When schools and parents don’t agree on how to best help a child, or even if a parent just feels more comfortable having “someone on their side” in school meetings and negotiations regarding services and accommodations, parents may choose to hire an educational advocate. An advocate can help with anything from talking with teachers and other school personnel to providing ideas on accommodations and modifications, both at school and at home, to monitoring the implementation of modifications.
Once a parent decides to hire an advocate, how would he or she go about finding an advocate and what makes a good advocate?
Where to Find an Advocate
There are a number of reputable websites and directories on the internet to help parents find an advocate to work with the school district. Wrightslaw has a “Yellow Pages for Kids” to help parents search for advocates and consultants, psychologists, educational diagnosticians, academic therapists, tutors, coaches or attorneys.
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates also provides an advocate locator. In addition to specific directories such as these, other ways for parents to locate an advocate serving in their area include:
- Ask other parents in your area, those parents working closely with your school, or other schools in your area may be able to provide you with referrals to reputable area advocates.
- Contact disability groups in your area. These can normally be found in your local phone book under special services.
- Contact the Parent Information Center in your state. The Department of Education has a listing of all Parent Information Centers.
What to Look For When Choosing an Advocate
Most states do not have licensing or training requirements for educational advocates, therefore choosing a reputable advocate falls to the parents. However, while there are not licensing and training requirements, there are training opportunities for educational advocates. When talking with a potential advocate, ask if and where they have received training. In addition to basic and initial training, ask the potential advocate where and when they take refresher courses. The special education laws, regulations and statutes must be kept up with and you want an advocate who continues to learn.