Choosing the right special education advocate can be critical for your child’s success. You want to find a person who is very knowledgable of the special education process, but ultimately one who understands the unique needs of your child. When seeking a special education advocate, it important that you ask the right questions for your child’s specific needs. Even though there is no current licensure or certification for advocates, many advocates take training courses and stay abreast of the special education process, laws and procedures. Advocates also attend conferences and workshops to keep their knowledge diverse and valuable.
To make sure you are choosing the right advocate for your child, here are some questions to ask yourself before you choose a special education advocate:
- What are my child’s specific needs?
- What am I looking for in an advocate?
- What role do I want them to serve? (i.e. support, mediator, records review, legal matters)
- Who will be in charge of documenting the IEP meetings? Who will maintain the files? (regardless of this decision, keep a copy of records for yourself)
- How much time will you allot to allow them to get to know your child?
Now after you have decided on the type of advocate that will suit your family, you are ready to seek out the best possible advocate for your child. Remember to keep in mind these questions when choosing the right special education advocate:
- How much advocacy experience does the advocate have?
- What other related experiences and background does the advocate have?
- Do they attend conferences, workshops, and trainings throughout the year?
- Are they familiar with educational policy and law? (advocates can offer legal information and mediate through dispute resolutions, but they are not lawyers)
- Are they comfortable negotiating at IEP meetings?
- What is their area of expertise? (some advocates are best for behavior problems, mediation, or investigation)
- How much do they charge? Is it a flat fee or per hour?
- How will you communicate regarding meetings and other important issues?
- Do they have partnerships with attorneys?
Once you have found a special education advocate, it is time to prepare for advocating for your child. Keep in mind, even though you have hired an advocate, you are still your child’s number one advocate. You know your child the best!
So, stay involved, research, and ask questions!!!!
As your go down this journey, keep an open mind and remember the bigger picture….what is best for your child! Try not to go “tit for tat” with your child’s teacher or any other education professional and work as a team. Special education advocates are valuable tools in providing the right direction for your child on their special education journey. Continue to utilize them in the best way possible.
Do you have any advocacy questions, Let’s Chat!