November 28, 2023

Three Things You Could Do If You Were asked to Become an Advocate

Advocacy can be a complicated and time-consuming process, but it is an important one. The system is complex, the people involved are emotional and the consequences of their decisions can be long-lasting. Families sometimes use an advocate to help them navigate the system, to assist them with correspondence and in locating additional supports, or to attend IEP Team meetings. They may also need assistance in preparing for due process hearings.

It is helpful for families to have an advocate who understands their child's unique needs and can work collaboratively with the school system to create an acceptable program. It is important that an advocate does not take a confrontational approach or become emotionally involved. It is also important that an advocate be knowledgeable about federal and state laws, policies and procedures, as well as special education law.

When considering an advocate, it is a good idea to find out what training they have received. Ask what and when they were trained and how much experience they have.

If possible, it is a good idea for an aspiring advocate to volunteer to assist an attorney who represents children with disabilities and their parents. This will allow them to gain valuable practical experience while learning advocacy skills. It will also allow them to develop a rapport with the attorneys and learn what it is like to prepare for due process hearings and IEP Team Meetings. By doing this they will begin to see advocacy cases from a different perspective and start to understand why it is so important to prepare every case as though it will end up in court.

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