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Game Plan: What Special Education Advocates Need to Learn and Do,
Training and Tips
by Sue Whitney

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"I want to be a Special Education Advocate. What training is required to advocate for children who have learning disabilities?"

"I'm a special ed teacher and believe I can do more to empower parents and students. Would love some direction. Can you help?"

"I'm a retired school administrator. I'm interested in training to become a special education advocate. Where should I begin? What is the certification process?

Woman training to be a special education advocate


No Current Certification for Advocates

Currently, there are no clear, universal standardized requirements for an individual to serve as an advocate. There are no federal guidelines about the practice of special education advocacy. Some states have legal requirements about the practice of special education lay advocacy and other states have the regulation of it under consideration.

You will need to research your own state's laws, rules, and regulations about any legal requirements in your state. For starters, check with the special education section in your own State Department of Education.

Many states have no regulations or license requirements, so there are no guidelines other than your personal standards of competence.

Training Programs

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

William & Mary Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA) is an intensive 5 day training program in special education advocacy for experienced advocates, law students, new attorneys, and attorneys who are new to special education law.

Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has three levels: a ten-week course for beginners; a year-long program; and a web-based curriculum and distance learning program that provides participants with training become special education advocates.

Here's 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.
  • be knowledgeable about Section 504, ADA, IDEA, ESSA, FERPA, and general education and transportation laws.
  • know what is available as post-secondary options so your student is prepared when he/she completes his education.
  • be knowledgeable about resources in your community -- schools, evaluators, attorneys, private providers, and other advocates.

Other 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. The 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 are available to download 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.

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)

COPAA is the organization that represents the interests of attorneys and advocates. This is your tribe. In addition to an annual conference and training programs, COPAA hosts a listserv. After you join COPAA, you will benefit by reading posts on the COPAA listserv. Over time, you will get a clear sense about the differences between good advice and bad advice, a poor resource or a good one.

Tips:

After you join the listserv, don't post for a while. Just read. See if your solutions make sense when compared to the solutions posted. Make note of the resources you see posted by other members.

Read all the books you can to get the information you need.

Go to as many conferences as you can. You'll never regret going to conferences.

Keep current on information about legal trends and research-based educational methods.

Here is Your Reading List

For starters, read these

Read books from the Wrightslaw Store and listen to the training downloads 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 and Attorney

Read information posted on these websites

Wrightslaw

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 to enhance your knowledge base.

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 their newsletters

Check organizations listed in 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 find. Since most organizations publish newsletters, this is another way to stay up-to-date.

Go to Free Publications to download in-depth information on relevant topics.

As you do these things you'll come across other books and websites that will provide invaluable information.

You'll Know You Are Ready to Launch When. . .

...you get to the point where a parent comes to you and you know what to do and how to do it.

At that point, you are ready to work as an advocate. Don't forget to continue reading and educating yourself.


Good Luck,

Sue




Last Revised: 2/15/2021



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
Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, 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 © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.




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