Frequently Asked Questions
1.Special Education Advocate vs. Attorney- Which do I need?
This is the most frequently asked question within the special education community. When it comes to choosing the person that is right for your child and your family, here are some important factors to consider:
The biggest difference between a special education advocate and a special education attorney are:
-A Special Education Advocate is a person that accompanies and advises you throughout the special education process.
-A Special Education Attorney is someone who mediates and represents your family legally when there is a dispute with the school.
-The most important factor to pay attention to is the key word “legal” and a special education advocate cannot represent your family regarding any legal matter. The benefit when choosing to work with an advocate is that most of them have spent years in the special education field, like us.
2. What specific services can a Special Education Advocate vs. Attorney provide?
An advocate can:
-Review your child’s IEP or 504 plans
-Attend IEP and 504 meetings with you to facilitate solutions
-Negotiate with the school for you
-Advise you on the appropriate services and support for your child
-Inform you of your and your child’s rights regarding special education
-Recommend specialists, service providers, and other institutions/professionals that might be of help
-Help you write letters to the school
An attorney can:
-Review your child’s IEP or 504 from a legal viewpoint
-Attend IEP or 504 meetings with you (not all do this)
-Negotiate with the school for you
-Advise you on your and your child’s rights with respect to special education
-Write letters to the school for you
-Represent you in a mediation, due process, and impartial hearing
-Represent you in court
-Prepare legal documents, including complaints
3. When interviewing for a Special Education Advocate to work with my family, what are some questions I should be asking?
There are no specific qualifications, training, or requirements for a special education advocate to call themselves an advocate. Therefore, it is crucial to ask the right questions and do your research before hiring anyone! On the other hand, when hiring an attorney in the state of California you know that they went through a licensing process to practice law, also there are very few lawyers who practice special education law.
Here are some good questions you can use to guide you when looking for a special education advocate:
-How long have you been practicing in this field?
-Have you worked on similar cases?
-Do you have any personal experience?
-What would you propose as a course of action in our case?
-How will I be included in the process?-
-How will you keep me in the know about the developments?
-What are your fees and services included in those fees?
4. What are the benefits of hiring a Special Education Advocate vs. Attorney?
There are many benefits to both hiring an advocate and an attorney. Sometimes their skill sets can be like one another, but there are also many differences and it’s important to understand what specific knowledge and skills your family needs for your situation.
When acquiring a special education advocate make sure that they can:
-Review your child’s IEP or 504 with a focus on goals and objectives, teaching methods, behavior strategies, assistive technology
-Be able to differentiate disabilities and difficulties and recommend further evaluations/professionals to work with
-Be able to talk directly to the school representatives (attorneys generally must communicate with the school via their attorney)
-Very likely be able to negotiate child-centered solutions at the IEP level, without the need of proceeding to mediation or due process
-Most likely not be adversary
When acquiring a special education attorney make sure they can:
-Be able to assess your situation from the legal perspective
-Advise you of the legal implication of actions you are considering taking
-Handle legal documentation for your case
-Make you look more aggressive in your pursuit of appropriate services for your child
Schools can react differently based on who you hire. You must inform your school if you plan on hiring an advocate or an attorney. Keep in mind that if you hire an attorney, some schools might see that as a more aggressive move and therefore they will need to get their attorneys involved as well. On the other hand, an advocate comes off as open minded and willing to work together with the school, which can ultimately create a more positive relationship with your family and your child’s school team.
5. What does it look like when I work with you?
The first steps first are to complete the online booking for a free consultation, where we will discuss your concerns. During the free consultation, we will establish if Advocate To Educate is a good fit for you and your family. Once both parties agree then we can begin with the intake process. This process involves a full review of your evaluations, school communications, IEP/504 documents, and any professional reports and diagnoses. Next, we will conduct a more in-depth conversation with you reviewing the documents and we meet with your child. Once we review your desired outcomes, we discuss a strategy and move forward. Prior to meetings with the school district, we liaise with our network of professionals and your district staff to discuss your child's needs and establish the best strategy to obtain the desired outcomes. Sometimes this will be in multiple steps and most of our work is in the planning prior to the event and following. This might sound confusing, but we are trained professionals and will guide you along the way!
6. What are your rates?
Our costs are competitive and reflect the professional experience you will receive to support your outcomes. At each point you will be quoted on the hours we expect to need, so you are aware of and can agree before we commence a service. Don't let finances be the barrier to your child's progress. Please talk to us if you need assistance in this area.
7. Where are you located?
We are currently located in the South Bay of Los Angeles, California however with most IEP & 504 meetings being held virtually we can service your needs throughout California. If you are outside of California, please let us know and we may be able to either help you or connect you to an advocate in your local state.
8. What do we do if there is something in our IEP that you are not familiar with?
We have built a strong network of professionals from Special Education Lawyers, Advocates, Educational Psychologists, Child Psychiatrists, Educational experts, Speech & Language Pathologists, BCBA Therapists, Non-Public Agencies and General Therapists. Together we collaborate to understand your child's unique needs so we can advocate in the best interest of your child. We are lifelong learners, and always willing to do the research to better serve the families we support.
9. Do you specialize in any area?
We are trained to assist families with IEPs and 504 plans, no matter the disability or eligibility. If we come across a case where we believe you can be better served with the experience of another local advocate, we will happily connect you with them. Our team has personal experience and specialized training in Dyslexia. This enables us to advocate from both a professional and personal perspective in this area.
10. What is our Role as a Special Education Advocate?
Advocates develop a working relationship in which a parent's or students' concerns are heard and acted upon. Our goal is to decrease conflict and create a cooperative environment for your child. Advocates increase communication, collaboration, and identify areas that have not been communicated to the parent/school team. We are a liaison between district personnel and the parent creating a better IEP and learning environment for the student. We facilitate the IEP process so that parents feel like equal participants, and where questions are raised, answers are provided. This way we ensure that parents can make an informed decision on their child's educational needs. Advocates are not emotionally attached to the child because we are not the parent, which enables us to keep the meetings flowing, and execute what needs to be accomplished.
11. Is there a need for a special education advocate during COVID-19?
Absolutely! Each IEP should have a distance learning plan (DLP) embedded into the notes at this point. If there is another school closure in the future the school team will know what to do and can quickly make the transition to a more appropriate IEP.
12. Does the school team have to follow my child's IEP during COVID-19?
At this time the school is mandated to follow the child's IEP within reason. Assessments should have started again, and timelines should have commenced within your school district. If you are having trouble getting what you need from your school team during distance learning please reach out and allow us to help.