Special Education Advocate and Consultant

We understand the fear, confusion and worry when you have a child with special needs. If you avoid phone calls from your school, dread attending school meetings, are unsure of your parent rights or worry that your child may not be receiving an appropriate education, then working with an experienced School Advocate is the solution you’ve been looking for.

Advocacy Services:

  • Free Consultation

    This free 30-minute phone consultation allows the family to share an overview of the situation, learn about the services that can be provided and discuss potential ways the advocate might be able to assist the family.

  • In-depth Consultation

    We will provide you with an opportunity to discuss your school-related situation in more detail, discuss the goals for your child’s programming and receive feedback from the advocate regarding options, strategies, and realistic outcomes of your goals. The advocate will also provide feedback related to the child’s current programming and IEP, and provide suggestions for “next steps” whether or not the family chooses to hire the advocate. The family should be prepared to bring the most recent IEPs (if applicable), evaluations and other documents they believe might be relevant. The advocate will review these documents either before or during the meeting in order to provide comprehensive feedback.

  • Participation in School Meetings

    As a trained school psychologist with experience in both public and private schools as well as in a special education law office, Shari is perfectly positioned to be an effective advocate for your child and a comforting support for you throughout the entire process. Should the family choose to hire the advocate, a thorough review of records will be completed as well as communication with NSPT providers, outside providers (physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, etc.) as well as members of the child’s educational team or school attorney, when applicable. Prior to the meeting, the family will have a final face-to-face prep meeting so the advocate can share the meeting process with the parents, clarify the goals of the meeting and answer any remaining questions. The family will leave the meeting feeling confident that their child will be properly represented. They will know that the school advocate truly knows their child’s needs and that she has thoroughly reviewed all of the recommendations from the neuropsychologist and/or therapist to create a reasonable and attainable plan for reaching the child’s goals. Then, the advocate will accompany the family to the school meeting to share clinician recommendations and work with the team to craft the IEP (goals, accommodations, services, and placement) and help negotiate any remaining and/or unresolved issues. If the situation reaches the point that the advocate believes the family requires attorney involvement, she will make referrals to area attorneys so the family can learn about additional options such as mediation and due process.

  • School Observations

    Shari can go to your child’s school and observe your child in the academic setting and during those difficult-to-navigate unstructured times such as lunch and recess.  While at the school, Shari can interview your child’s teachers in order to gain additional information that is often very useful in the advocacy process.  Depending upon the needs of the case, the observation may include a written report of the findings and educational recommendations.

    Shari is also qualified to write a Functional Behavioral Analysis for your child and can make Behavioral Intervention Plan recommendations to your school team.

  • “Behind-the-Scenes” Coaching

    Sometimes parents prefer to go to meetings alone, and that’s OK! Now, you can take advantage of our “behind-the-scenes” assistance. Our advocate will review your documents, provide feedback, answer your questions, give you “language” to use at the meeting, and help you anticipate what will happen at the meeting. After the meeting, the advocate can review the draft IEP and provide feedback.

  • IEP Audit

    Our advocate will thoroughly inspect your child’s IEP and provide a detailed analysis that you can use to prepare for your next IEP. In order to most effectively provide feedback, previous IEPs will be reviewed along with current and past evaluations and school data.

  • Evaluation/Protocol Review and Explanation

    Do your eyes glaze over when the school team discusses the evaluation results? Our advocate, who worked as a school psychologist for 13 years, will meet with you to review your child’s evaluations and explain the results in a way that actually makes sense! You can then use this information to better understand your child’s needs and to be more prepared for your next meeting. In situations where there is concern regarding the administration and/or test scoring, our advocate can re-score tests to ensure accuracy.

    Our Protocol Review service can also be utilized by other advocates and parent attorneys.

COMPENSATORY EDUCATION REVIEW

Do you believe that your child has missed out on needed educational opportunities and services? What do you do when your school district fails to provide what your child with special needs should have received? The loss of services can have profound consequences and can limit your child’s opportunities in the future.

Compensatory education can be a critical remedy for the deprivation of a free, appropriate public education. As a form of relief, compensatory education requires the school district to provide or fund services to “compensate” for earlier deprivations of a child’s right to a free, appropriate public education.

If you believe your child may be entitled to compensatory education services our advocate can review the documents to determine if there is sufficient information to build a case. Depending on the situation, the advocate can help you obtain these services, or will refer you to an attorney who specializes in this area.

Meet Your Advocate:

Shari Meserve, M.S.Ed., Ed.S.

Shari Meserve, M.S.Ed., Ed.S.

Special Education Advocate

Shari Meserve, M.S.Ed., Ed.S. is a certified School Psychologist. She received her Master’s of Science in Education from National Louis University in 1997 and her Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology from NLU in 1999. She worked in various schools north of Chicago for 13 years. In her role as school psychologist, she has extensive experience working with and advocating for children and adolescents with a wide variety of disabilities and impairments. Her responsibilities included evaluations and observations, leading special education teams, developing IEPs, providing direct counseling services, conducting Functional Behavioral Assessments and developing and implementing Behavioral Intervention Plans, and consulting with staff, administration and parents about appropriate strategies and programs for students. Out of a growing desire to use her skills to help a wider range of children and families obtain appropriate services and supports, Shari left the public school system to work at a special education law firm.

Prior to becoming a School Psychologist, Shari devoted her career and volunteer work within the disability and mental health communities. She volunteered at places such as the Salvation Army Home for Unwed Teens, the Youth Organization Umbrella, the Council for Jewish Elderly, several Chicago Federation Youth Homes, and the Lake County Council Against Sexual Assault. Additionally, she worked at the Lambs Farm and Big Brother/Big Sister. Shari also served as the Inclusion Coordinator at a non-special education residential camp, training staff and working with the campers who had special needs in order to ensure a successful camping experience.

In January of 2014, Shari founded the Illinois Tourette Resource Network, a nonprofit organization serving those impacted by Tourette Syndrome and the Related Disorders. Prior to the inception of ITRN, Shari served on the Board of Directors for the Tourette Syndrome Association of Illinois and the Tourette Syndrome Camping Organization, at which she worked as the resident psychologist for seven summers. She also worked part-time for an executive functioning coaching company, where she coached students who have EF difficulties.

Shari enjoys sharing her knowledge with parents and other professionals and has presented workshops for a number of professional agencies including Rush University Medical Center, the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation of Chicago, The Tourette Syndrome Association, and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. Shari speaks on topics such as Basic and Advanced Advocacy Skills, Special Education Eligibility in a Response to Intervention Model, Understanding Test Scores, What to Look for in an IEP and How to Improve It, Executive Functioning, and Tourette Syndrome.

Highlights of Recent Accomplishments:

IEP Meetings

Secured two private school placements through IEP meetings (one was at a cost of 82K/year).

1:1 Aide

Obtained a 1:1 aide for a child with selective mutism after the parent’s former advocate (an attorney) was unsuccessful.

Private Tutoring Services

Through mediation, obtained many hours of private tutoring services with the tutor of the parent’s choice, for a child whose IEP minutes had not been met.

Private School Placement

Through a settlement agreement, obtained the private school placement of the parent’s choice.

Private Evaluations

Obtained two district-paid private evaluations, using parent-chosen evaluators.

Functional Behavioral Assessment/Behavior Intervention Plan

Hired by an attorney as an expert witness, completed a Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plan which was instrumental in helping the attorney obtain a private placement for the client.

1:1 Autism Aide

Obtained a 1:1 aide for a child with autism, after being denied by the district.

IEPs

Obtained IEPs for several children after previous parent-attempts were unsuccessful.

Extended School Year Services

Obtained Extended School Year Services at a residential NON-approved state school, at a cost of $18,000 to the district (NON emphasized because that meant that the school received no state funding, those placements are always much harder to get).

SLANT Reading Services

Obtained SLANT reading services for a 1st grade student as compensatory education due to denial of FAPE.

Home-School Placement

After the family was denied a change of placement back to the student’s home-school from a much more restrictive environment, she was successful in securing the home-school placement.