The IEP process can be very complex and allow school staff to take advantage of a parent while seeming to be sincere in developing an appropriate curriculum for your child. You should seek the help of someone to accompany you at all IEP meetings to assist in the development of your child's IEP, not only to help ensure that the program includes properly written measurable goals, but also to serve as an objective fact witness in the event the matter needs to go to a Due Process Hearing.
Parents often find that they are able to communicate more clearly and negotiate more effectively with an advocate by their side. An advocate assists when you work with your school (or other agency) to plan your child's education by writing letters, attending meetings, understanding what services your child may be entitled to under the law, and negotiating with administrators. An experienced advocate may also help you find local professionals to diagnose or treat your child. An attorney legally represents your child in special education (IEP) disputes. Only attorneys may represent your child; parents and advocates may not be allowed to do so. In practice, almost all the work we as your attorney do is really advocacy: negotiating with school administrators to reach a settlement without involving a judge. An advocate cannot provide you the legal advice and counsel you will need in writing a settlement with your school, but they can work with your attorney in addressing many of the service issues that need to be included.
An education consultant will help you plan your child's education and may also provide evaluation and testing services important both to establishing your child's needs and supporting your request for educational and therapeutic services.