What Do Advocates Do?
Advocates gather facts and information. As they gather information and organize documents, they learn about the child’s disability and educational history. Advocates use facts and independent documentation to resolve disagreements and disputes with the school.
Know the rules of the Game
Advocates know that a child with a disability is entitled to an “appropriate” education, not the “best” education, nor an education that “maximizes the child’s potential.”
Advocates know the procedures that parents must follow to protect their rights and the child’s rights.
Plan and Prepare
Advocates know that planning prevents problems. Advocates do not expect school personnel to tell them about rights and responsibilities. Advocates read special education laws, regulations, and cases to get answers to their questions.
Advocates learn how to use test scores to monitor a child’s progress in special education.
They prepare for meetings, create agendas, write objectives, and use meeting worksheets and follow-up letters to clarify problems and nail down agreements.
Keep Written Records
Because documents are often the keys to success, advocates keep written records. They know that if a statement is not written down, it was not said. They make requests in writing and write polite follow-up letters to document events, discussions, and meetings.
Ask Questions, Listen to Answers
Advocates are not afraid to ask questions. When they ask questions, they listen carefully to answers.
Advocates learn to define and describe problems from all angles. They use their knowledge of interests, fears, and positions to develop strategies. Advocates are problem solvers. They do not waste valuable time and energy looking for people to blame.
Advocates know that parents negotiate with schools for special education services. As negotiators, advocates discuss issues and make offers or proposals. They seek “win-win” solutions that will satisfy the interests of parents and schools.