Many parents seek out assistance from education or disability advocates. To help you better understand your child’s rights under federal law and more effectively communicate with professionals regarding your child’s education, each state has a federally funded Parent Training Information Center (PTI) that provides information and assistance to parents facing the educational process. PTIs are designed to teach parents basic advocacy techniques and encourage them to become full participants in their child’s education. These organizations, which are sometimes administered through other disability organizations such as Easter Seals or the ARC, can help parents gain confidence in advocating for their children’s rights. Many useful support agencies can be found in the Autism Society’s online database, AUTISM SOURCE, where you can search by organization name, within a state, county, town, or radius of your zipcode.
Every state also has a Protection and Advocacy Agency. Originally, these agencies were set up to protect individuals with disabilities from abuse and neglect; however, their scope is much broader now. In many of the agencies, their advocacy centers around helping families obtain free, appropriate, public education for their children. State Protection and Advocacy Agencies offer training, case management, and legal counsel in many instances. You can find contact information for the Protection and Advocacy agency in your state in the Autism Society’s online database, AUTISM SOURCE. Select your state and enter Protection and Advocacy into the keyword search field.
The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS (OSEP) is also a resource of information on education rights. If you have a question regarding IDEIA and can’t get an answer in your state, you may write OSEP for clarification of the law. Contact OSEP directly at the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Mail Stop 2651, Washington, DC 20202; phone: 202-245-7459.