We Are NOT There to Say NO!!



Comment from a BCEA student (JS) : LEA only allows 45” for an IEP.

Why are advocates there?

Why do you say "Its cool with me" sarcastically - when clearly what you're referring to is NOT ok??!!! As an advocate, no, covering a 43 page IEP in less than 45 minutes is not ok, so you should not be saying to an LEA "that's ok." Am I missing something about being an advocate???? That's the entire reason we are there - to say "NO! That's not ok!" So instead of saying (to something ridiculous and NOT ok) "it's ok" what ARE we to be saying as an advocate -- that information would be more helpful than the sarcasm.


National Special Education Advocacy Institute Response:

We are not there to say no.

We are there to facilitate the appropriate acquisition and receipt of special education services, with fidelity, so that a child can make meaningful progress commensurate with their ability, in ALL areas of their unique needs. The IEP framework addresses academic, social, behavioral, and functional goals as the means for achieving “outcomes of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.” Special education enables every student to gain a high level of independence and reach their full potential as contributing citizen in our communities.


If we start with a demand we get to be bogged down in a fruitless argument and lines being drawn in the sand. By engaging and "playing nice in the sandbox" (A BCEAs motto) we can keep the discussion going through the questions we have as we go through the IEP and those places where we need clarification, etc. until you are satisfied that all points have been addressed. (not necessarily agreed upon but at least addressed). If they try to close the meeting before all points are addressed then you ask for another meeting because it is clear that we have not finished the IEP meeting. Don’t let anyone ruffle your feathers. You have procedural safeguards to deal with insane requests like this. You are better than lowering yourself to that level!

Frequently, the meeting proceeds and the IEP is completed even if it does take 90 minutes or 3 hours. If the meeting is held over to another day- no problem! Your flexibility to not demand a complete resolution immediately can work in your favor, on this one. If no accommodation is made for another meeting that is noted in the NOREP along with the salient points never addressed in the meeting and those points that were refused. You stay focused on CHILD's needs, not administrative convenience.


The use of an education advocate should create a cooperative environment where questions are raised, answers are researched, plans are implemented, education is provided, responsibility is taken, assessment and credit taken, praise given, anxiety is relieved, and where cooperation is the norm with a child-focused attitude. 



The role of the professional Special Education Advocate  is to:

  • increase communication between school district (SD) personnel and the parent
  • develop a School District relationship where the parent’s concerns are heard and acted on
  • facilitate the IEP process so that the parent feels like and participated as an equal part of the educational team
  • diffuse sadness, anger and frustration when parents mourn over:
    the loss of ability to fix their child’s issues.
                •    the loss of potential as the parent sees their child’s inability to achieve to

                  the same degree and in the same manner as other neuro typical peers
            •    seeing the active and passive rejection of their children by peers
            •    the use of low expectations by educational professionals
            •    their child’s loss of self-esteem or
            •    not knowing what the answer is. 

  • facilitate the acquisition of FAPE
  • facilitate identification of educationally based needs through the school district or through appropriate clinical referrals
  • prevent the blaming of the child or the parent for the child's failures
    (Lazy, lacks discipline, not trying hard enough, will eventually just get "it", doesn’t pay attention, is a brat, is spoiled)
  • develop a team approach where parents and teachers are supported with information
  • training and research based programming available to address the child’s disability and how it effects their ability to be educated
  • development of an individualized educational plan, with an awareness of the continuum of services and placements available, so as to promote FAPE and improve student's functional outcomes
  • development of positive behavioral interventions that appropriately deal with disability associated disruptive behaviors and behaviors that interfere with a child accessing their education
  • assist in managing the time spent resolving differences through effective communication
  • protect parent rights by preserving them throughout the IEP process, so they can exercise them later
  • provide clients with appropriate attorney and clinical evaluation referrals.



Special Education Advocates advocate for and give an effective voice to a child’s interests, and need for happiness, education, inclusion and development of functional living skills.


Educational Advocacy is not pleading or advocating another’s case in a legal forum – that is what lawyers do. Advocacy by Educational Consultants and Educational Advocates occurs in a different forum than lawyers.  Educational Advocates promote the development of an appropriate educational and community support service plan that identifies and addresses the child’s educational needs so as to create community and educational inclusion, functional skills, and adequate measurable progress in the educational and community environments. 

They give their clients informed consent, provide education and ask them to participate actively in the development of their individualized educational plans and promote a child-focused environment. They participate in the communication and development of the patient’s treatment plan and its implementation. Roles are clearly defined and collaboration creates better outcomes.   It is a win win.   The result is better understanding and compliance with individualized plans and better communication is fostered. 


Use of educational advocates creates a cooperative environment where questions are raised, answers are researched, plans are implemented, education provided, responsibility is taken, assessment and credit taken, praise given, anxiety relieved and where cooperation is the norm with a child-focused attitude.






Comment from a BCEA student (TS)

 I work within a school district that is considered one of the best in our county and it boggles the mind how much is either intentionally or unintentionally (due to ignorance) ignored when it comes to evaluations in ALL AREAS of concern. This course was eye-opening and sad at the same time - if that makes sense.


National Special Education Advocacy Institute

It certainly does boggle anyone's mind and now you know why we teach like we do. Advocates can be critical catalysts in moving a school district toward a much more effective system of supports for a student, if they are child-focused. Thank you for giving voice to those who can not yet advocate for themselves.



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Marie Lewis is an author, consultant, and national speaker on best practices in education advocacy. She is a parent of 3 children and a Disability Case Manager, Board Certified Education Advocate, and Behavior Specialist Consultant. She has assisted in the development of thousands of IEPs nationally and consults on developing appropriately individualized IEPs that are outcome-based vs legally sufficient. She brings a great depth of expertise, practical experience, and compassion to her work as well as expert insight, vision, and systemic thinking. She is passionate and funny and she always inspires and informs.


MJ Gore has an MEd in counseling and a degree in elementary education and natural sciences. She worked as a life-skills and learning support teacher She has been honored with the receipt of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She is the Director and on the faculty at the National Special Education Advocacy Institute. Her passion is social justice, especially in the area of education. She is a Board Certified Education Advocate who teaches professional advocates, educators, and clinicians the best practices in education advocacy.


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