For both parents and teachers, it can be challenging to raise and educate children with special needs. Although there are various federal and state laws governing the education of special needs children, many schools still fail to offer appropriate support services to these children. Special education advocates are the professionals who help parents and caregivers understand the services children with disabilities are entitled to.
What Do Special Education Advocates Do?
Their duties include:
- Enlightening parents on various special education laws and polices—as a result, parents are able to know that special needs children are, for instance, entitled to free public education
- Helping families and educators develop close working relationships
- Advising parents on the local health and legal support services that are available for their children
- Helping parents read and understand their children’s individualized education programs (IEPs)
- Helping parents with school registration procedures
- Assisting parents to create a home environment that supports the growth and development of special needs children
Fulltime advocates typically spend their time in an office environment, where they work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
When they are not in their offices, they can be found in clients’ homes, schools or at advocacy meetings.
Annual Average Wage
Special education advocate
To become an effective special education advocate, you should have a sound knowledge of children’s disabilities. As such, you should start by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:
- Early childhood development
- Special education
- Child psychology
- Rehabilitation and disability studies
- Behavioral Science
At the end of your course, you should be familiar with and able to identify disabilities such as dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorders.
You should also have an understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other special education laws.
If you choose to earn a degree in special education, you may proceed to work as a special education teacher to gain some experience working with children with disabilities before breaking into special education advocacy.
To be a successful special education advocate, you need:
- A strong desire to help people
- Strong skills in information acquisition
- Strong communication skills
- Good analytical skills
- Good problem-solving skills
- Honesty and integrity
- The ability to community with children in a positive way
- The ability to work well with people from various cultures
Training and Career Development
After receiving the foundational knowledge described above, pursue additional training programs in special education advocacy. Some of the institutions offering relevant programs include:
- Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
- The William and Mary Law Institute of Special Education Advocacy
It is essential to note that these training programs are not only available to people with relevant education backgrounds. Parents of special needs children also often pursue these programs to become advocates of their own kids. However, if you want to pursue advocacy as a fulltime career, it is advisable to follow the path outlined herein.
The employers of special education advocates include:
- Special education advocacy networks
- Law firms
- School districts
- Education consulting firms
- Public and private schools
Many experienced advocates often move into private practice, where they establish their special education advocacy centers.
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, there were about 6.4 million children with disabilities in 2010. What’s more, The Future of Children notes the number of these children has been growing steadily over the past two decades. This definitely means the demand for special education advocacy services is increasing, as parents strive to ensure affected kids access special education services.
So, if you want to make a real difference in the lives of children living with disabilities, then this could be the right job for you.