Sunday, April 23, 2017

What is a Parent Advocate's Role?

As you think of employing a parent Advocate, questions might come into your mind. I have head a variety of questions over the last few years here are some examples.

I don't really know what I want or need. I just know what is happening at school isn't the right suggestion. What would you suggest?

I would like someone to be our liaison to the school, can you do that?

We need someone who can push the school to give our child what the law entitles him. Can you help with that?

Here is the IEP. Can you help me understand it? If it's not what he needs, can you help?

These are just a few questions a parent might ask a potential parent advocate. There is not a set role that an advocate must have. It's a role of expertise in what is needed, special education law and advocating skills to navigate change in the IEP process. As a parent, share concerns, current state of the child and her school experience and what services are desired. If more input is desired , ask the advocate how the structure of the services might look. There may be services she does not provide. For example, some advocates observe in schools and some do not. It is also important to determine if s/he is the "right" person for the job. Much like a child must connect with a therapist for progress to be made, a parent and parent Advocate work closely together and need to "click." If the parent advocate has an agenda different than yours, she's probably not the right person. The parent advocate should support the parent's wishes and desires. The advocate who has her own agenda is not a good choice.

A parent Advocate who not only understands the child but also his parents, is a huge asset. The parent is always the one who needs to have the final say in any decision that affects the child even though it may be said that all services are an IEP team decision. If a parent is not comfortable with the direction the IEP team is going, the parent should not agree to it. A good parent advocate can really be an asset in those sticky situations!

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