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Advocacy for SPecial

Education: Why is it
Natalie Wiederkehr

Plan of Action and Goals

I plan on discussing why advocacy in Education is so critical for not only the individual,
but also for the family. Protecting the rights of children is one of the most important
things that an educator can do. My goal is to research and discover what it takes to be an
advocate and why it is so important. I also hope to inform those who are not aware of the
issue of child rights in America and open the eyes to future educators of what their job

What is Advocacy and Why is it important in Education?

Advocacy (in education) is defined as a professional who works with the family, the
student, the school and all other relevant professionals to assure that each student
receives the appropriate education necessary to optimize his/her opportunity to achieve to
the highest level of his/her potential. Being an advoacte
for a student, especially one with a disability, is very important because those children
do not neccessarily have the ability to voice their concerns or opinions; therfore, having
a spokesperson that has their best interests in mind is crucial. I chose to research this
topic for my Passion Project because I plan on spending the rest of my life devoted to
being a Special Education teacher. By being in a leadership position in education, I have
pledged to always have the best intentions of others in mind. It is so important for
educators to be aware of their influences and ability to change a childs life by speaking
up for them when they know what is happening, whether it be at home or in the classroom,
isnt right and violates the rights of a child.

Child Find
When trying to identify whether or not a child has a disability, it is important to use the
correct tools and resources so you do not hurt the child mentally during the process. The
system known as Child Find is used in each state and required by IDEA, which I will
explain later. Child Find locates, identifies, and evaluates all children with
disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. After a child
is thought to possibly have a disability, parents can be contacted and asked permission to
evaluate their child. Parents also have the option to request for their child to be
assessed by the Child Find office. Parental consent is needed before any child can be
evaluated under IDEA regulations. The assessment also needs to be done within 60 days of
consent. Under law, the first evaluation of the child must be full and individual. If the
parents do not agree with the evaluation results they can take their child to an
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and ask that the school system pay for this
service. If the child is found to have a disability, an IEP must be made for the child. An
advocate should ensure that the child has the correct diagnosis with a nurturing team.

Advocate Vs. Attorney

In the Youtube video titled IEP 101: What is a Special Education advocate, Julie Swanson
(advocate) discusses with Jennifer Laviano (attorney) the differences between being an
advocate and an attorney. According to Swanson, being an advocate does not require any
licensing; because of this, it is very difficult to be certain an advocate actually has
the knowledge and expertise that is desired to have the best possible representation. There
is no certain criteria to become an advocate. Swanson assures that you do not have to be an
attorney to know the laws that drive special education, these are all easily found and
researched. Advocates can assist parents in the process of enrolling their child in a
special education setting by attending meetings with them to ensure they are getting the
services that are appropriate for their child. An advocates main end goal is to get the
child the free and appropriate public education. Laviano states that, on the other hand,
attorneys are held by ethical requirements that do not allow them to take on cases that
they do not have experiences in. Laviano warns parents to be cautious of whom they allow to
be the spokesperson for their child, whether it be an advocate or attorney, and to be sure
to do their research.

WHat Laws are in Place to Protect Children with

According to, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
set high standards for their achievement and guides how special help and services are made
available in schools to address their individual needs. The law was originally put in
place by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities were given the ability
to obtain a free appropriate public education. Over the years the law has been revised and
edited. In 2004 the law was changed to have two parts: one for babies and toddlers and
another for school-aged children. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the
U.S. Department of Education provides guidance on IDEA. As an advocate for Special Needs
children, it is vital to thoroughly know and use the laws that have been put into place to
protect the children that you will be representing. Like Julie Swanson mentioned in the
video I discussed earlier, all of the laws and Acts put in place for individuals with
disabilities are easily accessed and found through the Internet and books.

How Are Advocates and Educators Able to Assess Students

with Disabilities?
Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a program made for children with disabilities. An
IEP is a legal document that explains the childs learning needs, the services the school
will provide, and how to track the progress of the child. Parents, administration, and
advocated are involved in creating the document. The IDEA, as I have explained earlier,
requires public schools to create an IEP for every individual with a disability. This is a
federal law. IEPs are legally binding documents, and schools are required to do as promised
in the paper. An IEP must include: A statement of the childs present level of performance
(PLOP), annual education goals, special education supports and services provided to reach
set goals, modifications and accommodations the school will make to help reach goals,
accommodations allowed when taking standardized tests, and how and when the school will
measure childs progress toward annual goals. Essentially, IEPs were made to protect the
child and their family to ensure that they will get the proper treatment and education.
This also makes schools responsible for their actions (or lack thereof) and gives a written
statement holding them to their word.

Placement: Where is Best?

After creating an IEP and deciding what services are needed, the next step is to figure out
where the services will be provided. Where the IEP is carried out is called placement.
Most people would argue that children with disabilities benefit greatly from learning with
children without disabilities. This type of learning from IDEA is called Least Restrictive
Environment (LRE). IDEA also requires that the placement of the child is determined at
least annually, based on the childs IEP, and is as close as possible to the childs home.
So who makes the decision of where the child is placed? IDEA requires that the placement
decision must be done by the parent(s) and others who are knowledgeable about the child,
understand the meaning of the evaluation data from the IEP, and know placement options. The
different places that children can receive their education through placement can be a
general education class, special education class, special education school, at home, or in
a hospital or other other private/public institution. As an advocate, it is important to
make sure that the child not only has the correct subject matter being taught, but also
that the placement is correct and will support the learning of the child.

Personal Reflection
I have learned a lot by doing this passion project. I decided to change my topic from
recycling to advocacy in the Special Education field, and I could not be happier with my
decision. This topic is very close to my heart, as I am a Special Education major myself.
By researching advocacy, I was able to open my mind to what my future will look like. This
means so much to me because it is actually something that I will be using on almost a daily
basis. As an educator, it is important to know the laws and lingo associated with the field
because you are the representative for a child with a disability, and they are depending on
you to do what is best. I know that this is only just scratching the surface as to what
advocates and educators need to know and do for the children with disabilities, but it
makes me all the more interested and excited to begin my career.