It is that time of the year again for taxes and IEP's. Two things that many parents of special needs children dread. In efforts to create an individualized program for their child, the IEP (Individualized Education Plan/Program) is developed to ensure educational progression and accountability. It can be a nail biting experience. Projecting the future is not an exact science. Additionally, the law is very vague when it comes to the definition of "educational progression". This lends itself to the interpretation of the parent as well as the school. Many times, both opinions are different. Add in the pressure to balance academic goals, therapy, socialization (peer to peer), and expectation and a parent can feel overwhelmed with responsibility. Sometimes an advocate just makes sense. It can put a families mind at ease to feel in control, that they are not missing any pieces, and know they have help making sure their child remains the most important part of the IEP process.
So how do you go about picking out an advocate? It is much like picking out a car and completely based on what your family dynamics are, the goals you are asking the school to meet, and the behavior modifications you support versus those you don't. All of this goes into choosing the right advocate where you feel comfortable enough to trust their judgment and create a united front while facing the team of school therapists, teachers and administration. It is very intimidating and usually the parent does not have the majority say.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
- Car color: Do you feel more comfortable with a man or a woman advocate?
- Car Make: Do you want a heavy hitter or someone who may take a less confrontational approach?
- Car Features: What therapies do you support and would like to integrate into your child's program? Does the advocate share the same beliefs?
- Importance: Know your main objective for your child's education and choose an advocate who either has experience in using the law to obtain the objective you seek or has proven skills that have worked in previous cases(What is most important for your car, gas mileage? Durability? Safety?).
- Test Drive: Go with your gut. You are a good judge of character. If it doesn't "feel" right, it probably isn't right?
- Cost: This is a fact of life. There can never be a price tag placed on the importance of a child's future but everyone has financial constraints. Ask about payment options. If the cost is a strain, contact your local advocacy or support organizations to see if they can give assistance.
Now you know some questions to think about in choosing an advocate . Next, where do you find an advocate? In Connecticut, contact the CT Parent Advocacy Center.
Word of mouth is a great resource for advocates. Seek out parents you know who have children with special needs. Join and engage in other resources available to Connecticut residents: