How To Become An IEP Advocate?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Editorial Team

While IEP can be a crucial program, one of the most important people in the system is the IEP Advocates. This is a person who ensures that the process for IEP and the implementation are accurate. 

The IEP Advocate collaborates with parents and the school in carefully addressing the child’s special needs. Helping parents in understanding what services are available, and how to interpret test results is a crucial role of any IEP Advocate. At the same time, they also work with schools to plan IEPs for students. 

Looking at the technicalities, roles, and responsibilities, a lot of individuals aspire to become IEP advocates. However, what is the procedure to become one? Through this post, we will provide you with the relevant information and requirements for the same. 

IEP advocate- And their role in IEP

The IEP document is a combined effort of the prereferral process, the student’s parents, the general teacher, a representative of the district, and the special education teacher assigned at the particular school. Individual Education Program focuses on the difficulties of the student and how amendments can help the student in studying in the least restrictive environment.

Having said that, one of the important members of this program is the IEP Advocates, as they not only work with students and parents but also help the school in designing the right IEP for the child. Special Education Advocates or IEP advocates are professionals or general professionals who specialize in special education. An IEP Advocate is assigned in public schools that contend for the rights of children with disabilities under IDEA.

  • Parents or the school hire an advocate to help them guide them through the process of procuring `special education services” under the Individual Education Program (IEP).
  • A child’s parent can become an advocate for their child if they perceive that there are concealed learning issues that only the parent is able to identify. 
  • An IEP advocate helps the other IEP team members understand medical terms or disability laws, which helps recognize necessary laws and amendments when compiling the IEP document. 
  • The advocate also provides suggestions for improvement and identifies errors in proceedings. 
  • The advocate helps in protecting the special needs child’s rights under federal law.
  • These also help in problem-solving and help bridge the gap between parents and the school.

Skills & qualities required for being an IEP advocate

Having established that IEP Advocates are one of the most important people involved in the system, these people need to have a certain set of skills and qualities in order to be effective IEP Advocates. Some of these are:

  1. Communication: The advocate should be an effective communicator, as any scope of confusion can cause ambiguity in the further plans and the entire program. Moreover, efficacious communication also results in systematic and much more organized plans for the child. 
  2. Team Worker: The individual can be a successful IEP Advocate only if they are a team worker and carry the morals of working together. This is solely because the entire program involves a lot of individuals working together, like teachers, parents, and the school. 
  3. Professionalism: Professionalism, more than a skill, is a quality that is super important in the case of an IEP advocate. This is because the individual should have professional ethics to attend regular meetings, follow up with the parents and school, and also be a part of training.
  4. Empathy: The IEP advocate should empathize with the parents and the student, and should not pass any such comment that the parents might think of as “harsh.” Advocates should always keep themselves in the shoes of the parents and students while making plans and conversing with them.
  5. Knowledgable: Needless to say, the importance of IEP comes with having good IEP advocates who are knowledgeable and carry a substantial amount of awareness in the matter. Having current information on special education, and the related laws comes with this quality and skill.

Qualifications to become an IEP advocate

Special Education advocates and attorneys are necessary to make school systems accountable under the IDEA Act, of 2004. IEP advocates came into being after it was observed that students with learning disabilities are not getting access to the special education services they need.

There are no specific government guidelines provided on the basis of which one becomes a special education advocate. Often it’s the parents or a special education teacher who works on becoming one.

Contrary to how a lawyer is appointed, special education advocates don’t need that much training for a license or certification. To be a better IEP advocate, one should do good research. The primary responsibility of a special education advocate is to represent the best interests of students in seeking special education support and services under IDEA.

 One needs to work on the specific details about the child’s experience related to special needs. An IEP advocate comes in handy when one is not able to accommodate their child in the public schooling system under IDEA. Let’s find out the kind of knowledge one needs to have to qualify at a basic level to advocate for special needs students:

  1. Special Education Advocate Training– When it comes to being an advocate for special education, most people learn things about the education system on their own. Nonetheless, Special education advocate training is an added advantage. There are many non-governmental organizations that work with advocates and provide them with good training to have a better understanding of the system.
  1. Experience with Special Education– One needs to be aware of the disability they are advocating for and what different kinds of hurdles can come in the way. Gaining experience by networking is also a good plan where you can start with friends and family discuss cases that you come across, and learn more about the disability you are advocating for.
  2. Writing experience- One who would be working on advocacy of special education should remember that there is a lot of paperwork involved, which would mean a lot of writing would be involved related to the advocacy, and one should be prepared for many writing experiences.
  3. Internet Skills– As we know every child is unique. Accordingly, it becomes more important for an advocate to learn and stay updated with new laws concerning special education.
  4. Patience and Steady– Since there are many people involved from the school’s side and many people from the child’s side they need to be prepared for the many situations where arguments and egos are flying strong to be able to strategize and hold a long-term.
  5. People skills– You should be able to handle people as most people don’t like to be told they are incorrect. You should be able to fight for the child’s rights and at the same build, an amicable relationship with the local school as one would need help in the future.

To summarize

Although no official training is required to become an advocate for IEP, one must keep in mind the qualifications listed above and the traits one must pick when advocating for a cause. The advocate involved in the IEP should be a people person in a way in which they should know how to maintain relationships, what needs to be communicated, and when. At the same time, being an IEP Advocate requires patience, and the ability to not get jaded easily. Check out the insights and see how these have assisted you in turning into an advocate.

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