Special Education Advocates are professionals who assist parents in securing an inclusive and appropriate education for their child with disabilities.
Special Education Advocates are a profession by definition and practice. A “profession” is a self-regulating community which requires ‘a real technical skill’ that produces demonstrable results and the skill must be difficult enough to require training. We as Advocates offer our services based on the following skills: Acquired essential knowledge of special education law and applicable federal, state, and local statutes and regulations which guide its implementation at the local level.
Have mastered skills to competently guide, support and/or represent clients, as allowed in the states where they practice.
By virtue of advertising and providing professional services, it is implied that the special education advocate will adhere to generally accepted standards of ethical and professional conduct in the execution of these services in order to protect the clients they serve.
While no code of ethics for special education advocates exists, Autism Goals choose to conduct their work according to the following principles:
It is the professional responsibility of a special education advocate to:
- Be aware of and practice within the boundaries of his/her competence as it relates to relevant education, training, or experience, including referring the client to other advocates or attorneys if s/he does not have the knowledge and skills to competently serve the client.
- Have a current working knowledge of;
- Current federal and state educational laws
- How federal, state and local education systems work.
- Assisting families in the Individual Education Plan process.
- Conflict resolution skills and options
- Appropriate specialty topics relevant to the client being served.
- Be aware of and rigorously comply with;
- Ethical principles relating to confidentiality and frivolous complaints.
- Applicable state statutes, regulations, or case law that defines what non-lawyer advocates are permitted to do in representing parents.
Client and Family Relations:
A special education advocate strives to:
- Assist parents in obtaining appropriate educational services for their children with disabilities, and providing other assistance as agreed up and permitted by law.
- Include parents or other appropriate family members in the educational planning, and to assist them in developing personal advocacy skills.
- Have regular and sufficient in-person contact with the client, and have reviewed sufficient records to enable them to have in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact-based recommendations.
- Take reasonable care in researching and communicating information regarding available resources in the process of presenting educational options to their client.
- Understand the student’s strengths, values, and needs.
- Help the family obtain placement and services based on the child’s educational needs, and does not seek to influence placement or services based on self-interest.
- Be cognizant of and modify their practice in response to cultural individual and role differences.
- Be knowledgeable about best practices when assisting families to design appropriate educational programs for eligible students.
A special education advocate strives to:
- Always be truthful, and forthright in the provision of information.
- Suggest means to solve an issue or produce a particular outcome which is not influenced by self-gain..
- Provide complete information to their clients to facilitate decision-making that is fully informed and based on existing evidence.
- Interact with program staff using evidence and knowledge of client’s rights, to make his/her point. Stays calm and objective when conflicts arise.
- Communicate in a professional manner at all times.
A special education advocate has an obligation to:
- Clearly communicate his/her status as a non-attorney
- Maintain client confidentiality
- Be realistic about (without guaranteeing) the outcomes of any service s/he is providing and/or strategy s/he plans to use.
- Communicate promptly with the client about decisions the client must make or information the advocate receives from the school or school bodies regarding the client’s advocacy issues.
A special education advocate:
- Shares information regarding current trends, practices, and applicable legal revisions in the jurisdictions under which they practice with school wellbeing staff when appropriate.
- Develops and cultivates a network of professional contacts in recognition of the need to refer parents to other resources, including organisations in the community that can provide direct support or supplement what the advocate is able to offer.
- Discloses any relationships that may present a conflict of interest to their clients in a timely manner and documents the communication of this potential conflict of interest in writing, and obtains formal consent in writing from the client.
Advertising, Public Presentation, and Ethical Business Practices:
- A special education advocate is forthright in disclosing educational background, professional training experience, and affiliations.
- A special education advocate manages business operation in accordance with generally accepted financial and risk management practices and applicable federal, state and local requirements.
- A special education advocate maintains complete, accurate and current case records
- A special education advocate strives when appropriate to increase public awareness and understanding of the profession of educational advocacy.