Are you the parent of a child with autism or other disability? Would you like to know what an advocate does in the special education process? Do you wonder if a special education advocate could help you in fighting for needed services, for your child? This article will explain what the role of a special education advocate is, and whether they could help you advocate for a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for your child.
There is currently no certification for special education advocates! This is the reason why it is sometimes difficult to find one that is knowledgeable, and has expertise in special education.
The role of a special education advocate is to:
1. Have a working knowledge of state and federal laws that cover special education, and know how to use them to advocate for children. Federal law is Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each state is required to have a law that must comply with IDEA.
2. Understand different types of disabilities and have experience advocating for children of different disabilities
3. Take time to know the child, and work with the parent to determine what services and placement a child needs, and advocate for them! This may require the parent getting an independent educational evaluation with a qualified evaluator.
4. Educate parents as to research based practices, as well as best practices. IDEA requires, that curriculum and programs be scientifically research based, which parents need to understand.
5. Have knowledge of different school districts and also how to advocate with different personalities of special education personnel. People are all different and the advocate must understand the best way to deal with the different personalities.
6. Act in a professional manner, whenever possible, to help parents get needed special education services and placements for their child. A good advocate is firm and refuses to back down when intimidated by special education personnel.
7. Teach parents advocacy skills so that they may learn how to advocate for their child!
A special education advocate can be extremely helpful in advocating for your child. If you think an advocate could help you check out your local disability organizations, and see if they have an advocate on staff. Check organizations such as a Center of Independent Living, Parent Training and Advocacy Centers (available in all states). If you hire a private advocate make sure you check their credentials, and make sure that they have experience with children with your child’s type of disability. This will ensure that the advocate understands what your child needs, and will be able to advocate for them