As a parent, there are many decisions that need to be made in regards to your child. Some decisions have more of a major impact than others but nonetheless, each one creates a piece of the road that they will follow for now and moving forward.
If you have done some research, you will know that there are many, many individuals that advertise themselves as advocates.
A good majority of them, talk about how they were able to get services for THEIR child. This does not make a person a good advocate or an advocate at all. They do not have a degree that is associated with children or psychology nor have they been advocating as a serious professional. Boasting that one is an advocate and taking on a case here or there or filling up some spare time that they might have during the day, again does not make one an advocate.
I can’t tell you how many times I have looked into other “advocates.” I find them in Google or in a directory. My point of researching others that claim they are an advocate is purely to educate myself on who is out there and what they are proposing to provide to families.
The majority do not have experience with children at all.
They have never been in the classroom, have never counseled children, have never served as a therapist for children, whether it be ABA or any other type. How can one be an advocate if they have never been in the classroom, worked with children or understand how the school districts work? This is my point. They can’t be!
They aren't running a legit business.
Additionally, upon finding other “advocates,” I have tried to contact them whether it be by phone or email. More times than not, the phone number listed does not work and when clicking on their website, that does not work either. It is either expired or the page says it is under construction. You cannot do business like this. If this has happened to you, please beware. There are many people posing as an advocate but all they really do is take your money and provide no results. Yes, they may advertise free consultations, cheaper rates and more but the bottom line is that if you use these people, you are putting yourself into a vulnerable situation of spending money (no matter how cheap it may seem) and your child will still not be receiving the support services that they need. As the old adage goes: You get what you pay for.
Should you decide to hire an advocate, one of their responsibilities is to tell you the scope of your case at the beginning, not at the end.
What seems to be from a financial situation, a “bargain” will more times than not become a black hole. As time progresses, you will be continually paying this individual and ultimately have yourself, what appears to be, another mortgage payment each month. Again, transparency is the key. No advocate can predict with 100% certainty what services they can get approved for your child however, if they are skilled at what they do then they can certainly provide you with a scenario close to the actual outcome.
The only goal is to advocate in order for your child to receive the appropriate support services that will allow them to grow and flourish in addition to educate them and prepare them for their bright future.
How To Evaluate An Advocate
On the other hand, finding a good advocate is easier than one might think. When you find one, look at their website - it should be totally transparent. A website is a must. If the individual does not have one, DO NOT HIRE THEM! Everything should be listed and questions you may have in your mind should be answered. If you have additional questions, you should call - the phone number should work and speak with the individual directly. If the number does not work, DO NOT HIRE THEM! Within a short period of time, you will know if that person is qualified to represent your child or not. The key is to ask alot of questions: about their education, their experience as well as their process. If you are still not clear on these things then DO NOT HIRE THEM!
True advocates will have recommendations from other families that they have worked with. Many times, these are testimonials on their site. Keep in mind, the information for each child is extremely confidential and should be kept as such, however some advocates may have parents that are willing to speak with you directly in order to explain their own personal experience.
I have worked with many families that before coming to me have had a negative experience with a different advocate. Some problems included not returning phone calls, not answering emails to them as well as to school personnel, not showing up at a meeting, whether it be in person or over the phone and the list goes on and on. This is totally unacceptable! As a family, you are totally invested in your child and therefore the advocate should no doubt, be as well. Ask around for recommendations. The majority of my business is based on referrals from families that I have previously worked with as well as the many schools that I personally have visited.
I will never recommend a school to a family unless I myself have personally met the staff, children and toured the facility. Each school that I have on my referral list is vetted by me personally. Anyone can throw out a name but it does not mean that it would be the appropriate fit for the child. For me, every family that I work with and every child that I represent, is approached on a very personal level. Each and every child that I work with is treated as though they are my own and therefore I would not recommend anything that I did not feel would be 100% helpful.