Special Education Advocates or IEP Advocates help parents write appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and attain special education services for their child with a disability from their public school system. They do so by familiarizing themselves with the special education process. Please be aware, advocates are not attorneys. However, advocates are extremely helpful in IEP meetings to assist in the negotiation process between parents and their school. The Advocate can provide information about special education options and requirements and can help seek specific services or programs. The advocate knows local schools resources and can see solutions others might not. A Special Education Advocate is:
- Someone who helps a parent or family member to understand the special education process;
- Someone who can help parents carefully read their child’s school records, assessments and information;
- Someone who can help document and organize materials and write letters to the School and/or Department of Education;
- Someone who can help prepare for an IEP meeting and understands which assessments to request;
- Someone who can help write an appropriate IEP including updated Present levels of Performance and measurable goals;
- Someone who can attend IEP team meetings and help present the parents concerns and agenda;
- Someone who provides information about Special Education options and requirements and can help parents to seek specific services or programs for their child;
- Someone that will teach parent’s how to become a more effective advocate for their child;
- Someone who knows local schools resources and can see solutions not immediately obvious to other people;
- Someone who is knowledgeable in special education and can help negotiate & resolve disputes; and
- Someone that knows their limitations and when to refer the Parent’s to a Special Education Attorney.
The Special Education Advocates’ goal is:
To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a Free Appropriate Public Education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living 20 U.S.C. 1400 (d).
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has created a Voluntary Code of Ethics for Special Education Advocates “which is intended to accomplish the following:
- Serve as an Advocate’s guide to professional conduct.
- Help parents make informed choices about engaging advocacy services.
- Instill public confidence in the integrity of Advocates and the roles they fill.”
To read the entire Voluntary Code of Ethics please visit the COPAA site by clicking here.
Special Education Advocate fees are neither paid by nor reimbursed by the School District. Fees charged by Special Education Advocates vary greatly based on location, experience and overhead. It is recommended that parents call and interview multiple Special Education Advocates before making a decision about which one to hire and to not make the decision based on fee alone. Since the Special Education Advocate will be helping the parent through a long IEP process try to make the decision based on a combination of knowledge, experience, fees and compatibility.