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Doing Your Homework
What Type of Training is Required to Become an Advocate?

by Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

woman studying at computerI want to be a Special Education Advocate. Do you know what type of training is required for me to advocate for children who have learning disabilities? Is there a certification process?

Sue's Response

There is No Current Certification for Advocates

Currently, there are no educational requirements for an individual to serve as an advocate, nor are there federal or state guidelines to inform the practice of “special education advocacy”.

There is no regulation or licensing of advocates so there are no guidelines other than your personal standards of competence.

Listed below are two programs that address the needs of families and professionals for special education advocacy training.

W & M Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA). Intensive 5 day training in special education advocacy for experienced advocates, law students, new attorneys, and attorneys who are new to special education law.

COPAA Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT), a year-long course that provides participants with training to become a special education advocate.

Here is What You Need to Learn

You will need to:

  • be able to read evaluations and write measurable IEP goals based on evaluations and student present levels of performance.
  • learn what is in the curriculum standards for each grade/age for your state.
  • know about different types of tests and what they measure.
  • learn about the disabilities and research based methodologies.
  • know what is in Section504, ADA, IDEA, ESSA, FERPA, and general education and transportation laws.
  • know what is available for post secondary options so that you can be sure the student is prepared when he/she gets there.
  • know the area resources – schools, evaluators, attorneys, private providers, and other advocates.

Here is Available Training

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training

Wrightslaw offers a variety of special education law and advocacy programs taught by nationally-recognized experts in the field of special education law and advocacy. Our goal is to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills to advocate effectively for children with disabilities. Find the complete training schedule here.

Wrightslaw multi-media Training Programs (to download) are available 24/7 - wherever you live, whenever you want. Work at your own pace. Eliminate distractions and schedule your study periods at times that meet your needs.

Training from the your Parent Training and Information Center

Check the Parent Information Center (PIC) directory for the PTIC in your state.

  • Read all the books you can on the information you need
  • Go to all the conferences
  • Keep current on all the information

The PIC training requires you to volunteer with PIC for a period of time.

Join the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)

Become a member of the COPAA listserv and read all the posts. Over time, you will get an understanding of the difference between good advice and bad advice, a poor resource or a good one.

Tip: Don’t post on the listserv for a while, just read. See if solutions you have would have made sense when compared to the solutions you see posted. Make note of the resources you see posted by other members.

Here is Your Reading List

For starters read all of these

Read all the books from the Wrightslaw Store and listen to the training CDs from the Wrightslaw Webex Training Center.

Read your state Special Education Regulations. You can order a copy or download a copy online from your State Department of Education.

Read Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Educator, Advocate & Attorney

Read the information posted on these websites


Ask the Advocate

Doing Your Homework

National Center for Learning Disabilities

LD Online

Department of Education for your state

US Department of Education

Monitor these websites for conferences

Learning Disabilities Association of America

International Dyslexia Association

Association of Specialists in the Assessment of Intellectual Functioning

SERESC Educational Consortium

Autism Society of America

Join the state chapters of the national organizations and read the newsletters

Check your state directory of organizations on the Yellow Pages for Kids.

More Resources

This is a good booklist: The Advocates Bookstore

Subscribe to all the free education newsletters you come across. You can start with these: Free Newsletters

Go to Free Publications to download information.

As you do these things you will come across other books and websites that can provide valuable information.

You'll Know You Are Ready When... get to the point where a parent comes to you and you know what to do and how to do it.

Then you are ready to work as an advocate. But keep up your reading and education.

Good Luck ,


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

In her column,
Doing Your Homework, Sue writes about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Sue's articles
have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc..

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2020 by Suzanne Whitney.

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