IEP Coach | Training | Certification | Why to Hire One Instead of an IEP Advocate

IEP Coach

Lately I have started calling myself an IEP Coach instead of an IEP Advocate or Special Education Advocate. For me, it’s not just a matter of semantics. I am changing the entire structure of my business and business model. And, while I will still be an Advocate, I am much more looking forward to being a coach.

So what’s the difference? What is different between an IEP Advocate and an IEP Coach? What is IEP Coach training? What is IEP Coach Certification? How to become an IEP Coach? I’ll explain all of that and more.

getting started advocacy

IEP Coach vs. IEP Advocate

I have been an IEP advocate for more than 10 years. And yes, I’ve been a coach as well, for probably equally as long. But now I am going to focus on the coaching.

As an IEP/Special Education Advocate, I do everything for you. I write all the letters, I do the records review, attend meetings with you. Everything. 

It’s very time-consuming and the job is self-limiting as to how many families I can help at one time. But, as an IEP coach, we are going to do this in groups. 

Instead of doing everything like writing your letters and doing your record reviews, I’m going to teach you how to do it. And, much like a coach and a team, we’re going to learn from each other too. 

For 10+ years, I’ve used the same 4-step process to handle all my client IEPs. Now, I’ve broken that down into 10 coaching sessions where we will go through the steps together. There will be live video teaching with Q&A, there will a private forum where you’ll be able to bounce ideas and solutions off of each other.

Why You Should Hire an IEP Coach

Over the years, I’ve had many clients who just wanted me to do everything for them. They had no interest in learning the process. I would explain the “why” behind my advocacy strategy, but some were not interested in learning how.

And that’s ok.

For people who want to work as an advocate and do this work, I say, “Go for it!” Many love it. And it’s still a much needed profession.

But I have found that my time limitations don’t allow for both. I rarely have the time to do the advocacy work and explain to you how to do it. It’s one of those “Just easier if I do it myself!” And many parents don’t want to pay for that extra explanation.

Who you choose to hire will be dependent upon your individual needs and your budget. Among other things.

My Online IEP Coaching Academy will cost about the same as hiring your average advocate for a few hours. But, you will have lifetime access to the webinars, training and support. It’s the whole “give her a fish” vs. “teach her how to fish” kinda thing. I don’t really have time to fish for you and teach you to fish at the same time. So we’re going to go fishing together, while I teach you a better way to fish.

Is this IEP Coach Training?

Sort of.

Neither job, IEP Coach or IEP Advocate, has one singular licensing body or certification. Most seasoned in the field started as parents, then took some training. Many have worked for an agency at some point. COPAA is probably the leader in advocate training, but still at this point, even they don’t offer a nationally required/recognized certification.

It’s not much different from a Little League baseball coach. Most start as a player, then they are parents of kids in Little League. Depending on their circumstances and training, they may go on to coach high school, college or even in the pros. USA Baseball is just one of the organizations offering a certification. But most leagues may require criminal background checks before they’d require certification.

My IEP Coaching Academy will train you to be a better IEP advocate for your own child. Should you choose to become a professional advocate, you can do so. My program will not be a guarantee of that, though I certainly would list it on a resume!

What training you choose to pursue will vary by your passions and interests. If your child is 2E, for example, you may choose training and conferences related to that. If you child has dyslexia, that is likely one path or area you will specialize in.

My online IEP Coaching Academy will teach you my trademarked 4-Step Process to approaching any IEP issue. It’s a formula or flow chart if you will. You can put anything–a concern, a problem, even your annual IEP meeting–into the formula and it will generate a defined action plan for you to follow. It will work for your child or any child. My process works within the confines and limitations of IDEA and state regs, so we will review those as we progress.

But what I don’t or won’t do is walk you through IDEA and explain each section to you. IDEA will be explained to you as part of the problem-solving process.

IEP Coach Certification

So is this an IEP Coach certification? Is there such a thing? Am I a certified IEP coach?

No. Again, that is because there is no nationally recognized or required certification to be an IEP coach. Some exist.

However, I have been a working advocate for over a decade and I have taken two national courses–COPAA 3.0 and another (no longer really recognized or in existence to my knowledge). I also have won awards for my advocacy work, including Chester County Advocate of the Year in 2012.

The path I followed was dependent upon my interests and passions. I have been to a zillion conferences and workshops on autism and low-incidence disabilities because that is what affects my household. As I began my professional advocacy career, I learned as much as I could about discipline, racism, marginalization and poverty and how it relates to kids and their IEPs. Because that became a passion of mine.

And, prior to becoming a Special Education Advocate, I was a teacher, instructor, and coach in other subject areas. I worked at a Vocational School, the YMCA and several other teaching and coaching roles.

This new Academy is finally coming to reality, and mashing up all of my different skill sets. And this is why I am soooo excited about it!

Online IEP Coaching Academy

When you complete my Online IEP Coaching Academy, you’re going to be a much better advocate for your child.

Someone recently introduced me to the “Rule of 3” as applies to mastering a concept.

  1. You should be learning from someone who is more advanced in this subject than you are.
  2. You should be a colleague with someone who is at your level.
  3. You should be mentoring someone who does not have as much subject area knowledge as you do.

That is what is going to make my Online IEP Coaching different. Once the initial group of participants goes through the training, they will have the opportunity to mentor those coming behind them.

I am currently mentoring two women, and it is amazing. I learn much more from teaching than I ever did from attending conferences or training.

How to become a special education advocate
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