WPFP9: Moving Past Emotion and Becoming a Force in IEP Meetings with Karen Kiecker


In this Episode

In this episode we dig into why IEP meetings are so emotionally charged and mom Karen Kiecker shares her special education journey. Karen delved into the role of advocate when she serendipitously lost her job at the same time as her daughter’s academic struggles hit an all-time high. We discuss how she crammed to understand her basic legal rights, forged alliances in school, prepared for meetings, and contained her emotions so she could get the services her three kids with learning differences needed to thrive in the system.

About Karen

As a career lifer, wife and mother of four, my path was drastically altered when the company I'd worked for restructured. The defining decision to leave my chosen profession after 20 years, and the effects of that choice, surprised us all.  In this next 'season' I was clouded and believed that my only real value would now be measured by the role I played for other people, forfeiting who I thought I really was in this reluctant transition. It was during this identity crisis that I found myself thrust into the world of Special Education and more specifically IEP's.  My IEP journey began on shaky ground but ten years, three separate IEP's, and a bazillion meetings later, I consider myself an 'accidental advocate' and a self-taught one at that! I never imagine my self-worth disorientation would lead me to a place where I never felt more authentic and honest. While advocating and managing IEP's are a huge undertaking, I was fortunate to find my voice and a passion in this most unlikely place.

 What You’ll Learn

  • What makes IEP meetings so difficult and emotional for parents

  • What Karen did to improve her ability to discern the key points of her special ed meetings

  • Why Karen realized she needed to move beyond emotions to be a more effective advocate

  • How Karen prepared for better IEP meetings

  • How she helped herself feel less intimated by the number of people around the table

  • How Karen’s son’s self-advocacy ended up propelling his case

  • How a kid’s self-esteem can be affected by chronic academic struggles

  • How a buddy system helped Karen’s friend manage her IEP meetings

  • Karen’s best advice for parents just entering the special ed system


Resources Mentioned

Wrightslaw - “Where parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.” 

Book by Wrightslaw - From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide





Kendra Wilde