The only "fair" fight is one you win

My son has just graduated High School, and he had an IEP since he was in pre-school. Here's my advice to other parents of special-needs children, FWIW:

1. Don't wait. The bureaucrat's favorite weapon is delay, and every day counts when you're talking about your kid's future. Never agree to "work it out at the next meeting", because it won't happen. Every day counts.
2. Don't wimp out. If you feel that the school isn't giving your child what (s)he deserves, use nuclear artillery to make them do what's right. Remind yourself that they do this every day, and that you need someone on your side that does it every day, too. If it comes to lawyers, get the best: you don't want the guy who advertises on TV, or the guy with the office right next to the courthouse. You must find a law firm that specializes in special-needs education law and has a successful track record. Trust me on this: you don't want F. Lee Bailey - you want his evil twin.
3. Don't pretend your child is normal. Schools are expert at pretending that even severely handicapped children can be "mainstreamed" and given minimal "accommodations" that will cost the school very little and accomplish even less. Be on your guard for appeals to your vanity and assurances that your child will grow out of it: never forget that anything which costs less is what they'll try to do.
4. Don't let them shame you. In my first IEP meeting, the school's director of special-needs education told me that he had to consider the well-being of every child in the school. I answered by saying "I don't care about other children. I'm only interested in my son's well-being". The man was (literally) speechless, and I think it was because he had never seen someone who would be so honest and willing to say it out loud. As I said, remember that they do this every day, so you'll have to bring your best game and be willing to admit you need help.
5. Don't cheap it out. If you need to re-mortgage your house to pay for the best advice, the best lawyers, the best tutors, or the best residential placement you can find, just do it and worry about the money later. Every day counts.
6. Don't play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules. You're in a fight for your child's future, and you may believe me when I tell you that your opponents are going to bite in the clinches. Forget any notion of "fair play", because life isn't fair and your kid is living proof. The only "fair" fight is one you win.

I hope this helps. Your readers are welcome to call me if they want advice.

Bill Horne