1. What is a Special Education Consultant?
A Consultant is a person who collaborates and consults with parents, school districts and agencies, in support of, and on behalf of a child with special needs. A Consultant has knowledge and expertise concerning special education and its applicable federal and state laws and works within the bounds of these laws. A Special Education Consultant is a representative that informs parents of their educational rights and assists families in negotiating and resolving disputes with the school district. The Special Education Consultant is also a collaborator with the districts so that all needs are met between the parties and the child is kept the center of focus. This helps to secure the best possible educational program and appropriate educational services for children with special needs. This is a win-win process.
A Special Education Consultant is not an attorney. Special Education Consultant cannot practice law or provide legal advice as an attorney. This Special Education Consultant does have extensive experience assisting with the navigation of litigation. However, this can be avoided with positive results.
2. What does a Special Education Consultant do?
- Our goal is to build support for districts.
- Our focus is to represent the interests of students in the educational process.
- A productive child centered consultant is familiar with the laws and can inform parents and districts of children’s rights and suggest appropriate special education services and programs to meet the student’s individual needs. If need be, she will research a specific legal issue that is central to the case or the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- A knowledgeable Special Education Consultant is familiar enough with assessments and reports that she can articulate their meaning to parents and explain them with regard to the child’s educational needs. This will empower both the parents and the districts to communicate equally about the results of student needs and progress.
- The Special Education Consultant will help prepare for the IEP program meeting – including propose goals and objectives, review supportive evidence and materials, help put strengths, concerns and requests in writing, and provide strategies for a positive and productive IEP meeting.
- Before an IEP, the Special Education Consultant will review all special education and section 504 documents, including student files, assessment reports, IEPs and Section 504 Plans.
- The Special Education Consultant will accompany parents or districts to IEP meetings, Section 504 meetings, and other school meetings and provide advice and assistance as needed throughout the IEP process. The goal is to facilitate communication between all parties involved.
- If necessary, the Special Education Consultant will draft letters and written requests for or on behalf of parents or district personnel and draft complaints to parents or school districts and the State Department of Education.
- The Special Education Consultant will empower, inform, guide and educate parents/guardians, students, and districts to strengthen their skills and knowledge.
- Often times a Special Education Consultant can help get concerns heard and help resolve a dispute using neutral facilitation skills.
- When a parent or a district believes that a case cannot be resolved and the case is primed for due process, the Special Education Consultant will make recommendations on how to proceed and refer the parent or district to a special education attorney, if needed.
3. How does a parent or district get started with a Special Education Consultant?
Each child with special needs is unique, so is the process to get started. Below is a guide used when getting started with The A.B.L.E. Choice, Inc.
- When the parent or district makes the initial call to The A.B.L.E. Choice, Inc., the parent or district provides basic information about the case and receives information about our Special Education Consultant services.
- Parents or District then provides the Special Education Consultant copies of relevant documentation which may include psycho-educational reports, previous IEP documents, report cards, etc.
- The Special Education Consultant reviews all of the documents noting any areas of concern such as procedural errors, contradictions, inappropriate goals and objectives, need for additional services, and more. The purpose of this is to inform the parent and district in advance, to ward of potential adversarial situations.
- This intake appointment may extend to about one hour. During this time parents or districts present their concerns and educational rights are explained and recommendations are made. For Districts, program evaluation may need to be considered and problem solving strategies to be considered.
- Preparation for the IEP meeting is one of the most important parts. The Special Education Consultant may help parents or districts generate a document that explains the parents’ or district’s concerns.
- The Special Education Consultant attends the IEP meeting (or 504 or other meetings) with the parent or district. At the meeting, the Special Education Consultant’s role is to inform, protect and negotiate on behalf of the child’s best interest. The Consultant will be a neutral facilitator to resolve conflict and develop relationships in order to meet the child’s needs.
- Because IEP meetings take place at least once a year, and because often times more complicated issues are not resolved at a single meeting, the Special Education Consultant may repeat the process a number of times.
- Sometimes there is a disagreement between the school district and the parents concerning the needs of the child. The Special Education Consultant will attempt to help solve the disagreement. The Special Education Consultant is to empower the parents and assist districts to resolve disputes for the benefit of the child with special needs, and to navigate the very complex special education system.
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