What Parents, Guardians and Concerned Friends Can Do

Special education can get difficult the first day the child is identified as deviating from the norm.  

Difficulties can begin trying to get a child assessed for needing special education.

  • Often, schools do not want to assess children for special education because special education is expensive and school budgets fall short.
  • Teachers are pressured not to identify children for special education unless the child's case is an obvious legal matter to other people watching.

Difficulties can begin once the child is identified for special education and the IEP is inappropriate for the child.

  • The parent may find it almost impossible to stand up for the child and activate the law because:
  • The parent may not want to have negative relations with the people at school
  • The parent may want the people at school to like him/her
  • The parent might not be able to handle the research and paper work involved


  1. Contact ACE, as we provide as much free phone coaching as possible to help and provide formal advocacy services. 949 370 1186 or Accesscenter@mac.com
  2. Call the California Procedural Safeguards Hotline 1 800 926 0648 (9am to 4pm). If the school is not following procedures required by law, the state department of education Procedural Safeguards Hotline is available to help you get the school to comply with procedural law.
  3. Call the Office for Civil Rights (you can get an officer of the day) 415-556-4275; Civil rights violations include discrimination based upon race/religion/national origin/ age/ disability. This office can help if a special education child is being discriminated against for racism, sexual harassment, etc....The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights number is 800 421 3481
  4. For an attorney, contact Protection and Advocacy Inc. PAI provides short-term legal assistance but they have a waiting list. In Southern California, call (213) 4278747
  5. For Discrimination based upon disability, you might call the Americans with Disabilities Act office at 800 514 0301.
  6. In every state, a parent training and information center is funded to help inform parents about their child’s special education rights. In Orange County California, the Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK)714533 8275. TASK is available for basic rights training. Ask the state Department of Education or TASK for a free Composite of Special Education Laws book and learn what your child's rights.
  7. Search for an attorney through the Council of Parent Attorney and Advocates Attorneys list at www.copaa.orgCOPAA is an attorney led organization that holds annual attorney and advocate training. This organization is a trusted resource for learning to advocate for your disabled child. I have taken their advocacy training many times.
  8. Keep Records. Start a calendar and record every time the teacher talks to you about your child’s behavior or learning problems. Record the date, time and what the teacher or school staff member said. Court cases find that parent notes and calendars are valid evidence so record everything in a calendar. Keep all written letters from teachers about your child and all emails about your child’s behavioral or learning problems. You may need these records as proof of how long your child’s issues were known by the school. Also, keep records about treatment received by other service providers and inform the school of all diagnosis your child has received from doctors. Again, inform the school in writing and get a signed / date stamped received copy of your information provided to the school and keep the copy for your records.
  9. Document your concerns for your child in writing. You cannot prove the school received your communication unless it is in writing and you have someone from the school sign a copy of your letter and date the letter with an office time/date stamp received. You must prove the school received your parent concerns about important issues. You can use the information from your calendar in your letter to the school.
  10. Write a parent concerns letter for your child’s IEP. Submit your letter to the IEP team at the meeting. Insist that your letter, detailing all your parent concerns be added to the IEP as a numbered page of the IEP document. You have the right to have all your concerns documented. Also, remember, the district has 10 days to respond to any requests you make for assessments, services or interventions in writing. The district is required to provide Prior Written Notice within 10 days of a parent request for a service, assessment or intervention, or even a placement change for your child. In that Prior Written Notice, the district has to explain if they are granting your request and if not, specifically what factors they considered in denying your request.

Email ACE

What Can You Do For Someone Else?

  • Talk to the person you know who is having a problem with their child and give them phone numbers for Access Center for Education 949 370 1186 or refer that person to a local parent training and information center to get started understanding special education.
  • Listen to their specific problem and be comforting and then talk to them about what you learned today.
  • If you see a child in school who could qualify but the teachers are pressuring the parents and not identifying the child as a special needs child, try to establish a friendly conversation with the parent and hint toward the fact that the parent can get help for their child if they ask the school for a special education assessment. Mention that the school has to say yes to the assessment and that the parent and child have rights. If the parent comes back to you, give them phone numbers.

Remember, when trying to help someone who is not seeking help, you can appear pushy or your actions can be interpreted as unwelcome intrusion. The best way to handle working with someone who doesn't know that their child qualifies for help or that their child is in real need of help is to:

  1. Ask the parent if they know that their child needs help.
  2. If the parent says yes, then ask if they know that the school has programs to help?
  3. If the parent says no, then explain the assessment procedure for special education.
  4. If the parent says yes, ask them what they think the school can do and respond appropriately.
  5. Put yourself in the position of questioner and let the parent be the expert and the one with knowledge, as not to offend their sense of adequacy as a parent.