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What is an Advocate?
When your child is diagnosed you will want to know what legal rights and protections are afforded to your child in an educational setting. Keeping up with all the changes in the laws and regulations is overwhelming but do not worry, assistance is available in the form of a Family Resource Specialist!
Family Resource Specialists at Exceptional Parents Unlimited (EPU) are trained in special education law. Each Family Resource Specialist is also the parent, or family member, of a child with special needs who has personal experience with their child in the educational system.
The responsibilities of all EPU Family Resource Specialists include advising, educating, and supporting parents through the special education system for their child on an IEP or 504 Plan.
Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act:
Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is a civil law that prohibits discrimination against all individuals with special challenges if that challenge is prohibits them from benefiting fully in their academic setting. Accommodations and modifications can be made to the regular education curriculum so the student can participate fully on the way to a diploma.
Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA)
IDEA is a federally appointed mandate that allows a free and appropriate education to all children regardless of their special needs. In order for a child to be governed by IDEA the parent must be show their child’s disability is substantially limiting them from participating in grade appropriate curriculum.
IDEA provides an Individualized Education Program (IEP) which is similar to a medical treatment plan. The IEP should address present levels of performance and the goals that will enable the child to reach their full potential. The IEP should also address how goals will be measured, what related services are required to reach those goals, and direct placement, either through assessment and/or observation.
EPU serves 13 counties of the Central Valley area of California: Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, Stanislaus, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino. EPU is funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) to teach and protect the legal rights of parents and children receiving special education services.
For further information or an appointment please call EPU at (559) 229-2000 and ask to speak to a Family Resource Specialist.
EPU is a non-profit agency and does not charge a fee for Family Resource Center services. Funding for the Parent Training and Information Center is made possible through a Federal Grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act.
The word ‘advocate’ means to speak on the behalf of another. As a parent you are the first and best person to speak on behalf of your child. You know your child better than anyone. Professionals will come and go from their lives, but you will be there for the long haul.
1. Your role as an advocate
Remember, the role of an advocate is not impartial. As an advocate your loyalties must be with your child. If you do not advocate for your child who will?
2. Be assertive
Your child has a legal right to receive an appropriate education and the related services that they are eligible to receive.
3. If you do not understand something, ask questions
You have the right to receive information in a way in which you can understand. If you don’t understand something that someone writes or says to you, ask for clarification. Keep asking questions until you understand exactly what is being said about your child.
4. Share information
The IEP Team cannot work effectively as a team unless they all have the same information. If you have information that is be relevant to your child’s education, i.e. doctor reports, therapy reports, tutor recommendations, etc., share it with the team.
5. Be prepared
Before you go to the IEP meeting, make a list of things you want to share or questions you want answered. Prioritize your concerns. Bring any additional information you feel may assist the team as they map out your child’s educational program. to help you with organizing this task.
Parents Helping Parent’s IEP Preperation Tool
1. Keep records
Keep all of your child’s records together. Begin a filing system, binder, folder, box, etc. whatever works for you, but remember to keep all records. You never know when a piece of information may come in handy.
2. Get help
Don’t attend your child’s IEP meeting alone, if possible. Two pair of ears are always better than one. It is always helpful to look over at a familiar face. If you need legal assistance contact the Parent Training and Information Center at EPU.
3. Remember – This is your child’s future
Keep in mind that the decisions you make today, regarding your child’s placement and services, will direct the path that your child travels in the future. Always keep the future in mind.
— Compiled and written by Vicki Benson
Sequoia State Council on Developmental Disabilities
770 E. Shaw, Suite 123
Fresno, CA 93710
Office of Clients Rights Advocates (OCRA)
For Regional Center clients only
567 W Shaw Ave, Suite C-3
Fresno, CA 93704
Margaret Oppel, Clients’ Rights Advocate (CRA)
Maricruz Magdaleno – Bilingual Assistant CRA
Ivan Flores, Ombudsman
Fresno Unified Students Only
California Dept. of Education
Due Process, Mediation, or Complaints Only
Disability Rights of California
567 W Shaw Ave, Suite C-3
Fresno, CA 93704
Clovis Unified: (559) 327-9407
Fresno County: (559) 265-3049
Fresno Unified: (559) 457-3220
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