Why work with an advocate?
Parents often contact our office when communication between them and the school district has become strained and unproductive. They may need support to help them understand their basic legal rights in the education process, or to assist them to respond effectively to an evaluation, to craft their input for an IEP meeting, or to create an effective transition plan. In these and similar situations, legal representation by an attorney may be more, and a more expensive service, than is necessary.
Our advocates provide the needed support by meeting with parents and helping them develop clear goals and plans of action for reaching those goals. Our advocates have received extensive training through multiple hours of participation in special education classes, workshops and seminars, and hands-on training under the supervision of skilled attorneys. They have specific knowledge of the challenges parents face in raising children with special needs. While they cannot provide legal advice, they effectively provide help and guidance in the complex process of special education.
At your initial meeting, your advocate will review records, explore your child’s educational history and performance in his or her current class or home program, and discuss with you ways in which the educational program may be improved to increase your child’s progress. She can help you to clarify the programs and services you want your intermediate unit or school district to provide. She can assist you in writing to the school district, accompany you to an IEP meeting, help you to review an IEP or evaluation, and work with you to draft written responses to those documents. While our advocates provide valuable, cost-effective service in the kinds of situations we have described, they are not lawyers. If the issues can be resolved without representation by a lawyer, they will be. If legal representation is required, your advocate will advise you to meet with a lawyer for further action.
At your initial meeting with your advocate, you will collaboratively determine what needs to happen next, and to what extent the advocate will be further involved. Some parents choose to proceed on their own, armed with their new knowledge and action plan. Others prefer to have the advocate accompany them to meetings at the intermediate unit or school district. If you decide to pursue mediation, our advocate can accompany you.
Most importantly, your advocate will listen to you. Working with an experienced and well-trained advocate is an empowering, cost-effective way to achieve the results you need for your child.