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Legal Advocacy for Boy with LD
Q: My son has been classified with LD since fifth grade. He's now in the eleventh grade getting ready for the SAT. For the past five years, a teacher who has a degree in speech therapy and remedial reading tutored him in school three times a week. She has acted as liaison between my son and his teachers, and is one of the main reasons he's done so well in school. This teacher has just left the school district and there's no one to replace her. My son was granted a reader of our choice for the SAT and can take the test untimed during school hours. This teacher was supposed to be the reader. Now, I feel that the school isn't going to accommodate my son.
I've written to the superintendent, the school board, and the director of special-education services, asking how they intend to fulfill my son's IEP requirements. Depending on their answer, I'm thinking of hiring an attorney. How do you go about finding a good special-education attorney?
A: There are several resources to turn to for help with legal advocacy.
1. The website, Wrightslaw, run by Pam and Peter Wright, offers up-to-date information about advocacy for children with disabilities. Although they do not offer endorsements of specific attorneys, they do provide information about attorneys who represent parents in these matters.
2. Attorney Lawrence Siegel's book, The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child offers a wealth of information about advocacy, including legal resources.
3. Contact the closest LD advocacy group in your community. If you go to the website for the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities, you should be able to find a local agency that will give you information about resources in your own community. In many cases, that will be a branch of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, the International Dyslexia Association, or Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. Even if your child has not been classified as dyslexic or ADHD, these organizations can still be helpful to you. They keep tabs on attorneys who have been effective in securing appropriate accommodations for children with handicapping conditions.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.