This September parents of special needs children had the opportunity to get free legal advice to help them navigate through the San Antonio public school system.
Hosted by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and Advocacy Inc., the San Antonio Special Education Law Clinic paired parents with licensed attorneys to provide information on a child’s right to a free public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Attorneys worked with parents to develop a plan for addressing
their child’s special education needs and make sure that schools address parental concerns.
“Many parents need help navigating the educational system to ensure that their child’s special needs are addressed,” said TRLA attorney and San Antonio branch manager Ann Zaragoza. “It’s important that parents know how to be an advocate for their child in the public school system.”
The clinic is a collaborative effort between TRLA, Advocacy, Inc., and San Antonio attorneys like Brendan McBride, whose own experience with the special education system on behalf of his autistic son inspired him to find a way to help families struggling with similar challenges.
“Helping our kids maximize their potential is just too important to all of us and the best natural advocates for these kids are their parents,” said McBride. “Even as a practicing lawyer I found the process complex and somewhat intimidating. Meetings often occur with one parent sitting across the table from six or more specialists from the school district.”
Approximately 36,000 children in the San Antonio area participate in special education programs each year. Many times, their parents face difficulties securing services that will help the children succeed in school.
“Parents who are empowered with the knowledge to effectively advocate for their children in areas like individualized education programs, behavior plans, and integrated settings are much more successful,” added Chance Heinsohn, an attorney with Advocacy, Inc. “Knowledge of how the system works is the key.”