This could be the entreaty of those parents who have the distinct feeling that, at the IEP table, their comments are magically heard by team members only in a foreign language. Another common perception is that all comments by parents will be met with rolling eyes, sighs, and harumphs if not another adjustment in the team member seats and a chorus of clearing throats.
While this may be an exaggeration, if you are a parent feeling this way, something is definitely straining the lines of communication between the school district and parent and correction is the only acceptable outcome. Correction is what leads to an IEP that is child focused and oriented to functional outcomes. Enter the Professional Education Advocate.
Advocates develop a relationship in which the parent’s concerns are heard and acted upon, decreasing conflict and creating a cooperative environment.
o The loss of the ability to fix their child’s issues
o 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
o Seeing the active and passive rejection of their children by peers
o The persistence of low expectations by education professionals
o Their child’s loss of self esteem
o Not knowing what the answer is
“EDUCATIONAL ADVOCATES PROMOTE THE DEVELOPMENT OF APPROPRIATE EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT SERVICE PLANS.
THESE PLANS IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS THE CHILD’S EDUCATIONAL NEEDS WHILE CREATING SOCIETAL INCLUSION, FUNCTIONAL SKILLS, AND ADEQUATE MEASURABLE PROGRESS IN BOTH THE EDUCATIONAL AND COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENTS.” Marie Lewis, RN, PhD, BCEA
Advocacy by Education Advocates occurs in both a school and community forum. It requires that the advocate work with parents to ensure that their student receives a free and appropriate education (FAPE). They facilitate the development of an appropriate and individualized IEP that results in functional outcomes. This is based on expert input, resolution of non-legal disputes with a school district related to appropriately addressing a student’s individual needs through evaluations, disability identification, progress monitoring, documentation, placement, and provision of FAPE. There is a well- defined IEP process in IDEA that is separate from the legal process of Due Process.
There are clear lines of delineation between Education Advocates advocating in the educational and community service environment versus advocating in an administrative or legal capacity or legal forum. They do not deal with the judicatory aspects.
“PROFESSIONAL SPECIAL EDUCATION ADVOCATES HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF THE LEA TO COMPLY WITH DISABILITY AND EDUCATION REGULATIONS. EDUCATION ADVOCATES ASSIST IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASPECT OF THE RESPONSIBLE AGENCY TO ADMINISTER THE LAW.” US Dept of Education
Professional Board Certified Education Advocates are highly familiar with all the aspects of the special education process. They are highly cross trained individuals who stay current with the many changes and best practices in disability and education law, related services, evaluations, transition community services, research-based programming, generalization of skills across environments outside of a structured educational setting, low incidence presentations, as well as behavior management.
Education Advocates are different than lawyers. They are IEP DEVELOPMENT and MANAGEMENT EXPERTS.
“PROFESSIONAL SPECIAL EDUCATION ADVOCATES PROVIDE A HIGHLY VALUED SERVICE - BY IDENTIFYING SYSTEM AND DATA QUALITY ERRORS THAT PREVENT FAPE.” Marie Lewis, RN, PhD, BCEA
GARBAGE IN - GARBAGE OUT
Education Advocates assist in the gathering of valid data. We often see what lawyers call “legally sufficient IEPs” that are not appropriate due to poor quality documentation.
When the data is poor or incomplete the following occurs:
“SCHOOLS DO NOT CONTROL THE IEP PROCESS.
SCHOOLS ARE TO ONLY FACILITATE THE IEP PROCESS.
THEY ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF THE OUTCOMES!”
Department of Education - 2022 CADRE Conference
WHAT DO EDUCATION ADVOCATES DO?
Professional Education Advocates do not represent the student or parents, but rather consult and facilitate communication and participation in meetings related to the child’s education so they can receive FAPE.
Education Advocacy is not done in a legal forum. It is done in an educational forum with different rules, language, and nuances.
Education Advocates don’t talk in legal terms, service provider terms or disease specific terms. We translate all that language into terms a parent can understand so they have informed consent in the process.
Education Advocates talk about individualized needs unique to THAT child, in a child focused process.
Education Advocates help parents and IEP teams develop appropriate functionally outcome oriented Individualized Education Programs (IEPs
Education Advocates facilitate the attaining of appropriate and individualized special education services for their child within a public- school system.
A professional Education advocate refers to an individual who speaks out in the best interests of a child and protects a child’s rights which may be ignored or abused in multiple areas within the educational process.
Education advocates assist their clients in reaching informed consent.
Education Advocates provide education around the broad disability education process and facilitate a parent’s active participation in the development of their child’s individualized education plans.
Education Advocates promote a child focused environment, facilitate communication and participate in the development of an outcome focused IEP and monitor its implementation.
Education Advocates define roles clearly and collaborate to create better outcomes. The result is better understanding and compliance with IDEA and better communication that is fostered with decreased conflict.
Use of Education Advocates is used as ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and can create cooperative environments where:
This collaboration is what should happen in the educational environment instead of the school district and their lawyers characterizing parents and advocates as criticizing, blaming, venting, angry, highly frustrated and/or seeking revenge.
NSEAI's online courses efficiently lead parents and professionals to an expert level of education advocacy in just 12 days of on-demand courses that you can do at your convenience.
OUR CHILDREN DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE.
LEARN TO DEVELOP A CHILD FOCUSED IEP CORRECTLY FROM THE START vs JUST ACCEPTING A LEGALLY SUFFICIENT ONE!
CHANGE THEIR LIVES NOW
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 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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