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Advocacy/Special Education:
Getting What Your Child Needs from Schools


It was very difficult to decide in which section to put some of these resources, or what order to put them in.  For that reason, I advise browsing the whole page - you never know where you will find just what you need!

Please note: Being listed here is not per se an endorsement of any particular site or email list. I have included annotations for those sites or lists that I am familiar with and strongly recommend.


The article Understanding the Special Education Process:  An Overview for Parents at LD Online is a good starting point:

My article Sharing Useful Articles with School Personnel suggests ways to effectively get information to your child's teachers and other school staff.

By law, your child is entitled to FAPE (a Free Appropriate Public Education).  For some excellent articles on what this means, go to

Sometimes there's no way to salvage a situation.  Deciding to leave can be painful and difficult.  Do I Stay or Do I Go examines this painful dilemma.

Protection and Advocacy, Inc.'s Special Education Page has a selection of online publications about special education rights and responsibilities:

Protection and Advocacy
Federally mandated system in each state and territory which provides protection of the rights of persons with disabilities through legally based advocacy. The Protection and Advocacy for Persons with developmental Disabilities (PADD) Program was created by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (DD) Act of 1975. P&As are required by the Act to pursue legal, administrative and other appropriate remedies to protect and advocates for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities under all applicable federal and state laws. Unfortunately, most P&As are underfunded and overworked, but they are still worth contacting: http://www.protectionandadvocacy.com/pa12.htm

Family & Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE)
The Partnership is a new project which aims to inform and educate families and advocates about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 and promising practices.

OSEP Monitoring Reports: This page contains the most recent Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) monitoring reports from over 35 states and territories. All future reports will be posted on this page. http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/Monitoring/OSEPMonitoringReports.html

The Federation for Children with Special Needs has a useful website at

You can find a list of Parent Training and Information Centers by state at 

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities has a list of resources by state (state agencies, disability organizations, parent organizations, etc.) at


On a Tourette’s site, but is widely applicable; includes a bulletin board. Has some excellent articles.

Before you say or write anything to the school, avoid booby-traps and read the article EMERGENCY! CRISIS! HELP! THE PARENT/ADVOCATE: FIRST STEPS
at http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/Crisis.html

It's important for our kids to learn how to advocate for themselves.  In their excellent book, When Gifted Kids Don't Have All the Answers: How to Meet Their Social and Emotional Needs, Jim Delisle & Judy Galbraith provide Ten Tips for Talking to Teachers (reprinted here by permission).

A User’s Guide to the 1999 IDEA Regulations

The website for the National Association for Protection and Advocacy Systems - lists P&A providers by state.

COPAA - The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates is an independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents established to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities. They also have an email list.

The Amicus for Children site has links to Special Education law information and a Service Request form where you can ask questions about IEPs, Special Ed, evaluations, etc. http://www.amicusforchildren.org/
Look for their article "7 Steps to getting FAPE (Free & Appropriate Education)" at

For Canadians:  The Uniquely ADHD site has a section at
that connects to Canadian special ed advocacy resources and has a section for
each province.

IEPs (Individualized Education Plans)

Wrightslaw has an excellent section on IEPs at

If you are having a dispute about your child's special education program, it's a good idea to tape IEP meetings. Read "How and Why to Tape IEP Meetings" by Vermont advocate Brice Palmer:

Parents often say that when they go to IEP meetings, the school staff will not answer their questions or requests. If you are preparing for an IEP meeting, read "Playing 20 Questions with the Devil (or How to Handle Disagreements During IEP Meetings)" by Parent Attorney Sonja Kerr:

Advocate Judy Bonnell developed a simple form that you can use to track the requests you make at your child's IEP meeting. This form will help eliminate worries that someone will drop the ball, sidestep a request, or forget. The IEP team knows what issues have been resolved and what issues are still on the table. Read "How to Use a Parent IEP Attachment" by Judy Bonnell

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSEP) publishes an IEP guide that you can find online at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/Products/IEP_Guide/ or can order for free from

ED Publs
Editorial Publications Center
US Dept. of Education
PO Box 1398
Jessup, MD 20794-1398
877-4ED-PUBS (phone)
877-576-7734 (TTY)
301 470-1244 (fax)

Special Education Rights and Responsibilities
Chapter 4: Information on IEP Process
From a 12-Chapter Manual - Available by Chapter and in Manual Form, 7th Edition
Written by: Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI), Copyright © 1992 by CASE and PAI, Revised January 1998

Writing Letters to Schools

“Tactics & Strategy: The ‘Letter to the Stranger’” by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright.

“The Art of Writing Letters” by Pam Darr Wright and Pete Wright

“A Parent's Guide To Special Education And Related Services: Communicating Through Letterwriting” by Susan Ferguson and Suzanne Ripley.

Legalities of Gifted/Special Needs - IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

The EDLAW site provides a listing of attorneys who represent parents of children with disabilities at http://www.edlaw.net/service/attylist.html.

Wrightslaw is a fantastic site for help dealing with the legalities and practicalities of "working the system" for our kids. Pete Wright is an attorney who is dyslexic and has ADHD. This is a MUST READ before you talk to the school, write a letter, or do anything else that may have legal implications. http://www.wrightslaw.com
In particular, start with the article EMERGENCY! CRISIS! HELP! THE PARENT/ADVOCATE: FIRST STEPS at
The Wrightslaw team also has a companion site to their "From Emotions to Advocacy" book at http://www.fetaweb.com and one on the No Child Left Behind Act at http://www.wrightslaw.com/nclb/

The "Lillie/Felton Letter" is a widely cited policy letter from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) clearly stating that our kids don't have to fail in order to qualify for special education services.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
An independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents established to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities. http://www.copaa.net/

EDLAW - a comprehensive site of information on special ed law

Reed Martin is a special ed attorney with a special ed law and advocacy website at

SpecialEdLaw.net is a multidisciplinary internet resource for parents of special needs children, as well as attorneys, special education administrators, teachers, psychologists, and others needing information on Special Education law. http://www.specialedlaw.net/

OSEP (Office for Special Education Programs) is part of the US Department of Education

Tapping Officials' Secrets is a website with links to open records and open meetings laws in every state plus the District of Columbia:

If you want to look up court decision, you can use FindLaw at

Useful Books on Advocacy/Special Education/Negotiating Skills

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law by Peter W. D. Wright & Pamela Darr Wright. Designed to answer questions about special education law, includes the full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, FERPA, implementing regulations, and special education decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court. Commentary by Pete Wright, a special ed lawyer who is gifted/special needs and has argued a special ed case in front of the US Supreme Court.

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy by Peter W. D. Wright & Pamela Darr Wright. This book is a practical "survival guide" on how to advocate for children with disabilities. Topics include: obstacles, common reasons for parent-school conflict, crisis management, and advocacy skills, including how to organize your child's file, write SMART IEP goals and objectives, create paper trails, write persuasive letters, and maintain control in school meetings. Includes worksheets, forms, sample letters; appendices; bibliography; index.  There is a companion website at http://www.fetaweb.com

Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind by Peter W. D. Wright, Pamela Darr Wright, and Suzanne Whitney Heath.  As usual, an excellent book from the Wrightslaw team.  There is a companion website at http://www.wrightslaw.com/nclb/

Better IEPs: How to Develop Legally Correct and Educationally Useful Programs by Barbara D. Bateman and Mary Anne Linden.  Another guide, focusing on the individual needs of the child, with examples of IEPs.

The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child by Attorney Lawrence Siegal & Marcia Stewart (editor). A detailed guide to the nitty-gritty details of navigating the IEP process.

The Disability Resource Library is a comprehensive electronic reference of disability laws, guidelines, reports and more.

Free Appropriate Public Education: The Law and Children With Disabilities by H. Rutherford Turnbull III & Ann Turnbull.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton
Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation by William Ury are two very useful books that teach constructive ways of negotiating with schools, our kids, and every other life situation.

How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child: A Field Guide For Getting Effective Services For Children With Special Needs by Gary Mayerson is a good intro to getting services for your child.

How Well Does Your IEP Measure Up? by Diane Twachtman-Cullen and Jennifer Twachtman-Reilly. Starfish Specialty Press. A step-by-step guide to writing IEPs that really deliver. Contains sample goals & objectives and easy-to-use, "how-to" templates for translating them into educational action. Special Education attorney Pete Wright, of Wrightslaw, says "Finally, an IEP book that focuses on the 'science' of writing clear, understandable and measurable objectives. The authors brilliantly expose the absurdity of public school IEPs and their bizarre, fuzzy wuzzy language!" Although aimed at parents of children with autism-spectrum disorders, it is applicable to all special needs children.

Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board is a DVD from the folks at Wrightslaw that takes you through a special education due process hearing, from initial preparations to testimony by the final witness.

Tongue Fu! by Sam Horn. Ms. Horn provides an invaluable guide to verbal self-defense filled with practical advice.


Last updated Tuesday March 29, 2005

"Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction."
       ~ Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's Teacher)

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