An educational advocate is an individual with extensive knowledge about special education, Section 504, individualized education programs (IEPs), and academic support that is available for students in public and charter schools when needs are present.
An advocate educates parents, children, and teens about the available resources and how to acquire such resources, as needed. An educational advocate can be thought of as a coach, mentor, and guide. An advocate can be helpful when you have concerns that your child's learning, social-emotional, and/or behavioral needs are not being met within the school environment. Working with an advocate will help you navigate what steps need to be taken and what tasks need to be completed, all while building your confidence and competence as a strong advocate for your child moving forward.
Benefits of Educational Advocacy
Do you feel your attempts to communicate with your child's school about their educational needs have not gotten an appropriate or timely response? Do you feel your child is showing a lack of progress given the specialized supports that have been provided? If so, an advocate can help.
It can be stressful and time consuming to navigate your child's special education programming.
If you're tired of doing it all alone, feel disorganized, and are ready to have an ally who understands the ins and outs of special education then an educational advocate may be just what you need.
An advocate is capable of staying focused and can negotiate dispassionately when emotions around your child's needs run high. Together, you and an advocate support your child’s needs more effectively than you might be capable of on your own.
Advocacy Process & Pathway to Success
Advocacy support begins by building a collaborative partnership with your child's best interest at the forefront of every decision. An intake assessment will help both you and the advocate understand your child's learning, social-emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Your advocate will ensure you understand any assessments, individualized education programs, and/or behavior intervention plans provided by your child's school. A review of records and communication with the school will help guide the process of assessing your child's educational needs within the school environment. You will gain a deeper understanding of federal and state laws around special education and Section 504 that may be applicable to your child's public education. Your advocate will work collaboratively with you and your child's school to ensure suspected disabilities are evaluated, assessment data is understood by you and your child's teacher, and educational needs are met within laws and guidelines.
Additional ways an advocate will support you and your child's needs:
We speak the language: Special education administration and laws love to use acronyms that can feel overwhelming to individuals who are unfamiliar with the jargon. A parent may feel intimidated by all of the specialized verbiage. An advocate, however, is well-versed in all of the special education shop talk. Advocates have the same language used by administrators and can help you fully understand what’s being said, and what your child’s evaluation or proposed plan actually means. This support helps you feel confident that you're making informed data-based decisions.
Getting to yes: When a school denies a request, it’s often unclear why. You may be left wondering what has already been tried and what other avenues for support may be available. It can feel hard for a parent to accept the school's refusal without questioning how else to help the child find educational success. An advocate has a strong understanding of the expectations and pressures facing administrators. It may be that “No” really means “We don't think we need to.” Or "That's not how things are usually done." An advocate can work collaboratively and provide more compelling information as to why the school may benefit from reassessing its priorities and working to find a solution that is in the best interest of the child.
Goals for change: Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is focused on goals and progress that can be made toward those goals. Your child’s progress is measured in terms of progress, so the goals they are working toward are extremely important. Schools should be using objective performance measures to assess progress quarterly throughout the school year. Parents, as part of the IEP team, play an important role in goal-setting. An advocate will help you understand your child’s current goals and progress (where applicable), and help you feel confident providing feedback in an IEP meeting that will lead to stronger, more focused goals that will facilitate your child's ability to make educational progress.