Many families who have children with disabilities have trouble navigating the special education process within their school system. Often times, a qualified special education advocate or consultant can provide invaluable advise and support.
In a recent article, Advocacy for Your Child: Knowledge is Power, Massachusetts educational advocate Beth Walsh, MS, OTR/L, explains how to find an advocate and how that advocate can become an integral part of your child's IEP team. Read the entire article here. If you would like to learn more about Ms. Walsh and her practice, visit her website: bethmwalsh.com.
If you have tried working with an advocate or an educational consultant, and are still unable to resolve a conflict with your school district, consider contacting the North Shore law office of Lillian E. Wong today.
The Massachusetts Disability Law Center recently published an online manual on special education transition services. You can access the entire document here.
The Manual is based on Massachusetts and federal law, but advocates in other jurisdictions may find it to be useful as well. This Manual is written for parents and students who are advocating for better transition services, including social, vocational and independent living skills. It is written in an easy-to-understand format but also contains “Endnotes” and an Appendix at the end of the Manual with legal information for attorneys and experienced advocates.
The Manual was edited by the Disability Law Center (DLC), in partnership with the Federation for Children with Special Needs, the Institute for Community Inclusion, and Massachusetts Advocates for Children. It was written by the Northeastern University School of Law Legal Skills in Social Context program.
State and Federal law require that a student's IEP contain measurable post-secondary goals and services called a "transition plan" when the child reaches a certain age (14 in Massachusetts).
In my experience, some schools completely overlook this requirement while other schools' transition goals and services are inadequate to prepare the student for life after high school. This manual is an excellent resource for parents, advocates, and attorneys advocating for transition rights.
If you have questions about your child's transition plan and special education rights, contact Massachusetts special education lawyer Lillian E. Wong today.
Massachusetts law (Chapter 71B: Section 1C) requires each school district to conduct, in cooperation with the local parent advisory council, at least one workshop annually within the school district on the rights of students and their parents and guardians under the special education laws of the commonwealth and the federal government and shall make written materials explaining such rights available upon request.
Below is a copy of Attorney Wong's sample Basic Right's Presentation. Please contact her if you are interested in having an experienced Massachusetts special education lawyer present to your SEPAC.
By the time you decide to hire a special education attorney, the stakes are high. You are frustrated with the school and worried about your child. Not only can retaining the wrong lawyer waste your time and money, it can permanently damage your child's education. So how do you choose the right law firm?
1. Find a Specialist. Special education law is complex and not part of the traditional law school curriculum. Just because an attorney passed the state bar doesn't mean that he or she is qualified to represent your child! The more specialized the law practice, the more likely the attorney is to understand the intricacies of special education law.
2. Ask about Experience. Just because a lawyer specializes in special education law doesn't mean he or she has experience. The ideal lawyer has participated in IEP / 504 Meetings, Manifestation Determinations, Informal and Formal Settlement Negotiations (including settlement conferences at the BSEA) and Due Process Hearings (including expedited hearings). Make sure the lawyer has drafted their own settlement agreements and understands the dangers of simply signing a settlement agreement drafted by the school. Here in Massachusetts, most special education disputes end in settlement, so you may be surprised to find that an attorney who has practiced for five or even ten years has never brought a case to hearing before the Board of Special Education Appeals. Even if your case never results in a hearing, it is important to hire an attorney who understands the process from start to finish.
3. Inquire about Relationships. A good special education attorney understands the role of all the key players in the special education process and has a relationship with these individuals and institutions. He or she can recommend educational advocates, evaluators, and other experts. Your lawyer should be familiar with the reputation of the schools' lawyers and special education directors and be regarded by them as a knowledgeable and reasonable advocate.
If you are looking for a special education advocate in Massachusetts, contact Boston area attorney Lillian E. Wong today.
When: 7:00 - 9:00 pm on Thursday October 21, 2010
Where: Maureen Collins-Rea Lecture Hall at Billerica Memorial High School, Billerica, Massachusetts
Presenter: Attorney Lillian Wong
Description: Special Education law can be confusing and sometimes dealing with the school system can be frustrating.
This presentation is designed to help parents learn how to effectively advocate for their children within the special education context. Special education eligibility, evaluations, discipline, and dispute resolution options will be examined by discussing real-life scenarios.
Attorney Wong will also provide practical advice about communicating with the school, organizing your child's records, and advocating for new programs and services.
The program is designed to be interactive, so bring your questions!
As a parent navigating the special education system, what is your most important resource? Other parents! Massachusetts law requires that each school district have a Parent Advisory Counsel or PAC for short. Many PACs have monthly meetings, websites, Facebook pages, and email listservs. In Massachusetts, the Concord SEPAC has an extremely active email discussion list that includes parents, advocates, and other professionals from all over the state. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to join this or any other PAC listserv and begin to benefit from the advice and support that only other parents can offer.
This review was originally posted on www.amazon.com.
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide
By Pam and Pete Wright
I frequently recommend that my clients read this book and often refer to it myself. The summaries of special education law are understandable, but not overly simplistic. The section about understanding tests scores is the most valuable part of the entire book. The sample letters provide a good starting point for parents, although as the book points out, it is important to also consider the effect of state special education law. Parents should remember that this book is not state-specific and that state laws may provide additional protections for their children.
I have created a list on Amazon.com of recommended books for parents and advocates of children with special needs. As I come across more books, I will update the list. Feel free to send me your suggestions.
Check out the list here.
Finding the right school for your child can be difficult. One good place to start is the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, where you can search by organization type (public school, private school, approved special education school, approved special education program, etc.). You can further refine this search based on geography and you child's age, gender, or disability. Another option is to consult an educational placement expert. You can search for one here.
Remember, your school district is only required to provide an out-of-district placement for students whose disabilities prevent them from being served in the public school setting.
If you need help advocating for a private school (out-of-district) placement at public-expense, contact the Massachusetts special education law firm of Lillian E. Wong today.
Every six years the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education investigates Districts' compliance with education regulations, including federal and state special education law. Districts receive ""Commendable," "Implemented" (meaning at least substantially implemented), "Partially Implemented," "Not Implemented" (meaning at least substantially not implemented), and "Not Applicable" ratings for each compliance criterion.
Find your District's most recent report here:
It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
The Law Office of Lillian E. Wong, LLC
15 Morningside Drive
Topsfield, MA 01983
15 Morningside Drive
Topsfield, MA 01983