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Family Advocacy Center Inc.

Family Advocacy Center represents the interests of children and adults with developmental disabilities in working with other agencies and systems. We address the broad issues of the development and delivery of quality services, policies and funding.

As we identify needs for groups of people we advocate with other organizations to alter services, create new services, and incorporate new agencies to meet the needs.

We promote a vision of the kind of community that best supports those we serve and includes them in all aspects of community life .

We facilitate cooperation, coordination, and the flow of information among agencies, assisting them to carry out their missions to best serve people with developmental disabilities and their families.

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.  An Advocate has knowledge and expertise concerning special education and its applicable federal and state laws and works within the bounds of these laws.  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.

A Special Education Advocate is not an attorney.  Special Education Advocates cannot practice law or provide legal advice as an attorney.  If your case goes to mediation or due process, the advocate can recommend utilizing the services of an attorney at that time and will recommend one, if needed.

 

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 strategies for the IEP meeting.
  • Before an IEP, the Special Education Advocate will review all special education and section 504 documents, including student files, assessment 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 you to a special education attorney, if needed.

With an extensive familiarity with local professionals, a Special Education Advocate can refer parents to appropriate professionals for additional assistance and services.

 

How does a parent get started with a Special Education Advocate?

Since each child's case is unique, the process will be also.  The following is generally how the Special Education Advocate would work with the parents.

  1. Parents will call our agency to speak with a Special Education Advocate to start the process.
  2. Parents then provide the Special Education Advocate copies of all relevant documentation which may include psycho-educational reports, previous IEP documents, report cards, letters from the school concerning the child, etc.
  3. The Special Education Advocate reviews all of the documents noting any areas of concern such as procedural errors, contradictions, inappropriate goals and objectives, need for additional services, and more.
  4. Then, the intake appointment takes about one hour.  During this time parents present their concerns and educational rights are explained and recommendations are made.
  5. Next, we take the necessary steps to present the case at an IEP meeting at the school.
  6. Preparation for the IEP meeting is one of the most important parts. The Special Education Advocate may help parents generate a document that explains the parents' concerns and requests for services.
  7. The Special Education Advocate attends the IEP meeting (or 504 or other meetings) with the parent. At the meeting, the Special Education Advocate's role is to inform, protect and negotiate.
  8. Because IEP meetings take place at least once a year, and because often times more complicated issues are not resolved at a single meeting, the Special Education Advocate may repeat the process a number of times.
  9. Sometimes there is a disagreement between the school district and the parents concerning the needs of the child. The Special Education Advocate will attempt to help parents solve the disagreement before taking the case to due process.  If she is not successful, the parents have the right to take the case to mediation or due process. For this part of the case, the advocacte will refer your case to be handled by an attorney.
  10. The Special Education Advocate may provide names of attorneys that specialize in this type of law and may provide input regarding the case to the attorney.

You may choose to have a Special Education Advocate do everything from beginning to end or only handle certain tasks.

 

Who Do Special Education Advocates help?

Special Education Advocates help families of children with any learning concerns.  Some children may have already been identified as eligible for special education services or a 504 plan.  Other children may be struggling at school and parents will want to know what they can do about it.

Some specific issues that may affect a student's learning are:

  • Learning disabilities and processing disorders affecting math, reading, or writing
  • Speech and language deficits
  • Autistic spectrum, PDD, Asperger's, Tourette's Syndrome, seizure disorders
  • Emotional disorders and behavioral issues including ADHD, Mood Disorders, and more
  • Physical disabilities
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Intelluctual Disability 
  • Visual or hearing impairment