While not all special education advocates are lawyers, many lawyers do perform special education advocacy. It is difficult to distinguish the respective roles involved in this area and who does what. However, the most important thing is that the child needing special education is able to access what he or she needs.
In this area of the law, there are advocates, attorneys and educational consultants. The role of the advocate typically is to work with a school system to plan a child’s education. That may include, but not be limited to, going to meetings, letter writing, negotiating with school administrators, and knowing what services a child is entitled to by law. Advocates may also assist in finding professionals to diagnose/treat a child. They charge by the hour and there are free advocacy services for the asking.
Attorneys typically represent a child in special education disputes, and in some instances, it is only the attorney that may do so. Most of the work an attorney performs is advocacy, as they negotiate with school administrators to avoid going to court. They bill hourly, but some will perform pro bono work.
Educational consultants help plan a child’s education, and often offer testing services and evaluations for the child to make sure their needs are being met. They will also support the parents’ requests for therapeutic and educational services.