Special Education Advocacy FAQs
Eighteen years in special education has taught me so much, and I'm still learning more all the time! One of my favorite things is to share my knowledge of special education with anyone who will listen!! Without further ado, let's share some knowledge!
DO I NEED AN ADVOCATE?
If you feel that you aren't being heard, you need an advocate. If you feel overwhelmed with school personnel or the IEP meeting, you need an advocate. If you need support, to feel like someone is on your side, to have someone back you up or even speak on your behalf, you need an advocate.
THE SCHOOL SAID I DON'T NEED AN ADVOCATE. IS THAT TRUE?
In my experience, many schools do not want an advocate to attend meetings. Good advocates know the law and aren't afraid to push back on school policies that prevent students from receiving the services they need to be successful. In short, advocates can cost the school money. Providing services costs money. However, federal law IDEA explicitly protects students from the school's budgetary challenges. The student's needs should be considered first and written into the IEP, then the school should worry about securing the services written into the plan. You should NOT be told that the school can't offer a service because it will be expensive.
HOW MUCH DOES ADVOCACY COST? IS IT WORTH IT?
Depending on where in the country you live, advocacy services can range in price from free services through government funded agencies to upwards of $200 per hour. The advocacy services I offer are $80 per hour whether I am educating the parents or representing the family at an IEP meeting. Before each meeting, I pray that I am worth my salt. So far, based on client feedback, I think I have been.
CAN MY ADVOCATE GUARANTEE AN OUTCOME?
A good advocate will use the law to protect the student for whom she is advocating. Advocates can advise the school and the parents of the federal law, state law, and local policies and procedures. If things become difficult with the school's willingness to adhere to the law, there are dispute resolution steps that the advocate can enact on the student's behalf. (Parents can also get this ball rolling on their own.) While we - advocates - can advise on the law, we cannot guarantee that the outcome will come easily or without hurdles. Part of my job is to, sometimes, explain to parents that what they are requesting is not within best practice or that their child does not qualify for a certain service or accommodation based on their data and/or assessment scores.
MY CHILD'S DOCTOR SAID THEY HAVE *FILL IN DIAGNOSIS HERE* BUT THE SCHOOL SAID THEY DON'T HAVE TO FOLLOW THAT. WHAT IS HAPPENING!?
This is one of my most frequently debated topics. The disparity is because the medical profession and the educational diagnostician use different tools to determine diagnosis. The medical profession relies on the DMV-5 to diagnose. The educational eligibility requirements are outlined in Louisiana Bulletin 1508, the Pupil Appraisal Handbook.
It is possible that a child can have a medical diagnosis, but not need special education in school. So, the medical diagnosis does not equal an educational diagnosis. As frustrating as this may be to some families, this system does prevent students who do not require special education from being placed in a more restrictive environment.
To qualify for special education, the student must have both a diagnosis and an educational need. No educational need, no need for special education!
I WANT AN ADVOCATE. HOW DO I FIND ONE?
If you'd like to work with an advocate, you have to find one first! Here are a few ways to find an advocate: google your city or state + special needs advocate. Talk to your child's pediatrician, neuropsychologist, aba therapy clinic, speech therapist, occupational therapist, or mental health counselor. Many advocates work in cooperation with other providers who work with kids with special needs. A word of mouth recommendation is always best if the person giving the recommendation knows the advocate! No luck there? Try Facebook groups for parents of children with special needs. Some advocates are members of those groups or have worked with clients who are group members.
Have more questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll be happy to answer!