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Business and Law Department 

Special Needs Legal Advocate


Career description - A Special Needs Advocate understands the Legal Foundation of Special Education Law  and the Fundamental Principles and Components of Special Education Law  and will assist in special needs advocacy with an emphasis on the legal aspects of special needs law with parents and attorneys to help parents with the special education process on behalf of their children and will assist with the advocacy team of legal professionals, parents, and childhood educators in securing the appropriate educational services for  children with special needs.

Student Profile

As a Special Needs Advocate student, you should be able to:

  • Be very detail oriented when working with special ed needs advocacy
  • Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing with emphasis on special education law
  • Enjoy learning about special education needs and the IEP (Individual Education Planning Process)
  • Will achieve a set of established Core Competencies for a Special Needs Advocate


  * Demonstrate proficiency in each of the tasks performed by an special needs advocate

  * Utilize primary and secondary sources to describe the historical and current importance of the laws, including the major concepts of each, related to people with disabilities and education of people with disabilities

  * Demonstrate an understanding of each stage of the IEP process by articulating how each stage relates to the provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

  * Evaluate the efficacy of sample individual student plans and apply this knowledge to the 504 and IEP process.

  * Demonstrate an understanding of the similarities and differences between eligibility for an IEP and a 504 plan by articulating the key points of each, with special attention to response to intervention (RTI) and evidence based methods .

  * Demonstrate understanding of dispute options available to parents and the pro and cons of each.

Economic Outlook and Growth of the Industry:

The number of special education teachers is expected to increase by 15 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than the average for all occupations. The number of students requiring special education services has grown steadily in recent years due to improvements that have allowed learning disabilities to be diagnosed at earlier ages and medical advances that have resulted in more children surviving serious accidents or illnesses, but with impairments that require special accommodations. In addition, legislation emphasizing training and employment for individuals with disabilities and educational reforms requiring higher standards for graduation has increased demand for special education services. The percentage of foreign-born special education students also is expected to grow, as teachers become more adept in recognizing disabilities in that population. Finally, more parents are expected to seek special services for their children who have difficulty meeting the new, higher standards required of students. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos070.htm#outlook


This certificate will provide skills for acting as a Special Needs Legal Advocate

Special Needs Legal Advocate Certificate

Certificate of Achievement - 16 units (6 classes)

  Introduction to Law for Special Needs Legal Advocates 3
  The Structure of FAPE under the IDEA 1
  Special Education Legislation & Litigation - see syllabus 3
  Policies & Procedures in Special Education - see syllabus 1 & 2 3
  Conflict Resolution in Special Education 3
  Basic Skills of a Special Education Legal Advocate



New Classes

Introduction to Law for Special Needs Legal Advocates

Credits: 3

This course will introduce the student to the structure and organization of the government and the legal system, state laws and the government, sources of federal and state law, the history and intent of key disability and special education law, Civil Rights laws, Privacy Laws, and Legal Research and Writing for Special Needs Legal Advocates.  

The Structure of FAPE under the IDEA

Credits: 1

This course examines an overview of the six principles of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the main points for FAPE proposed by Turnbull et al. including Principle #1 - Zero Reject, Principle #2 - Nondiscriminatory Evaluation, Principle #3 - Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Principle #4 - Least Restrictive Environment, Principle# 5 - Procedural Safeguards and Printciple #6 - Parent Participation. 

Special Education Legistlation and Litigtaion

Credits: 3

This course examines he historical development of special education through landmark legislation and litigation, parent advocacy, and national economic and social needs.  The provisions of federal and state special education mandates, judicial interpretations, and Michigan state guidelines regulating the delivery of educational and vocational services to persons with handicaps will also be addressed

Policies and Procedures in Special Education

Credits: 3

This course examines procedures pertinent to special education services including federal and state regulations, IEPs, and development of basic instructional plans.

Conflict Resolution in Special Education

Credits: 3

This course examines conflict resolution in Special Education, along with procedures, and methods of conflict resolution, including alternative and formal dispute options guaranteed under IDEA and/or Section 504, continuum of Internventions for Dispute Resolution in Special Education, Prior Written Notice, IEP Meetings and Causes of Conflict in Special Education, State and Administrative Complaints, Formal Hearings, the Advocate's role in Due Process.

Basic Skills of a Special Education Legal Advocate

Credits: 3

This course examines the preparation of case plans, professional communications, conflict resolution strategies, IEP Meetings, Standards of Practice and Case Management, Maintaining Client Confidentiality, Limiting the scope of Advocacy services, staying current in the field.


Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book - by Rich Weinfeld - Michelle Davis

Yell, M. L.  (1998).  The law and special education.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice-Hall.

The U.S. Department of Education has also issued the final regulations for implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997.   A FREE copy of these regulations is available by calling the U.S. D.O.E. at 1-877-4-ED-PUBS.  Please call and arrange to receive your copy.

Advocacy Sites

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

An independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents established to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities.

SEAT Training & Certification - Special Education Advocacy Training Project (SEAT)



Attorney Advocates: http://www.education-a-must.com/advocates.htm

Resources for Parents - http://www.specialedhelp.com/resources.htm

SEAT Project - http://www.copaa.org/seat/index.html

Special Education Needs - http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/sen/














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