Many times when parents call, it is immediately apparent that they do not know where to begin. Do they need an evaluation, and if so what type of evaluation? Do they need to find a different school? Does their child need an IEP? And what is the difference between an IEP and a 504? Do they need an advocate, a lawyer, a therapist. . .and where do they go from there?!
Sometimes the best thing is to begin at the beginning. A good first step is to find an experienced Educational Consultant, an experienced Educational Advocate, or an experienced Educational Psychologist familiar with students who have complex learning and/or emotional profiles. You want to find a professional who can help you navigate not only what your child needs, but what is available. Each state has different guidelines when you are working with the public sector, so if you are working within your public school system, make sure the professional with whom you consult is familiar with both federal and state laws as they pertain to your needs and has experience working with public schools in your state. If you can afford to work with the private sector, make sure the professional with whom you consult is familiar with a wide range of services both in and out of your state so you can find the best options for your child and your family.
Each professional has different skills and expertise, and an ethical professional will let you know if your child’s needs are beyond their knowledge (and/or require additional supports they may have to research). No one knows everything! But a well-trained and experienced professional knows a lot! So before you begin, you may want to ask some of the following questions:
- What types of services do you provide?
- What is the difference between (whatever it is you want to know) and (whatever else it is you need to know!)?
- Do you work on an hourly basis or a flat rate, and what are your rates?
- What can I expect to receive working with you?
During your time with your chosen professional, there may be the need for additional input (such as from a lawyer) or you may need to add someone to your child’s “team” (such as a therapist). In any event, you have to begin somewhere, so begin with someone who can sift through information to let you know what your options are.
Ask your friends, coworkers, or family members for names of trusted professionals with whom they have worked. You may also want to check out some of these resources to find a professional in your area: