on improving the IEP process for parents by designing user-friendly services and products. She has presented at state and national meetings on these topics. 



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