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What Is An Educational Consultant?

WHAT IS AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT?
"Educational consultants are professionals who assist students and families with educational decision making," according to the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) Directory. Educational consultants who are "independent" avoid entanglements, financial or otherwise, with schools or programs that might influence their recommendations to parents and children. Members of the IECA organization agree to follow "Principles of Good Practice," which includes the statement: "A consultant does not accept any compensation from educational institutions for placement of a child."

HOW CAN ONE HELP ME?
Consultants provide experience, knowledge and objectivity to help formulate a placement decision during a time that is confusing and stressful for any parent. Since educational consultants have extensive personal knowledge of a wide variety of schools and programs, they know the important criteria and common mistakes to avoid when making recommendations for placement. Consultants utilize this knowledge and experience when helping parents to carefully develop a strategy to intervene with their struggling child.

IS IT WORTH THE COST?
Special Purpose schools and programs are very expensive. An educational consultant who is experienced and competent can increase the odds that the first choice of a school or program will be the right choice, helping to avoid additional failures for the child. Parents who work with qualified educational consultants thus reduce the possibility of losing time and money as a result of an inappropriate placement.

HOW DO I CHOOSE A CONSULTANT?
Perhaps the most important consideration when selecting an educational consultant is the level of trust and comfort you feel with that person. Each year Woodbury Reports conducts a survey that includes a list of educational consultants who work with families seeking to place their child in a Special Needs school or program. One of the results of our analysis is a list of consultants who have good reputations according to special needs schools and programs and other consultants. The IECA organization also indicates which consultants are qualified to work with Special Needs schools and programs. Selecting from either or both of these lists will insure that the educational consultant you choose will have proven a basic competence in this area.

WHAT FEES ARE INVOLVED?
Like any profession, fees vary widely. The consultants listed in my Directory on the basis of their experience and good reputations with special needs programs and other consultants, use one of three kinds of fee structures.

HOURLY

Woodbury Reports is one of the consulting firms that calculate consultation fees on an hourly basis. Consultants who use this fee structure charge for the time actually spent serving the parent and child. They provide only those services the parents require for their situation, which can include: interviewing the child, interviewing the parents and relevant professionals, arranging for testing, advising which schools are most appropriate for the child, supporting the placement application to the school or program, and helping the parent if an additional emergency placement is necessary. Some consultants live in remote areas and work with the parents almost exclusively by telephone, fax and e-mail. These consultants frequently visit the children they have helped place in schools or programs, but usually don't charge for that unless the parent has specifically asked for the visit. There usually is a minimum fee, sometimes based on a minimum number of hours, usually ranging below one thousand dollars. If the consultation time exceeds the minimum agreed upon hours, subsequent charges are based on an hourly rate.

ANNUAL CONTRACT

This is the most common fee arrangement, which includes all the services that might be needed when making a placement decision. The annual contract includes: interviewing the child, interviewing the parents and appropriate professionals, arranging for testing, advising which schools are most appropriate for the child, supporting the placement application to the school or program, and helping the parent if an emergency placement is necessary. It often includes staying in regular touch with the parent throughout that year to communicate about their child's progress and the child is visited at least once during the year that he or she is in the school or program. It is an all- inclusive annual contract, but if the time required becomes far more than normal, the consultant sometimes will negotiate an additional fee. The fees for annual contracts range above two thousand dollars.

HOME VISIT

There are a few educational consultants who will travel to the family's home anywhere in the country. They will work with the family in the home environment to acquire the additional information needed to help them resolve the issues or problems, often then making a residential placement recommendation. To my knowledge, these consultants also use an annual contract that includes the same services other consultants provide, with the additional advantage of working with the family in their home environment. Their fees are above three thousand five hundred dollars, plus expenses.

Lon Woodbury IECA
Certified Educational Planner

 
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