As a parent, you are your child’s most powerful advocate. But sometimes parents want help to get their children the services and supports they need at school.
Children with disabilities and special health care needs have a right to public education. This includes special education services or school accommodations if they qualify. Sometimes, the process of working with schools can be confusing. It can be emotional or scary to walk into a room of school professionals to ask for what your child needs. Or even to speak up with your child’s teacher.
This page has information about how to advocate or speak up for your child to get special education services and support. It also has ideas on who to ask for help in that process, including paying someone to help you. You can decide what help you need and when.
Advocacy means being a voice for your child. Advocacy is speaking up for them and asking for the services they need. This is something you can do all the time by talking with your child’s teachers and school administrators, such as the counselor and principal. And it is something important to do during the special education process for your child.
You might have to speak up strongly, more than once, but you can do it. Bring a friend or another parent with you if it will help. Reach out to community organizations to help you understand and plan for the special education process. Or pay a professional special education advocate to work with you.
Before you think about hiring someone, we’ve heard from other parents and special education experts that it’s a good idea to learn about special education yourself first. Try to be a partner with your child’s school. Professional special education advocates and lawyers can fight for your child if there’s a problem. But bringing them can also put the school district on the defense before any problems come up. Think carefully about what help you need.
If need help deciding what kind of help to get, you can call or email Texas Parent to Parent.
To get ready for special education meetings at your child’s school or to learn about the special education process:
Different people can help you advocate. You can:
To avoid problems, tell your child’s school you’ll be bringing someone else along to a meeting or recording it. Some parents record meetings to help them remember and keep track of what was said. If you plan to bring a professional special education advocate or attorney, the school might want to invite their attorney too. Tell the school in writing a few days before the meeting. This will save valuable time during the meeting.
A professional special education advocate is someone who can help get accommodations or special education services for children with disabilities and special health care needs. They can help you:
Advocates can also help you ask for and arrange 504 accommodations, changes in how content is taught, supported or tested. An advocate can help parents ask for a 504 evaluation, understand the school’s decision and with any next steps in creating a 504 plan.
An advocate can also help with creating a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP). They might help a parent ask the school district for a BIP, understand the Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) or help during a BIP review.
An advocate is an expert who can guide you and your child to get the best results possible from the special education process. And an advocate or lawyer can help you when there are problems with the school.
As we mentioned above, bringing in an advocate can make things tense with the school. If you are just starting with the special education process, and there are no problems, it’s better to wait on bringing an advocate. Instead, be a partner with the school.
Also, advocates can be expensive. Some of the other ideas on this page to help you are free, like Texas Parent to Parent. If you have tried other advocacy options and you’re not sure if you should hire an advocate, you can call or email Texas Parent to Parent.
Depending on their age and abilities, children can advocate for themselves, too. They can learn to speak up for their needs and be a part of the decisions that affect their everyday lives.