Imagine being the parent of a school-age child with a learning disability and getting the chance to talk with a knowledgeable special education attorney who, like a trusted friend, truly wants to make your life easier. That heart-to-heart chat comes to life in How to Advocate Successfully for Your Child: What Every Parent Should Know About Special Education Law by Greer M. Gurland.
Gurland’s legal background is key to her knowledge. But her position as a mother of five special-needs children ages 6-13 gives her even more authority when it comes to navigating an educational system that can overwhelm with its rules and processes. To help parents pinpoint the questions they need to ask and become better advocates for their children, the author divides the book into two parts: five lessons she’s learned, plus a series of critical questions.
Gurland does an exemplary job of breaking suggested tasks (such as formally requesting that the local school system evaluate your child six months before she enrolls) into manageable steps; defining a child’s placement options; and showing how readers can document successes they observe at home for possible adaptation in a school setting. An appendix includes sample letters, checklists and instructions for setting up a record-keeping binder.
One might assume that, as a lawyer, Gurland would fill her book with stuffy “legalese” and take a confrontational stance on the issues. Not so. Facts, not arguments, she says, win cases, and choosing battles carefully is a valuable form of negotiation. “I lose gracefully,” she writes, noting that when it comes to advocacy, “Nice does not mean powerless.”
Gurland’s legal background clearly gives her an advantage, but it’s her role as mother that makes her so effective at empowering other parents. Despite its compactness—or perhaps because of it—How to Advocate is one of the most readable, easy to understand, and enjoyable books about special education law on the market today.
Author Platform: This book has been honored with four awards from the 2016 Human Relations Indie Book Awards: Gold Winner for Problem Solving Human Relations Indie Book; Bronze Winner for Inspirational Human Relations Indie Book; Bronze Winner for Self-Help and Wellness Human Relations Indie Book; and Outstanding Human Relations Advocacy Indie Book. The book was also the sole medalist in the parenting category for the 2016 New Apple Independent Book Awards. Gurland has been named one of New Jerseys’s Best Lawyers in New Jersey Family. The book is also available in Spanish due to a generous gift from Children’s Specialized Hospital.