Selecting the right educational consultant is vital when parents need to find a specialized school or program, especially when parents feel the need to find a school or program outside of their home community (that is, when all local options have been exhausted). Competent and ethical educational consultants have specialized training and expertise; they provide a thorough assessment and comprehensive information to help parents make wise choices. Some people who call themselves educational consultants, however, have little formal education and training. They may have conflicts of interest because of the way they are paid for their services or may be biased in favor of certain kinds of programs and schools that might not be best for their clients.
Parents can find educational consultants in several ways:
- Ask other parents. Spread the word among parents who have faced similar parenting challenges. Rely on parents whose judgment you respect and whose values and parenting philosophy match your own.
- Contact specialty organizations that focus on issues closely related to the teen’s special needs. Organizations that focus on developmental disabilities and learning disorders may be able to recommend consultants. For example, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) can provide valuable information and referrals: http://www.chadd.org/
- The most centralized listing of educational consultants in the U.S. is available from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA): http://www.educationalconsulting.org/ The IECA has developed a set of ethical guidelines that govern the actions of consultants in their relationships with students and families, with schools, and with colleagues. According to IECA policies, a member consultant does not accept any compensation from educational institutions for placement of a child.
Here is a list of questions that parents may want to ask when selecting an educational consultant:
- How much experience does the educational consultant have?
- What is the educational consultant’s educational and professional background? Does the consultant have at least a master’s degree in a mental health field or in education? Does the educational consultant hold any professional licenses or certifications?
- What services will the educational consultant provide?
- What are the full consulting costs? Does the educational consultant charge by the hour or by the placement?
- Does the educational consultant have any formal ties to specific programs and schools (which may lead to biased referrals and conflicts of interest), or does the educational consultant provide unbiased information and advice?
- What does the educational consultant do to monitor the teen’s progress during his or her enrollment in the program or school? How often does the consultant visit the program or school during the teen’s stay?
- How much contact will the educational consultant have with the parents while the teen is in a program or school?
- Do you feel comfortable with and trust the educational consultant?
Posing these questions can greatly enhance the likelihood that parents will find skilled and ethical educational consultants.