Should You Hire A Special Education Lawyer To Help You Advocate For Your Child With Disabilities?

The ultimate purpose of the special education laws is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and to prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.” Special education laws give families of children with disabilities the right to:

  • Have their child assessed or tested to determine special education eligibility and needs;
  • Inspect and review school records relating to their child;
  • Attend an annual “individualized education program” (IEP) meeting and develop a written IEP plan with representatives of the local school district; and,
  • Resolve disputes with the school district through an administrative process.

Do you need a lawyer to help your child get the educational services and resources he or she is entitled to under the special education laws? That depends on many things, like the complexity of the case, your child’s needs, the time and energy you have to devote to the case independently, your finances, and your familiarity with the special education laws, among other things. Frankly, if you have a child in special education and everything seems to be running smoothly and your child is making progress, you may never need a lawyer. But, if the school district or other service provider has denied services, treatments, or equipment you believe your child needs, or if you have questions about the process, it would make sense to hire, or at least consult with, an attorney to help you advocate for your child.

A special education lawyer can help you understand the special education process and advocate for your child in school, at hearings or in court . Many parents start the special education process on their own and consult with an attorney only if obstacles prevent them from moving forward with the school district. Some parents hire an attorney to handle the entire process from start to finish because their child has problems that require immediate attention, the parents choose to have minimal contact with school district education officials, or for some other reason.

Here are some of the specific tasks a special education lawyer can help you with:

  • Obtaining your child’s school files;
  • Reviewing evaluations and the IEP;
  • Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the case;
  • Researching specific legal issues that apply to your disabled child’s case;
  • Requesting additional evaluations or an IEP meeting;
  • Preparing for the IEP meeting;
  • Attending the IEP meeting;
  • Advocating for your special needs child at the IEP meeting;
  • Helping you resolve disputes with the school district;
  • Writing pre- and post-hearing briefs;
  • Preparing a complaint to file with the appropriate educational agency; and,
  • Representing your child in court.

The bottom line is this: A special education lawyer will vigorously represent the best interests of the student in the educational process by helping the child with disabilities obtain the educational treatment and services appropriate for the child’s unique needs. The lawyer will also empower, inform, guide and educate parents / guardians and students to strengthen their own advocacy skills. If you need these or similar services, you should hire a special education lawyer to help you advocate for your special needs child.

Sources: Special Needs Advocacy Network; HealthyPlace: America’s Mental Health Channel; Parenting / New Hamshire website; The Nolo Family Law & Immigration Center; and the website.