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A Guide to Special Education Advocacy

By Matthew Cohen


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Reviewer: Allison Martin

A Guide to Special Education Advocacy is an erudite and in-depth description of the workings of the special education administration process in action. It guides parents through the potential pitfalls of special education, through the IEP process and implementation. With detailed analyses and examples, Cohen explains where the process can become derailed and how parents can facilitate its implementation in a way that is most beneficial for their child. While acknowledging the flaws in the design and implementation of the special education system, Cohen encourages parents to work with their school first, before considering the courts or legal process. He provides the knowledge and tools for parents to accomplish these goals with a thorough analysis of the practical and legal implementation of the special education law.

Matthew Cohen is well versed in special education law and implementation; he is a private attorney, as well as being on the faculty of University of Chicago Law and the legal commentator for LDOline and others special needs advocacy groups. As his book demonstrates, he is an unabashed advocate for parents of special needs children, encouraging their involvement in their child's education with supportive advice and practical tips. Matthew Cohen explains, "The laws promise to parents that they can participate as equal members of the educational decision making team has sometimes been not only a hollow promise but a cruel hoax. It has raised parental expectations, while sometimes causing educators to circle the wagons in reaction to parent demands that are perceived as unrealistic and unwanted intrusions."

A Guide to Special Education Advocacy probes the workings of the special education system, with a look at pressures on parents and the schools, in the context of real life implementation. Detailed real life strategies and advice are presented throughout the book which help parents advocate for their children under various circumstances. Topics include related services (speech, occupational therapy), behavior management, transition services, placement, IEPs, the evaluation and re-evaluation process, and due process. This book also addresses important background information on how the law works at the state and federal level, mediation and due process. Most of the text is generic enough for any type of disability, but explanations on special education services for autism, Asperger's syndrome, sensory integration, mental retardation and other special needs are both informed and helpful.

A Guide to Special Education provides guidance to parents who are tackling this difficult task. It is an excellent guidebook for any parent, attorney, advocate or educator who would like to learn the underpinnings of the legal structure of the special education system requirements, with a look at practical implementation and ideal conclusions/considerations.

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