COMPASS Family Center

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Special Education Advocacy Program

The Special Education Advocacy Program is offered in collaboration with the USD’s Division of Continuing Education and the Legal Clinics.

For more information, call 619-260-4585.

Register for Spring 2014

Download the Special Education Advocacy Program Bookelet (PDF)


The right to individualized educational programs and services for students with disabilities is legally guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, commonly referred to as IDEA. Under IDEA, every child with a disability is entitled to a “free appropriate public education” in the least restrictive environment. Given the complexities associated with navigating the special education system, many families seek the assistance of an advocate to help them develop and implement Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and to understand their children’s rights under IDEA. Currently, there are no educational requirements for an individual to serve as an advocate, nor are there federal or state guidelines to inform the practice of “special education advocacy”.

Proficiency Program

In an effort to address the needs of families and professionals alike, the COMPASS Family Center at USD, in collaboration with USD’s Special Education Clinic and the Division of Continuing Education, have developed the Special Education Advocacy Program.


This training is designed not only to help parents and professionals better understand special education law and its application, but also to help future advocates develop the skills to effectively facilitate the IEP process. Ultimately, we seek to reduce the barriers between parents and schools in order to promote good communication and effective negotiation, in addition to working ethically and responsibly for the benefit of the child with special needs.


Participants in this program will receive brief, solution-focused, functional training in the growing field of Special Education Advocacy. The program has been developed to:

  • Provide an overview of the impact of disability on the family and special education law;
  • Provide the knowledge necessary to advocate on behalf of students with disabilities;
  • Prepare participants to become effective and collaborative advocates; and
  • Enhance participants’ skills, knowledge and marketability in the field of special education advocacy.

Target Audience

A wide range of individuals may benefit from taking these courses. The curriculum has been developed to be appropriate both for parents and professionals. The target audience includes:

  • Parents, caretakers, grandparents and extended family of children (birth-22 years) with special needs;
  • Professionals involved in the special education process including school administrators, teachers and advocates as well as related-service providers such as occupational, physical and speech therapists;
  • Graduate students interested in working in the special needs field and college and university professors teaching in the field; and
  • Community agencies providing services to individuals with special needs and their families.