ADVOCACY

We believe that the well-informed parent is a child’s best advocate.

We are here to support parents who may need assistance in advocating for their child. We offer consultation or direct assistance to parents to help ensure that communication with school personnel results an individualized educational program that meets their child’s needs. We support a collaborative approach that empowers parents to work together with school personnel.

Our approach seeks to avoid the pitfalls of poor communication and respects disagreement.

However, if disagreements arise we can assist you in pursuing solutions, by means of consultation, or direct assistance in negotiating on your behalf.

IEP Tip: “You don’t need an advocate. An advocate is going to create problems when none actually exist and make you worry. We’re here to do what is best for your child. Just trust us. ” What do you say when a school says one or all of the above? The reason most parents hire educational advocates is because their attempts to work with the district have not been successful, when they are worried something is missing or needs to be addressed differently. Ironically, the person telling a parent they don’t need an advocate is most likely the person who led the family to seek outside help to begin with. Let’s cut to the chase: Comments like the above should never be said by a school to a parent. They should never be said during a team meeting. It’s not professional. You should refuse to participate in such conversation. “We’re here to talk about Johnny and his needs, let’s stay focused on him”. If someone approaches you outside a team meeting and says the above, tell them “Thank you for your feedback. This is a decision I’ve made for my child and (name of advocate) is helping us understand all of this. We hope you treat her as part of the team as we are all here to help Johnny”. You don’t owe them an explanation. Those strategies are easier said than done, aren’t they? Advocating for your child is hard enough. Being asked to defend your choice to hire an advocate to the school I imagine is akin to getting a root canal. Excruciatingly uncomfortable.

A good advocate won’t create problems, she will help support you to obtain your vision for your child. A good advocate will be honest and explain why things are, or maybe are not, reasonable. A good advocate will, to the extent the district is willing, collaborate with the team. She will support you by absorbing some of the stress of the process and pro-actively work to fix problems. The “biggest” barrier to a child’s success is when the parents and school lack the ability to meaningfully communicate. We are used to getting complained to by schools who are frustrated by what they view as a family’s demands. However, it’s never okay to call out someone’s profession. At a recent meeting, an administrator showboated her obvious frustration that a family brought someone (SNNJ) in to help them in front of me. If there is a work product of mine the school takes issue with, that’s fair. After all, I do ask tough questions when there is shoddy work products/service delivery involved that negatively affect a child. Insulting the advocate makes the person doing it look petty and makes the parent feel more uncomfortable.

I love my job & the families I choose to work with. I truly enjoy working with most school-based teams, but I don’t live under the illusion that districts love an advocate’s presence at a meeting or in the background. The majority of the folks I’ve worked with on the “other side of the table” are kind, competent professionals who work very hard to do what a child needs and view me as a team member and not as the enemy. The best partnerships I have with school team members are when they recognize I have the trust of the family, and that when a parent trusts someone, hard work can get done. (The districts I work with most successfully and most often also recognize I know the process well, what a kid’s unique needs indicate they require, and that I am realistic in the feedback given to parents).

The bottom line: if the district goes out of their way to tell you, you don’t need an advocate, it’s a pretty good sign you do need one.

Call us today for a free consultation: Special Needs NJ (973) 534-3402

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