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Spotlight on the family presents advocacy for your child in Special Education...

The role of an Education Advocate for your child

by Barbara J. Rich, M.Ed


GLBT parents raising a child with special needs presents many unique challenges. Navigating the services, plans and placement with educators and others who have varying degrees of understanding and tolerance for the LGBT parents may present many obstacles.

The role of an Education Advocate is extensive. Special Education Advocates can help parents navigate the IEP or 504 process. Additionally, advocates can facilitate the development of an individualized educational plan with and assist with the services and placements available.

An advocate can also assist in the identification of and make referrals to local professionals to diagnose or treat a child if necessary.

An advocate can help a family by listening as well as hearing, looking as well as seeing, so that the complexities of the state and federal mandates become clearer and useful to all.
Sometimes issues arise that are easily resolved without acrimony or conflict. Sometimes it's as simple as, "I sent an email. They never answered. Oh, they didn't get my email?" and because we're all human, we all make assumptions. An advocate dealsl with those assumptions, misperceptions, and misunderstandings, as well as just plain honest mistakes by teachers, parents, or students.

 

Barbara J. Rich, M.Ed.

As a member of the GLBT community, I am particularly sensitive to subtle issues that might arise in the school system either regarding the child or the parents. Having been in Special Education since before plastic, I am confident in my role as an advocate for the child.
I have never had to go to a hearing, often being able to resolve issues over a cup of coffee or a harmonious Team meeting. One of my guiding principles is "Don't believe everything you think."
 
Barbara has lived in Groton for 20 years, in a peaceful antique farmhouse with two antique cats. She is a Special Education advocate/consultant, helping to create harmony, compliance, and mutual understanding between families of Special Needs students and their school systems. Prior to becoming an advocate, Barbara was the Director of Special Education for the Nantucket Public School District and the orough School System. She is a part-time Kripalu Yoga/meditation teacher and offers classes in her studio in Groton. She invites the GLBT community to come take a Yoga class as her guest! www.yogafordailyliving.com
As a lesbian, Barbara is interested in supporting gay/lesbian families of children and adolescents who need Special Education. She offers professional, objective, confidential advocacy and consultation, building bridges on behalf of the child. www.sped-advocate.com
 
Barbara is a volunteer with Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) a world-wide program which gives local communities an alternative to the criminal justice system. She has been a hospice volunteer, has four adult children and 10 grandchildren,  and at a 77, is healthy, optimistic, and happy.
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