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Book Review: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book

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Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book
Cover image courtesy of Rich Weinfeld and Michelle Davis

The Bottom Line

by Rich Weinfeld and Michelle Davis; 315 pages. Subtitle: What You Can Do Now to Advocate for Your Exceptional Child's Education

If you're thinking of becoming an advocate for somebody else's children or hiring an advocate for your own, this book makes a compelling case for the need for advocates and provides a portrait of what a good one will do. If you've been going it alone, though, or intend to, beware -- this volume may just knock the confidence right out of you.

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Pros

  • Gives detailed view of special-education law and what parents need to look out for
  • While standing up for parents' rights, is not needlessly adversarial toward schools
  • The authors are obviously knowledgeable and experienced in negotiating special-education solutions
  • The text is easy to read and explains jargon before throwing it around
  • Forcefully presents the case for using an advocate in special-education planning

Cons

  • Maybe that case is made a little too forcefully -- it may be discouraging to parents going it alone
  • Tries to do too much, as a book for advocates, aspiring advocates, parents, and school personnel
  • Chapter headings in the form of questions about advocates could be simplified
  • Boxes with gray backgrounds and black type hurt old eyes like mine

Description

  • Chapter 1: Why Is It Important That We Advocate for Students?
    Chapter 2: What Do Effective Advocates Do?
  • Chapter 3: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About Outstanding Classrooms or Educational Programs?
  • Chapter 4: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About the Law?
    Chapter 5: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About IEPs?
  • Chapter 6: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About Evaluating a Child's Strengths and Needs?
  • Chapter 7: What Does an Advocate Need to Know to Work Effectively With the Parents and Family?
  • Chapter 8: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About the School System, School, and Classroom?
  • Chapter 9: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About Educational Options Beyond the Standard Public School Offerings?
  • Chapter 10: What Does an Advocate Need to Know About the Dynamics of School Meetings?
  • Chapter 11: What Does an Advocate Do to Ensure Effective Implementation and Evaluation Efficacy of Individual Student Plans?
  • Chapter 12: How Can Parents Organize Into Groups and Effectively Advocate for Their Children?

Guide Review - Book Review: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book

This information-packed book about special-education law and practice has something of a split personality. The cover refers repeatedly to "your child," making it appear to be a book for parents who are doing it for themselves. But while scattered segments of text and many of the forms and examples are aimed at parents, the majority of the book is addressed directly to advocates or aspiring advocates. There's also an attempt to make the book speak to school personnel who wish to be helpful, but I can't imagine it would be of any use to them except as a way to swipe the other side's playbook.

The material for advocates is the most effective, and if you've ever thought about being an advocate or thought about hiring one, there's a lot of good information and advice here. Indeed, it's likely to convince you that you do need an advocate, since it makes navigating the special-education system seem complicated and fraught with danger, something you'd never want to do without trained help. Often it's mentioned that it's very difficult for parents to get certain information or to understand it, leaving a very clear impression that it's not a job for amateurs.

And that may well be true in some school districts, or for some kids for whom the right educational path is difficult to discern. I don't believe it's always the case, though, and there are times when getting too caught up in all the legal issues and complexities, all things described here as must do and it is vital, can make the process even more stressful than it already is -- and make those who have been planning IEPs for their children without doing those things feel like they've let their kids down.

If you really do need an advocate, or really do feel the call to be one, this is a book worth taking a look at. It will help you pick one who knows what he or she is doing, or to be that someone. It may convince you that being an advocate is more complicated than you thought, or that the person you've hired is not up to the job. But if you'll be making your own way through IEP planning, there are other books that can tell you what to do without scaring you half to death. Leave this one to the professionals.

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