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Opinion & Essays - Aug, 1999 Issue #60

A Response to Tom Bratter 
By Miriam Bodin
Los Altos, CA

(Miriam Bodin is currently serving her second term as a member of the Board of IECA. She participated in the formation of the American Board of Certified Eduational Planners. Her practice is in Los Altos, CA)

Thanks to Tom Bratter (see “Don’t be Afraid to Ask” in Woodbury Reports #59, July 1999) for opening up a valuable discussion regarding the consumer’s need to understand, evaluate, and make good use of an educational consultant. I agree fully that it is essential that a potential client determine whether his educational consultant has specialized expertise in advising special needs students.

As an old-timer in education consulting (20 years), I have seen the Independent Educational Consultants Association) grow from a small group of about 50 people, who stemmed mostly from the traditional boarding school sector, to an organization of more than 260 members whose backgrounds, expertise, and experience vary widely. Within IECA, members have distinct practices, some of which concentrate on specific areas such as college advising, traditional boarding and day school planning, or working with children and families with special needs. Actually, there are a relatively small number of IECA members who claim expertise in working with “special needs” youngsters. I have had the privilege and challenge of serving on numerous committees within IECA and attest to the fact that this still small organization has been working diligently to 1) develop ethical standards and a code of good practice and 2) develop guidelines to determine and evaluate expertise within certain categories. I invite interested persons to contact the IECA office directly to receive a copy of this code. The office can be reached by calling (703)391-4850, e-mail: ICEA@educationalconsulting.org, or visit their web site.

An exciting step for educational consultants was taken about four years ago when a certification and credentialing entity was developed: The American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AIECP). It has been established to grant a certificate of membership to professionals who meet a carefully delineated set of educational standards, experiences, and expertise in specific areas of educational planning. Such a professional is granted the designation “Certified Educational Planner.”

Nothing could be more important to the vast majority of members of both organizations than being professional in relationship with their clients and schools. Numerous training sessions are scheduled at our IECA conferences to enhance expertise. These are always well-attended and led by qualified professionals. The IECA Board is grappling with ways to measure competency as well as to provide procedures when a school, another member, or a client has grievances of complaints about fellow members and/or professional practices.

I feel strongly that Tom Bratter’s comments should be taken very seriously by every consultant who claims to have Expertise in working with struggling or disturbed teens. In our guidelines, IECA stipulates that a consultant work within his/her area of competence. That competency can be measured in a variety of ways, of course, but must include frequent visits to treatment programs and special needs schools as well as substantial immersion into the world of at-risk-youth.

I especially appreciated Dr. Bratter’s recommendations about the need for the client to be a collaborator with the consultant in the search for a good fit for the troubled teen. In my experience the best outcomes occur when the consultant acts as a leader and guide within a team of parents and professionals who are all seeking to help an adolescent get treatment in a setting which has the optimal mix of the features s/he requires.

When parents have reached the decision to seek residential placement for their troubled teen, the stress is not over; it is changed. This is the time to obtain professional help. The specialized and skilled consultant will be a cautious and knowledgeable guide through the difficult process of determining the most appropriate placement. This specialized consultant can remain part of the treatment team to continue to guide the young person who is moving towards a healthier lifestyle and a successful and promising adulthood.

Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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