If you have a special needs child in the school system, hiring an independent special education consultant can help ensure your child’s future. Disagreements between you and your school district over how best to meet your child’s schooling and needs may arise over the course of your child’s education, and having a consultant to guide and assist you can make a significant difference in your child’s education.
Rather than fumbling around on the Internet and poring over legal details, retaining a consultant can eliminate the mistakes parents typically make when they go about it alone.
Word-of-mouth is a typical way of finding an educational consultant. Friends, relatives, your child’s doctors are all excellent resources for recommendations. Special education lawyers who have training and expertise are another great resource for consulting.
Here are key points to review and important questions to ask when you are interviewing potential consultants.
Credentials and qualifications. While you may be able to find this information online with some research, it’s a good starting point in getting to know the educational consultant better.
As he or she will be interacting with your child, providing you with advice that impacts your child’s future, and possibly representing your child’s interests, it is important that you can trust his or her judgment and training. Knowing the details of his or her education, professional affiliations, certifications and associations can serve as a baseline of his or her credentials.
- What degrees, certifications, and licenses do you and the members of your company hold?
- What professional associations do you and members of your firm (if applicable) belong to?
- Have you written any books or articles that I can read to get a better sense of your philosophy?
- What conferences or extended education do you seek out to stay abreast of current policy and research?
Experience. While schooling and certification provide a good reference point, experience is a better gauge of the consultant’s competence and fit.
Many years of practice in areas of specialty that fits your child’s needs would mean that this consultant would be a better fit for your family. With schools and programs constantly changing, a breadth of experience means the consultant can adapt easily to the fluctuations. Also, you should get a sense of how many cases they handle a year, to ensure that while they have ample experience, they also have plenty of time to focus on your case.
- How many years have you been a special education consultant?
- What areas of special education or clinical issues do you or your firm focus on? How many years have you been specializing in this field?
- What is your on-going caseload? How many new cases do you take on a year?
- Have you (or members of your company) visited any special-needs school/programs in the past year? How many? What was the visit regarding?
- Have you previously participated in special education committee meets, impartial hearings, etc.? How many such incidences? What was the outcome?
Services. Once you’ve gotten a sense of the educational consultant’s education, training and experience, you can begin to review the services the firm provides and the costs associated.
While you can get an idea of what the consultant offers through online research, asking details about the services and cost ensures that there will be no surprises later on.
- Do you have an itemized list of your services and costs? What does a retainer cover?
- How do you follow-up on cases after placement? How long do you follow-up? Is there additional cost associated with follow-up?
- Are you available for post-placement care? Is that an additional cost?
- Are you or someone from your firm likely to visit our child at his or her new school?
- How accessible are you during office hours? Are you available after hours? Is this an additional cost?
- Who covers for you when you are unavailable?
- What is your preferred method of communication? How quickly do you reply to voicemail/email/etc.?
- Are there any additional services that you or your firm can assist us with?
Placement Process. Find out how the consultant reaches his or her conclusions, recommendations, or advice. You will be relying on the consultant to educate you on the options, so ask questions regarding his or her methodology.
- How do you determine the needs of the child? What methods do you use?
- What factors do you take into consideration when considering placement options and schools?
- How will you help us choose amongst the recommended options for our child?
You may have additional questions to ask, but this is a good starting point to help you vet potential educational consultants for your child.