The answer is a resounding NO!
In the 18 years that I have worked as a Special Education Advocate, many families have contacted me and asked if I could help them even though I am not close in proximity to their home.
The answer has always been YES! Fast forward 18 years, my business serves families from all over the United States.
Parents are under the belief that an advocate they hire has to be local for meetings but that is not the case. I have been conducting meetings via the phone for the entire time that I have worked as an advocate and not only has it worked but it has worked well. The most important point to remember is “proximity does not guarantee quality.”
Having an advocate sit next to you at a meeting, does not guarantee that the individual is knowledgeable, well spoken and most importantly, effective.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
If you have been using a tax accountant for many years, built up a rapport with that person and they have done an incredible job for you since you have used them but they or you move - does that mean that you can no longer use them as your accountant? Of course not!
With the way our lives are built now - technology being everywhere, all information can be sent to the accountant that is needed in order for him/her to do the job. Whether they or you live in the same state but hours apart, a different state, a different coast or even a different country; this should not deter you from using their services because nothing has changed in regards to their exemplary knowledge and work ethic.
Think about it: If you have been using them, feel comfortable with them as a person and are over the moon with the job that they have done for you then why would you not use them anymore?
Let’s say that you or a family member has been seeing a therapist and have built up a wonderful relationship of comfortability and especially trust, why would you not see that therapist any longer if you or he/she has moved? Just because you cannot physically sit on their couch for the sessions does not diminish their capability, knowledge or effectiveness.
There are many, many more individuals who are becoming a digital nomad when it comes to their business. These individuals have an online business and continue to run their business from wherever they might be. Don’t discount them because they are not physically next to you at a meeting or sitting across from you at a session or beside you to interpret and prepare your taxes.
I have been calling into meetings for my entire advocating career and it works well.
As a parent, I understand and have been told time and time again that walking into a meeting is very intimidating.
Although parents feel a great deal of trepidation walking into a school meeting, there is some level of comfort when an advocate is by their side.
However, did you know that you too, as a parent, can call into a meeting?
I can’t tell you how many conference calls I have had when it comes to either a CSE meeting or just a follow up meeting. By doing this a parent can participate in the meeting from home or work, whichever works best for them, but is able to minimize the anxiety that they would feel when attending in person. Of course, if your schedule does not allow to attend in person or you are just unable to do so for varying reasons, as long as the district approves you attending via telephone then there is no difference in regards to the information presented, the questions asked and the changes, if any, that need to be made.
Remember: you as the parent are in control.
If you are unable to attend in person, the district MUST provide you with a CSE meeting for your child. It is the law. Therefore, if you contact them once you have been given a date and explain that you are unable to attend the meeting however you can and will attend via telephone, they are in a position to accommodate you. Remember, you are legally entitled to a CSE meeting whether you are attending in person, calling in over the phone, working on your swing from the golf course or sending smoke signals while toasting your marshmallows.
Additionally, by not attending in person, you do not feel the physical pressure associated with making split decisions or signing documents requested at that time.
Let’s face it, going to a CSE meeting makes you feel as though you are the target on a firing line. Why put yourself through that?
Another aspect to think about is the cost. For an advocate to appear in person, it costs far more than an advocate calling in. For the calling in, you are charged for the time on the phone. For the in person scenario, you are not just paying for the time attending the meeting but for the travel time associated with each way (coming and going).
In my opinion, the advocate that you choose should be a very well thought out decision. You are putting your child’s future in their hands and it should be handled as such. An advocate with an indifference to your child’s situation and to you as the family needs to be handled with thought, emotion and downright caring. The decisions that you make today will impact your child not only tomorrow but every day moving forward. The advocate is an integral part of your family and should be looked at as one.
As I stated earlier, “proximity does not guarantee quality.” Plain and simple.
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