The National Special Education Advocacy Institute (NSEAI) is an interdisciplinary1 professional association dedicated to special education consulting and advocacy that is child focused and addresses the unique educational needs of each student, promoting meaningful educational benefit through the development of a comprehensive and individualized educational plan.  We train Board Certified Education Advocates, BCEA™s in basic regulatory and special education principles related to IDEA and ADA including, but not limited to: 

➢    FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education

➢    LRE - Least Restrictive Environment

➢    Procedural Safeguards

➢    Disability Accommodations & Related Services

➢    Research based educational interventions, and

➢    Educational needs based evaluations and analysis.

The NSEAI Board developed the NSEAI Practice Principles and Guidelines, originally adopted and published in March of 2008 and subsequently revised in February of 2009, to be used to delineate professional ethics and standards of practice for all BCEA™s.  This document represents the views of national stakeholders and those in other forums.  BCEA’™s have agreed to adhere to the voluntary NSEAI Practice Principles and Guidelines in their private consulting practices.


The BCEA shall practice within the scope of their profession and maintain the high standards of professional behavior established by the NSEAI Practice Principles and Guidelines to maintain the authorization to use the BCEA™ title.

➢    NSEAI will investigate3 any noncompliance to practice guideline claim associated with a BCEA™.

➢    NSEAI may withdraw the authorization to use the BCEA title from any consultant/ advocate who substantially violates the Practice Guidelines and Principles, without recourse by the BCEA™.

➢    The BCEA™ will successfully complete the NSEAI certification courses and 6 hours of examinations and practicum (midterm) project

➢    BCEA™s are required to obtain ongoing training, experience, consultation, or supervision necessary to ensure the competence of their services after board certification.  This is individually acquired by the BCEA™ outside of NSEAI sponsored training and certification process.

➢  Prior to Board Certification the  BCEA™ will acquire Board Certification requirements dependent upon the 3 levels of certification:
      A Consultant is an entry level advocate,
      A Diplomat is a practicing professional advocate level and
      A Fellow is the highest level of advocacy certification.  

Prior to Board Certification the  BCEA™ will acquire :
      Fellow  - 328 hours
      198 hours of defined education from NSEAI's 12 courses
      30 additional elective CEU hours from other NSEAI courses or other providers
      100 hours (or equivalent) in independent or supervised practicum hours.
      Diplomat  - 268 hours
      198 hours of defined education from NSEAI's 12 courses
      20 additional elective CEU hours from other NSEAI courses or other providers
      50 hours (or equivalent) in independent or supervised practicum hours.

      Consultant -  238 hours
     198 hours of defined education from NSEAI's 12 courses
     10 additional elective CEU hours from other NSEAI courses or other providers
      30 hours (or equivalent) in independent or supervised practicum hours.


2 NSEAI exams may be challenged by independent study

BCEAs may charge for supervision

Other degrees may be considered on a case by case basis 

The BCEA™ will then maintain knowledge in the field of special education by acquiring a minimum of 50 continuing education hours, every 5 years.  (CEU qualifying activities include attending conferences and conventions, other professional CEU hours, publishing and participating in workshops or course work related to the field of special education,)


Board Certified Education Advocates, BCEA™s, assist families by providing consultative services only in the context of their defined professional role. BCEA™ s shall disclose the scope of their practice to clients. BCEA™ s will actively:

➢    Hold in the highest regard the welfare of individuals served professionally

➢    Promote and assist in the development of comprehensive individualized education plans that are educationally appropriate, sufficient and provide meaningful functional educational benefit. To this end, BCEA™s will:
·      Inform parents of their educational rights
·      Assist families in negotiating and resolving any disputes with the school district so to prevent due process when possible
·      Analyze educational and clinical records and apply those recommendations to the IEP
·      Facilitate the IEP process
·      Provide specific knowledge about special, general and private education systems
·      Develop an appropriate IEP, that supports the individualized needs of a student
·      Assure positive behavioral interventions are used
·      Use appropriate progress monitor measurements with efficacy that results in positive functional outcomes of individual needs
·      Accompany the parent to educationally based discussions and meetings including:  IEP & 504 meetings, Mediation, Manifestation Determination meetings, Due Process …
·      Assist parents to understand complex evaluation reports
·      Assist in the transition plan development to post secondary education, job placement or independent living
·      Promote student placement in the least restrictive environment, academically and socially, appropriate for them to access their education
·       Identify educational options
·      Assist in obtaining services and research based programming to address the child’s unique needs
·       Promote identification of areas of educationally based need or lack of skill sets
·      Promote the use of student strength based programming
·      Promote the use of appropriate evaluation and progress monitoring tools by schools
·      Facilitate informed decision making for clients, concerning educational programming, by providing the broadest range of research based choices, based on an understanding of the child’s unique learning style and educational needs

➢    Advocate for the rights, full participation and inclusion of all individuals with developmental disabilities4 in our schools and communities. To this end, BCEA™s will:
Empower parents/guardians & students to self advocate
Teach, facilitate communication, and accompany clients to meetings
Not represent a client or give legal, psychological or medical advice

➢    Consult with the focus on a collaborative team approach and attempt to resolve conflicts using disputes resolution tools offered under IDEA and State Regulations  (IEP meetings, Informal meetings, Mediation and Due Process)

  • Listen to parental concerns
  • Facilitate client communication with schools and specialist related to educational issues
  • Facilitate parent/ guardian and student inclusion as equal members in the IEP team process
  • Facilitate parent complaints to their State Department of Education
    Refer to independent evaluators or lawyers for services based on the client’s needs

    ➢    Share resources about special education, related fields, and regulations with peers and clients


    Professional behavior is demonstrated by the BCEA™ when they:

    ➢    Accept only clients for whom they believe the requested service is commensurate with the their education, training, and experience. If necessary, makes an appropriate referral of their client to someone who can address their unique needs.

    ➢    Present information truthfully, objectively and knowingly makes no false statements.

    ➢    Uses language that is fully understandable to the client and other participants in meetings.

    ➢   Do not engage in discrimination against individuals or groups based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or any basis whether or not proscribed by law.

    ➢    Act civilly and respectfully to those with whom they interact, and do not knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing, disrespectful or demeaning to persons.

    ➢   Refrain from providing services when their personal circumstances may compromise delivering services in a timely and professional manner.

    ➢    Cooperate with other professionals in order to serve their clients effectively and appropriately by sharing resources.

    ➢    Are honest concerning their knowledge base and skills and clear as to what their practice guidelines include and do not include.

    ➢    Are knowledgeable about the regulations in the jurisdictions in which they work or in which their clients are located.

    ➢    Handle matters in a timely fashion and maintain regular communication with their clients.

    ➢    practice within the scope of their profession and do not participate in the unauthorized practice of law, psychology or medicine.

    ➢    Rely on information based on scientific research and professionally derived knowledge when making judgments and providing recommendations to clients.

    ➢    Review client records and information prior to offering specific assistance that is within their scope of practice.

    ➢    Accept the Rules of Adverse Assumptions (expect the worst and act as if you are going to due process or other legal action) and protect the client’s case for possible further resolution.

    ➢     Exercise care to ensure self determination for individuals with developmental disabilities and communicate effectively so that they fully understand the benefits and risks of any decision. (consulting with a lawyer as appropriate)

    ➢    Communicate the desires and needs of the individual with developmental disabilities*, and the desires of the families they consult with, regardless of their own personal opinions on the matter.  If there is a conflict of interest, the BCEA should withdraw from the collaborative decision-making process.


    ➢    A BCEA™ shall, when possible, refrain from entering into personal, professional, financial, or other relationships with any person where it is likely that such a relationship may present a conflict of interest or undue influence or impair the BCEA’™s objectivity or effectiveness with their clients.

    ➢    The BCEA™ s have a responsibility to operate in the best interest and at the direction of their clients.

    ➢    BCEA™s work to resolve any conflicts of interest keeping in mind the best interests of the  client and compliance with these NSEAI Practice Principles and Guidelines.


    ➢    Clients have a right to confidentiality and BCEA™s shall maintain appropriate confidentiality  when creating, storing, accessing, transferring, and disposing of any records, in any medium, under their control.

    ➢    The BCEA™ shall obtain a written consent from the client before obtaining or disclosing client records from or to other sources.

    ➢    Disclosure of confidential information is done, where permitted by law, to obtain payment for services, in which disclosure is limited to the minimum necessary.


    ➢    BCEA s shall document their professional work in order to facilitate provision of services later by them or by other professionals.

    ➢    It is recommended that BCEA™s maintain records for at least 2 years after services are rendered.  BCEA™s shall dispose of outdated records appropriately, subject to state law, and in a way to maintain confidentiality.


    ➢    Fee information shall be provided to clients, prior to service delivery, about the nature of the BCEA™’s services and a signed agreement executed specifying the compensation and the billing arrangements.

    ➢    If limitations to services can be anticipated because of limitations in financing, this shall be discussed with the client as early as possible.

    ➢    Fee arrangements with other professionals or individuals not working for the BCEA™, related to the client’s case, will be disclosed to the client.  

    ➢    When a client no longer needs the service, services are not creating benefit, harm is being created by continued service, or any other provision within these guidelines is being violated the client relationship shall be terminated in a professional manner.


    BCEA™s agree to comply with the NSEAI Practice Principles and Guidelines in public statements relating to their professional services, products, publications or when referring to the field of Special Education Advocacy.  (A public statement may consist of: paid or unpaid advertising, brochures, printed material, phone directory listings, curriculum vitae, interviews or comments for use in media, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public presentations, and published materials).
1  NSEAI training attendees included: Teachers, School Administrators, OTs, PTs, S/L Therapists, MDs, Lawyers, Parents, Trained Advocates, Paralegals, Behavioral Analysts …, who come to be trained as education advocates.

2  Board Certification of any service provider, in any field, is the process by which a non-governmental agency or association validates an individual’s knowledge in a defined functional area. Candidates for certification must meet specific requirements of eligibility and pass examinations.

3  NSEAI does not have any regulatory authority to directly monitor the consultant’s practices. Only work related functions and activities of a BCEA™ fall under these Guidelines.

4 For purposes of this document Developmental Disabilities includes any cognitive, physical, social - emotional, or behavior deficits, genetic or acquired, that impact the individual’s ability to access their education.

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