3 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About School-Based Advocacy

Navigating the school system can feel like a maze, especially when your child’s needs fall outside the standard lines.

Hi, I’m Paul Johnson, a Psychological Associate and School Psychologist at Pivot Child Psychological Services, and I have supported school IEP teams for over 20 years as a school psychologist. In this article, we’ll outline the three questions every parent should ask to become an informed and empowered advocate for your child.


1. What are my child’s rights under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or Section 504?


Understanding your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 is crucial for effective school-based advocacy. These laws offer distinct and overlapping protections for children with disabilities and ensure they receive the necessary support to thrive in school.

If your child has a qualifying disability that impacts their learning, they qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under IDEA. Eligibility is determined through comprehensive evaluations, including psychological and educational assessments.

Section 504 protects any child with a disability, regardless of the severity, impacting a major life activity, including learning. This broader scope ensures support for children with hidden disabilities like dyslexia or ADHD.

By actively understanding your child’s rights and utilizing available resources, you can become a powerful advocate and ensure they receive the support they deserve to succeed in school.


2. What informal or formal assessments have been conducted to understand my child’s needs?


Gaining insight into the assessments conducted to understand your child’s needs is crucial for effective advocacy. This data informs the type of support they receive and helps you advocate for targeted interventions and accommodations.

Formal assessments, such as academic achievement tests, cognitive assessments, and social-emotional assessments, can provide insight into your child’s strengths and weaknesses in specific skills.

Informal assessments, such as teacher observations, grades, and progress reports, as well as curriculum-based measurements, can help you understand and track your child’s progress in specific skills and inform instructional decisions.

By actively understanding the assessment landscape, you can advocate for targeted support that addresses your child’s unique needs and fosters their success in school.


3. How will my child’s progress be monitored and measured?


As your child receives support through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, understanding how their progress is monitored and measured is crucial. This data informs adjustments to the plan and ensures it effectively addresses their needs.

The specific goals outlined in each plan should be measurable, allowing clear tracking of progress. Knowing how the overall goals are broken down into smaller, achievable steps is important.

Understand what data will be used to track progress, including classroom performance, standardized test scores, teacher observations, or behavior checklists. Be sure to ask how frequently this data will be collected.

Also, track what tools and how progress will be documented. Depending on your child’s needs, specific assessments might be used to track reading fluency, math skills, or social-emotional behavior progress. Ask for regular progress reports with clear explanations of the data collected and what it means for your child’s development.

By actively participating in your child’s education and seeking clarification, you empower yourself to become their strongest advocate. Don’t hesitate to ask, be heard, and ensure your child receives the support they deserve to thrive in school and beyond.


Working with a large school team can be overwhelming, and knowing your parental rights and the right questions to ask are crucial. That’s where we, at Pivot, can help you navigate complex procedures and provide you with the knowledge needed to confidently advocate for your child’s success.

If you would like to receive this type of support, please reach out and schedule an appointment with us today.



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