Okay, we all know that the folks in the school try hard. In spite of that, sometimes things go wrong. None of us parents want to do some of the things we say, like hire an attorney, sue the school, or complain to the state and federal departments of education. However, sometimes we know the school is doing something wrong but, since we’re not educators, we don’t know how to say what is wrong in a way the school will understand. If you’re in Virginia, you can get some help from V.O.P.A., the Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy.

The Virginia Office Of Protection and Advocacy “helps with disability-related problems like abuse, neglect, and discrimination. We also help people with disabilities obtain services and treatment.” That’s directly from VOPA’s website. They will answer questions if you call them, although you may have to wait a day or so for an advocate to get back to you. They have been very helpful in solving some of Raymond’s school issues.

The real key is to understand that they can help you make a road map for your child with special needs. If you are at your wits end and don’t know where to go or what to do, VOPA can help. One of their advocates gave us a number of helpful suggestions that have helped us negotiate with the school in the language the school understands.

They do take some cases for representation. They have a team of attorneys and advocates who will actually come into the school and help you get what your child needs. In order to qualify for that you need to make sure that your request aligns with their program goals. We qualified for technical assistance from a VOPA attorney because Raymond needed more occupational therapy and the school could not provide it. Our attorney has been invaluable in helping us use the data to justify Raymond’s additional services.

They are a free service that can help you find your way. VOPA is an agency of the Commonwealth designed to help folks with disabilities get what they need to be successful in society. They are definitely worth a phone call or an email if you need some help.