Tips for Effective Disability Education Advocacy

Disability Education Advocacy

Education advocacy doesn’t look like the made-for-TV movie version. Rather, it’s often small steps and quiet perseverance that can help make students with disabilities feel valued and supported in school.

Navigating the breadth of disability services in schools can be overwhelming for parents and adults. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Know Your Rights

As a disability education advocate, you need to know your student’s rights. This includes your student’s right to a free and appropriate public education.

Many families with disabled children face greater challenges navigating the school system’s special education rules and regulations than those of parents with non-disabled children. These difficulties can result in a sense of frustration, anger, and despair that can impact family relationships.

A good disability education advocate reads laws, regulations and court decisions on regular basis to learn about changes in policy or to find answers to questions that arise. In addition, advocates scour their students’ formal evaluations to make sure they are accurate. They prepare for meetings and use meeting worksheets to help address issues, clarify problems, and get everyone on the same page.

2. Know Your Students

Parents can be a vital resource for their children with disabilities, but often lack the knowledge of school systems and special education laws to advocate effectively. An experienced educational consultant, advocate or attorney can help navigate these complicated systems.

Students with disabilities need and deserve access to rigorous instruction. If they feel their needs are not being met, it’s a parent’s duty to demand it.

Many advocates are former teachers or education specialists, and they can offer valuable insights into local schools. They can also help with locating experts in assistive technology, behavior strategies, teaching methods and special education law. They can also serve as a mediator and facilitator in meetings, and they usually charge lower fees than attorneys. They can also document student learning disabilities to qualify for accommodations on college tests like the SAT and ACT.

3. Know Your Staff

Staff training is critical to fostering an inclusive campus culture. Disability awareness training can equip faculty, staff, and paraprofessionals to better support students with disabilities and ensure that they receive the accommodations they need.

Consider reaching out to your local PTA (link is external), state or national parent advocacy organizations, or the Council for Exceptional Children. These groups can provide you with personal recommendations and resources for finding a qualified advocate.

When interviewing advocates, it’s important to ask about their education, training, experience, and pricing. If a candidate’s fee is high, it may be worth trying to gently negotiate their rate. Then you can start building a strong partnership. Educate yourself on the rights of students with disabilities and find strategies to fight mandatory retention and other damaging policies.

4. Know Your Policies

A quality education is a linchpin to lifelong success for all Americans, including students with disabilities. Educational advocacy can help ensure students with disabilities receive the academic support they deserve.

Disability rights advocates can provide valuable information about local, state and federal special education programs, policies and procedures. Often, an advocate can be found by asking teachers or specialists for personal recommendations or through a family’s PTA, parent advisory committee or state’s parent training and information center.

In addition to the IDEA, Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance, such as public school districts. For more information about these laws, see the Frequently Asked Questions on the U.S. Department of Education’s OCR website.

5. Know Your Expectations

Students with disabilities need effective advocates who can help them navigate education policies that are aimed at helping students gain access to higher education, employment opportunities, and other post-secondary outcomes. Advocacy is not an easy task, but it is possible to improve your advocacy skills and become a more effective advocate.

The best way to start improving your advocacy skills is by becoming familiar with the laws that surround disability education. Learn about the laws that pertain to IEPs, student evaluations, least restrictive environment, and other educational accommodations. You should also be aware of how to conduct yourself during IEP meetings. It is important to ask valuable questions and to disagree with school administrators in a respectful manner. This will help to ensure that your advocacy efforts are successful.

Return to the home screen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *