The stakes are incredibly high when one is representing the interests of children with special education needs. While I think it is a good idea to weigh the “pros and cons” of entering any field of practice, or any profession for that matter, my personal belief is that this particular calling requires more consideration, research and training than one gets in law school. This is especially true, since most law schools do not even offer a course on special education law.
If you are considering becoming a parents’ attorney under the IDEA, here are the most important things I would recommend you do:
Tip #5: Find Parent Networking Groups
You have heard of “PTA” meetings, but have you heard of “SEPTA” meetings? SEPTA is a Special Education PTA, (see http://www.ctpta.org/membership/septa/) and they exist in many school districts nationally. If your State has existing SEPTA groups, contact them, and ask if you can come and talk to their members about their concerns.
There is nothing more powerful in the special education advocacy movement than the solidarity of parents of children with disabilities.
If you are interested in representing children with special needs, you would do well to familiarize yourself with their worries, concerns, and daily struggles. If you do not happen to have personal experience in this regard, then go to as many parent disability advocacy groups as you can find in your State.
You will learn more from listening to parents who are facing obstacles in getting a Free and Appropriate Public Education from their school district than from any other source, including me.
In addition to SEPTAs, there are literally hundreds of disability specific organizations in each State that work with families. Contact them and learn what they are about. You will then be able to consider whether they are reliable resources for you and your clients, and they can consider whether you might be someone they want to put on their referral list.
Once you start connecting with these groups, I am sure you will become even more inspired to represent children with disabilities. In addition, you will gather a vast list of resources for your future clients to tap into when they are looking for support.
If it were not for the networking and organization of parents of children special education needs, we would not even have an IDEA.
There is no better place to learn about special education advocacy than from the people who have to do it, informally, every day.