You don’t have to face your child’s IEP team alone. Many parents of children in special education programs understand the purpose of a lawyer in the IEP process. If your rights have been violated, and you’re pursuing legal action or a due process hearing, you’re wise to call an attorney.
But what if you’re not sure whether you need legal action? What if you’d like to pursue all other solutions before heading down that path? Or if you’d just like an expert second opinion on your child’s IEP? A non-legal advocate may be the right choice.
An advocate is expert in the laws and policies that concern your child’s education. They also know a lot about different exceptionalities, special education and the learning challenges children like yours face in school.
- Make use of online directories to locate advocates in your state. Wrightslaw has the Yellow Pages for Kids, and COPAA (the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) has its own resource list.
- Don’t be afraid to Google. Some advocates aren’t listed on the directories above.
- Ask around. Other parents in your area or district may have a great recommendation, and several advocates don’t have websites; they rely on word-of-mouth to meet new families.
- Call them up. Most advocates will give families a free phone consultation. This lets everyone get to know each other for a bit before moving forward.
- Ask a lot of questions. Not all advocates have the expertise you need, so don’t be bashful. Ask about their backgrounds, their training, their experience, and which exceptionalities they know best.
- Look for a collaborative spirit. It’s not always possible, but the best advocates try hard to find common ground and get what’s best for your child through collaborating with the full IEP team.
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