Questions & Answers
1. What is a special education advocate?
A special education non-attorney advocate must be a highly trained person with specialized knowledge and experience about the many disabilities, educational processes, and federal and state regulations . The advocacy client is your child and/or adult student, an experienced educational advocate must have a working knowledge of the client’s disability(ies) and an understanding of the specific special education services available to her/him. An experienced educational advocate is not an attorney.
2. When should I choose to hire an advocate?
• When you are overwhelmed by having a newly diagnosed child with a disability and do not know how to navigate the special education process and bureaucracy maze.
• When you are frustrated and/or angry by having had your child in special education for several years and seen no progress.
• When you are frustrated with the lack of appropriate services being provided to your child.
• When you, perhaps have attended ARD/IEP meetings and felt somewhat intimidated being surrounded by your school district "education experts" staff determining what your child needs, and it all makes no sense to you, based on what you know about her/him.
• All of the above.
Some parents passively sit back at these meetings and timidly accept the decisions of the campus ARD/IEP Committee members. Others put up a fight without the appropriate tools to produce the necessary changes!
• An experienced educational advocate can assist you in articulating your concerns.
• An experience educational advocate with understanding the programming possibilities that are offered by your school system.
• An experience educational advocate will collaborate with the district in finding the best solutions to promote positive outcomes for your child.
• A non-antagonistic experienced educational advocate will take an objective and logical approach to each situation, matching all stakeholders’ experience and understanding of your child's to aid in the creation of a highly beneficial placement and effective support mechanism for your child. Remember, as a parent or guardian you know your child better than anyone else.
3. When do I know it is time to seek legal counsel?
While the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) states that “While nothing in the current regulations prohibits legal advocates who meet this criteria from participating in IEP meetings prior to a request for a due process hearing”, it has repeatedly discouraged school districts from having a school district attorney present, “an attorney’s presence would have the potential for creating an adversarial atmosphere that would not necessarily be in the best interests of the child”. However, when they may come a time when your dispute potentially reaches the level of filing for due process. An experienced special education attorney can guide you through the process. If your situation requires due process, upon your request, we will try to help you find qualified legal counsel.