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Advocate for your child with help from a lawyer

Learn how an attorney can help your family

When a child’s disability means they will need physical or educational accommodations, the parents may find that they need an attorney. For some families with children who have special needs, an attorney is critical.

Parents will need to gain experience and support to advocate for their child. Just figuring out what all the acronyms mean and sorting through the endless paperwork can be a challenge. When the district fails to do something they agreed to do, it becomes a profound struggle. It can be less overwhelming if the parent can find help.

Reach out for help
A parent who is going through the special education process can be an ally to you at this time. An advocate or attorney at critical junctures can also make a difference. Lorraine McGrane, a special education attorney at Stenger, Roberts, Davis & Diamond, LLP (SRDD LAW) says, “There are many reasons parents seek out a special education attorney. What is consistent is the parent experiences their child is losing time, and they need help. Parents come into the office with an explicit request say for tuition reimbursement, for private school, or with a feeling that the last Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting went poorly, and they are not sure what to do about it. An attorney can help the parent understand and claim their child’s educational rights."

People who know about special education often say that the difference between “knowing” and “not knowing” about your child’s legal rights can be the difference between an appropriate education or one that fails to prepare a child for the larger world.

Control the chaos
Sometimes a parent is looking for a process that will help them make sense of the chaos that is often the special education experience. One parent describes their experience working with a special education attorney as, “Essentially, my child had been struggling and now seemed to be in rapid descent. I knew in my gut that something was wrong, but I needed the skills of special education attorney to assess the situation objectively and use their expertise to counsel me on the concrete steps required to improve the situation.”

An attorney can prepare you for the CSE meeting and can classify your child's educational needs and decide on the services needed. An attorney can provide advice and assistance throughout the individualized education program (IEP) process. An attorney can help you with 504 meetings and help put the right plan in place. An attorney can prepare you for and attend necessary hearings if you feel your child has not received reasonable accommodations for a free and appropriate public education. You may choose to have an attorney do everything from beginning to end, or you may have the attorney handle only specific tasks—this all depends on what you are prepared to do yourself.

Your lawyer will get results
In reference to first meeting with a family, McGrane says, "When I meet with a parent for the first time, I like to hear about their child's experience at school and look over the most recent school records. Talking and looking at the records help me to understand what the parent and child have been going through, what their concerns are and what they want. As the attorney, I go over the options the parents have and the possible outcomes." She recommends parents bring the child’s documents and any correspondence they have had with the school district to the first meeting.

The focus of working with a special education attorney is not necessarily to sue the school district but rather to provide the child with a free and appropriate education. “I am always looking for a way to work cooperatively with the school district. Litigation is not always the best way to proceed. I leave litigation for when everything else fails to produce results.” 

Lorraine M. McGrane is an associate attorney with SRDD Law practicing in the areas of Special Education Law and Matrimonial Law. She has worked on behalf of children and families for the majority her career.

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