What is a Special Education Advocate?
An Advocate is a person who speaks or writes in support of, on behalf of, or in defense of another person or cause. A Special Education Advocate does all of this for parents with children with exceptional needs. A Special Education Advocate is a representative that informs parents of their educational rights and assists families in negotiating and resolving disputes with the school district. This helps to secure the best possible educational program and appropriate educational services for children with special needs.
An education advocate is a person who works on behalf of a student to help get the special education and related services they need. In most cases, advocates become involved when schools and parents disagree on what is appropriate for the child. Advocates are sometimes able to persuade schools to provide services they may not have otherwise considered.
A Special Education Advocate is not an attorney. Special Education Advocates cannot practice law or provide legal advice as an attorney. The Special Education Advocate will recommend an attorney when needed. If your case goes to mediation or due process, Ballou Education will recommend an attorney at that time.
What does a Special Education Advocate do?
- The Special Education Advocate's primary responsibility is to represent the best interests of the student in the educational process.
- A good Special Education Advocate is familiar with the laws and can inform parents of their rights and suggest appropriate special education services and programs to meet the student's individual needs. If need be, she will research a specific legal issue that is central to your case or your Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- A knowledgeable Special Education Advocate is familiar enough with assessments and reports that she can articulate their meaning to parents and explain them with regard to the child's educational needs.
- The Special Education Advocate will help you prepare for the IEP program meeting - including propose goals and objectives, review supportive evidence and materials, help put concerns and requests in writing, and provide pointers about the IEP meeting.
- Before and after an IEP, the Special Education Advocate will review special education and section 504 documents, including student files, evaluation reports, IEPs and Section 504 Plans.
- The Special Education Advocate will accompany parents to IEP, Section 504, and other school meetings and provide advice and assistance as needed throughout the IEP process. Then, the Special Education Advocate will review IEP documents before you sign them.
- Additionally, the Special Education Advocate will draft letters and written requests to school and district personnel and draft complaints to school districts and the State Department of Education.
- The Special Education Advocate will empower, inform, guide and educate parents/guardians and students to strengthen their own advocacy skills.
- Often times a Special Education Advocate can help you get your concerns heard by the district and help you resolve a dispute.
- When you believe that you are ready to take your case to due process or file a complaint, the Special Education Advocate will assess the strength of your case and make recommendations on how to proceed and refer to a special education attorney.
- With an extensive familiarity with local professionals, a Special Education Advocate can refer parents to appropriate professionals for additional services.