When I embarked upon my legal career, being a special education attorney was not initially on the radar. I specialized in criminal defense for several years and then, suddenly, I was taken on an involuntary journey that changed life as I knew it. At six weeks old, my eldest son, Brandon, was diagnosed with a brain malformation (Focal Cortical Dysplasia) that caused seizures (Infantile Spasms) and adversely impacted his physical and intellectual development. Initially, I was paralyzed with fear and unsure which way to turn first. I then began the process of reorienting the course of my life with my son's every need taking center stage. As I am sure all parents of special needs children do, I spent countless sleepless nights staring at the ceiling at 2:00 a.m. in search for answers. Finding the way to effectively help my child in every way I could permeated my every thought. I then immersed myself in learning everything I could about the brain, special education advocacy, and whatever services existed to help my son conquer his disability to the maximum extent possible. I have since dedicated my life to doing everything in my power to make sure Brandon lives the best life he can.
In my journey with my son, the change of my professional course suddenly became inevitable. I came across so many helpless and desperate parents that were unsure how to access the proper services for their children. They were unaware and uneducated about the special education system and its very complicated inner workings. The reality was, and continues to be, that parents are not often given all of the correct information and school districts are not always candid about the various types of support and services that can and should be offered. Unfortunately, often the services offered your child are based on a cost/benefit analysis, and one that does not first and foremost considers your child's interest. I crossed paths with parents eager to help their children, but were given misinformation time after time. When I learned how easily special education children can fall through the cracks because they are not treated as the law so clearly mandates, I inevitably and almost organically realized my calling, and although I had embarked on the road to special education law long before on a personal level, I decided to do so officially and I started my own law practice. I became a special education attorney. I knew that what I did and continue to do for my son to ensure his utmost success, I could do for the children of so many families in need and I knew these families could relate to my experience and draw benefit from it. I wanted to do my part and so I shifted careers and set out to help as many parents as I encountered whose desire to help their children was as insatiable as mine.
Sometimes the barriers we face seem unconquerable but the deep love for your child and the desire to see him/her succeed will be your motivating force. It may not be easy but it is a fight worth fighting. Know that with the proper support and tools, the right education for children with disabilities is possible. Allow me to share with you the wealth of knowledge and information that I have acquired along the way of this life transforming, beautiful and heart wrenching journey. Below I share with you some very helpful pointers that I believe are imperative elements for parents seeking assistance with special education advocacy.
The biggest and most important piece of advice I can offer you is to BELIEVE IN YOUR CHILD, no matter what the diagnosis, disability or challenge he/she is facing. You must set a high standard and believe that your child can accomplish more than anyone thinks possible. If you give up on your child then everyone gives up on your child. As difficult as it sometimes may be, your mind set must be one of eternal optimism. Believe that your child is going to be very capable of achievements despite what therapists, doctors or school officials opine. Set that accomplishment bar very high and keep it steady! The school administrators, mediators and Administrative Law Judges must first see your child, not his/her diagnosis or disability and that is up to you to show them. When the school district is telling you that there is no funding, classrooms, and/or personnel services available to help your child, your strong believe that your child can be successful as long as these services are provided is what will keep you determined to fight for them! It is the resilient and relentless will of parents that yields success in meeting their children’s unique academic needs.