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Melissa: I am a “seasoned” special education teacher looking to retire in a few years. I am also the mother of a child with autism. My dream job is to be a consultant (advocate) for parents. I am not looking for compensation. I understand both sides. What do I need to do to become an educated consultant?

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12/20/2015 7:27 pm

I suggest starting by reading or rereading all of the Wrightslaw books. Then reading the other materials available through the homepage. Also check out the COPAA website. Council of Parent Advocate & Attorneys.

Jill G
12/20/2015 7:26 pm

Ongoing professional development is key! Here are my top “self study “ sources for growing my knowledge:

– State DOE – state regs & guidance
– Local parent center – training & resources
– Building the Legacy ( – federal regs & guidance
– CADRE ( – dispute resolution resources
– TA&D Network member websites (
– COPAA – webinars helpful to advocate practice
– Advocacy Institute ( – more webinars
– Book list from Wrightslaw (
– Most any PD book from Attainment Co/IEP Resources (

Jill G
12/20/2015 7:26 pm

And of course there’s Wrightslaw! The in-person advocacy training or its online counterpart would be an excellent starter. And “From Emotions to Advocacy” can serve as you play book whether you’re advocating for your or someone else’s child.

As a practicing advocate, you’ll likely do some referring. You may need to refer clients to an attorney or evaluator, so it’s helpful to have a list of those working in your area. Published due process hearing decisions from your state are a good way to vet these individuals.

Being familiar with local resources will also come in handy (respite, support groups, recreation, state agencies, basic needs, etc.). Your local Family TIES or Family Voices branch or local ARC may maintain a such a list.

Jill G
12/20/2015 7:26 pm

Great question! I think being an parent advocate/consultant is equal parts knowledge, skill, organization, and personality!

An easy option for getting started is attending a “whole package” advocate training. These usually cover special ed basics plus the logistical side of being an advocate.

COPAA ( offers periodic online advocate training. Many parent centers ( offer in-person advocate training, and may also provide opportunities for internships or mentorships.

Your state may also have a trade organization for advocates which offers training, mentorships, networking, professional development, and/or referral services.