Become Your Child’s #1 Advocate and ROCK the IEP!
I learned how to take on the school system to get the right services for my child with autism, and I’m going to teach you everything I learned.
Hey there! I’m Raven Woods!
I’m a holistic health coach, a disability advocate, mom of three AMAZING kids, one of whom has Autism. As a parent of a child with a disability, I know how hard you work every day to give your child the best life possible, help them overcome their obstacles, and live their happiest, most fulfilling life – the same things EVERY parent wants for their child.
You know how amazing your child is and know they are capable of so much! But you worry that without the right education, services, and school supports, your child will not reach new milestones, you feel:
Overwhelmed – You know what your child needs to thrive, but you don’t know what kinds of services or accommodations they are eligible for or entitled to.
Bullied – You’re sitting there alone with a table of administrators, teachers and service providers, pushing a plan at you and telling you to sign, even though you KNOW this plan isn’t right for your child!
Angry – Listening to people who don’t know your child shut you down at every turn.
Scared – At the end of the meeting, you are scared for your child – scared you didn’t fight hard enough, scared the school isn’t taking care of your child, scared that your child isn’t getting the opportunity to succeed, or the services they need.
I want you to know that I see your struggle. You are not alone in feeling like this.
How do I know?
Because I’ve been exactly where you are.
I want to share my story with you...
My youngest child, Skylar (“Skye” for short) has Autism.
Our journey started when Skye was just three months old and contracted viral meningitis. After a difficult hospital stay where she was poked and prodded for endless tests and treatments, she recovered, and I thought we would be okay.
She wasn’t though. My baby was ALWAYS sick – ear infections, fevers, viruses – we were in and out of the ER. Then, I noticed Skye wasn’t achieving her developmental milestones, which led to an Early Intervention referral and starting her in occupational and physical therapies at just six months old. You know the drill, right?
When Skye was two, she qualified for the school’s Early Childhood Education Program, then, at 5 years old, is when the real fight for my child’s future began. I knew my child’s strengths and challenges, what my child needed, what services she would need to thrive, and felt confident that the school would be on my side. After all, we all had the same goals – Skye’s success -right?
My first IEP meeting, I got a rude awakening. I was told what they couldn’t do, what Skye couldn’t get. I was told what she would get, and that was that. I had zero say over my own child’s education! I quickly found out that the school was more concerned with saving money and making things easier for them than making sure Skye got the services she needed. Plus, I found out the right people were not even there so “real” decisions could be made.
I took what they gave us and left the meeting crying. I felt like I failed he
Where I went wrong...
I realized I didn’t know ANYTHING about what she was entitled to, about her rights, or mine as a parent. I didn’t know what the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was or what Free and Public Education (FAPE) laws were. So, I resolved to change that.
Before the next IEP, I spent HOURS on Google doing my research and walked in with a plan. It still didn’t matter because even though I had the research, I didn’t know how to apply it, and I didn’t know how to stand up for my daughter. I had no idea how to take the things I learned, to communicate it in “their” language where results can occur. I was saying everything wrong!
I knew one hour of speech a week wasn’t enough. I knew she’d benefit from Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, Occupational Therapy, and other therapies –– but was told no. They said they didn’t have a BCBA to do ABA. What I didn’t know was that they had to provide this if it was needed and appropriate, even if they had to hire outside the school system.
I was by myself at a table full of administrators, teachers and service providers, telling me to sign the IEP. And at that time that was what was offered.
I ripped it up in their faces but still didn’t know what to do. I was so mad!
I began dreading IEP meetings, would feel sick before them even! I was tired of feeling like I was failing Skye who needed me to fight for her!
It was time to take a stand.
Turning the tables…
I needed more than Google to help. I memorized WrightsLaw and Emotions to Advocacy books. I learned my rights, what my child’s rights were and what she was entitled to, and more than having the right information.
You see, you have to use the right words to get them to listen, know you mean business, and take action. You have to have the right people on your team, and you have to be able to back up what you say.
But guess what? It worked. I started walking into IEP meetings with more knowledge and confidence. I was able to say “THIS is why my child needs,” and making sure she got it. More importantly, I was able to hold the school accountable to implementing the plan, instead of them making empty promises. I figured out what needed to be in the IEP, why this was so crucial, and the right wording. They will try to trick you with wording.
With a plan in place that was right for Skye, she began to thrive! It was amazing the difference the right services made! I requested an IEP every 30 days until things were how I wanted them and for them to know I was serious and was not backing off.
A Mama on a Mission
I know all parents of disabled children face similar struggles with their child’s education and getting the services they needed. I was inspired to want to help other parents who dread IEPs, feel defeated, and see their children not getting the education they deserve. I worked on my 2nd Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, and am a member of the National Association of Professional Special Needs Education Advocates, and part of the Virginia Autism Project.
I started Rock the IEP, a six-week, step-by-step coaching and training program to help parents learn from start to finish the IEP process and how to understand their child’s IEP, and their rights. I offer professional advocacy services to coach parents on how to successfully advocate for their children, stand up to the school board, and set their kids on the right path toward success!
To learn more about how I can help you and your family navigate the special education system, schedule a Discovery Session today!