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Advocate Meg Flanagan Discusses Special Education Services for Children In Military Families

By Special Education Matters / 2019-01-20
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As we all know, having a child with special needs may require a lot of effort at home and a ton of effort working with schools to ensure your son or daughter is receiving the services they need.

If you are a military family, those efforts may need to be repeated on a regular basis as you move and redeploy to a new location within or even outside of the United States.

Advocate Meg Flanagan is currently living in Okinawa where her husband is based. She understands the unique circumstances military families face and is here to share those experiences and strategies to help families who have a child with special needs.


Meg Flanagan has a passion for helping busy families find success and peace on the education journey. She has helped dozens of families feel better about the IEP or 504 Plan process, providing support and resources.

Meg holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. She is currently certified in both areas in MA and VA, as well as by the DoDEA.

Meg has lived in the SoCal region on and off for the last decade, but currently calls Japan home.



Special Education Advocate Peter Attwood

By Special Education Matters / 2018-11-21
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About Peter Attwood

Peter was hazed into the special education world in 2007, and has been working for others since 2010, and full time since 2014 when he was laid off from his systems maintenance programming job. He is still debugging, but special ed problems now instead of computer code. He emphasizes getting the kid’s real needs figured out and taken care of, especially overlooked processing problems. He will use the law and other such remedies if the district wants to do it that way, but prefers to rely on reason and win-win solutions if the district is willing.


  • Attend IEP meetings
  • Review records
  • Draft letters
  • Advise on educational placement and services
  • Refer to outside attorneys as needed



Amy Munera, president of the Autism Society of San Diego

By Special Education Matters / 2018-11-09
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About Amy Munera

Amy Munera is the current president of Autism Society San Diego, and has served on the board of directors for the past seven years. She is the mother of three autistic boys, ages 11,14, and 17, and is an active volunteer in the local autism community in San Diego County.

Amy is passionate about advocating for autism acceptance and understanding, and promoting inclusion for disabled people. She believes it is important to listen to and include the voices of actually autistic people in disability related policy and non profits.


  • Events
  • Support groups
  • Information
  • Surf camps
  • Summer camps
  • Respite care



Special Education Advocate Sandy Shove

By Special Education Matters / 2018-10-24
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About Sandy Shove

Sandra Dixon Shove is a former elementary educator, a non-attorney special education advocate in private practice, and a longtime Autism Society affiliate leader.


She has 12 years of experience teaching, 13 years advocating for children with a variety of disabilities, and more than 14 years supporting and mentoring parents, as well as developing and presenting community awareness programs countywide as an Autism Society leader.


She is the mother of three young adults (one with autism), former Vice President of Autism Society of Santa Barbara and First Vice President of Autism Society of California, and a member of the Alliance of California Autism Organizations, Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys, and Women’s Organization for Special Education Professionals.

Sandy draws from this broad background and shares lessons learned while helping other parents become empowered members of their children’s planning teams.


  • Parent consultation
  • Review, organization, and summary of developmental and educational records
  • Research
  • Individual mentoring re: parent rights under state and federal law
  • Formal and informal correspondence
  • Attending meetings – IEPs, IPPs, parent conferences, consultations with private service providers


Special Education Advocate Mishon Johnson

By Special Education Matters / 2018-10-13
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About Mishon Johnson

Mishon Johnson, California native and mother of three boys first began advocating for her 2nd born son, Evan, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age for 2 in 2014. Evan was in early intervention at the age of 16 months when regression was noticed. The transition of advocating was helped tremendously by her extensive background in the child development field for over 15 years.

Mishon runs Our S.T.A.R.S. (Succeeding Through Autism with Resources and Support) Inc., a growing non-profit 501(c)(3) organization of parents and children who share common experiences and friendships.

They work hard to find resources for our children and to meet day-to-day challenges and successes of our most important mission of parenthood.

As Mishon points out “We are uniquely different in structure and in the services we provide. We support families through informal meetings, information, referral services, and educational workshops, and host networking events for families. We also, provide advocacy services like assisting parents with IPP or IFSP/IEP binders for peer support.”


  • Information meetings
  • Networking events for families
  • Peer support
  • Referral services
  • IEP advocacy
  • Parent training
  • Workshops
  • Community events



Special Education Advocate Leigh Monichon

By Special Education Matters / 2018-10-07
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About Leigh Monichon

Leigh’s 25 years in special education advocacy began with her autistic son. He was in a low-expectation special day class with only four picture icons to communicate and now he attends a four-year university. This was due to extensive determination, persistence, and advocacy.

In addition to providing volunteer advocacy on the State level while serving as Chair of Area Developmental Disabilities Board VII, Leigh helped many other parents advocate for their children.

After taking the year-long COPAA Special Education Advocate Training, Leigh helped found Aspire Advocacy. In March 2018, she received COPAA’s Advanced Advocate Training certification.

Specialties include attending IEPs, helping parents understand the IEP process, educating and empowering parents to help them be full IEP participants.

Leigh’s style is collaborative and thorough. While ensuring that the IEP Team addresses all educational concerns, with an eye on getting each client the services to which they are entitled.

She also focuses on building good working relationships between families and school staff.


  • Free 30 minute consultation
  • Prepare for IEP meetings and set goals
  • Attend IEP meetings and record them
  • Parent training
  • Parent counseling and emotional support
  • Review records
  • Draft correspondence


Special Education Advocate Anne Zachry

By Special Education Matters / 2018-09-25
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About Anne Zachry

Anne has been a special education and disability resource lay advocate since 1991, a paralegal since 2005, and an educational psychologist since 2013.

She participated in due process hearings, federal district court appeals, 9th Circuit appeals, and California State courts on behalf of students with disabilities and their families or in support of their attorneys.

Anne designs and implements compensatory education programs for students who have been deprived of educational benefits. As a lay advocate, she uses her experience and skills as both a legal professional and education expert to resolve problems at the IEP level as much as possible while making the record in case things still end up in litigation. Most of her cases are resolved at the IEP level, though some still end up being handed over to an attorney for due process.

As an educational psychologist and behavior analyst, Anne can be called upon to testify as an expert.


  • Attend IEP meetings
  • Workshops
  • Parent counseling
  • Review records
  • Draft letters
  • Advise on educational placement and services
  • Refer to outside attorneys as needed



Special Education Advocate Juliet Barraza

By Special Education Matters / 2018-09-11
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About Juliet Barraza

Juliet Barraza is the parent of two young boys, one of whom has developmental disabilities and epilepsy.
Raised with Spanish as her primary language, she started translating at a very young age for members of her family and has continued to use her language skills as an active volunteer in the area of translation and special education. Juliet has served as a Special Education Advocate in the public school system for over 20 years.
She assists Spanish–speaking families in understanding and accessing services for their children by providing support and technical assistance as well as attending IEP Meetings. She also has expertise on culturally appropriate services and supports for Latino families. Barraza has been a consultant for the Regional Centers throughout several counties. She is also an active member of the Council of Parents Advocates and Attorneys and holds an Advanced Training Certificate.
Juliet also serves as an assistant trainer for the Special Education Advocacy Training (SEAT) focusing on race, culture, poverty and language. Barraza has served on the Board of Directors for Congreso Familiar where she has been a presenter since 2005. At the Castro Valley Unified School District, she participated actively in Ability Awareness Day and is a Past President of the Special Education PTA. Juliet has been an advocate with DREDF since 2005 where she started as a volunteer. She enjoys hiking National Parks with her family and going to the movies with her husband.


  • Technical support by phone or in person
  • Review letters
  • Attend IEP meetings
  • Parent training
  • Workshops
  • Community resources
  • Spot systemic issues
  • Communication between parents and districts
  • Assist with compliance complaints for the Department of Education and/or Office of Civil Rights
  • Bilingual assistance



Special Education Advocate Valerie Aprahamian

By Special Education Matters / 2018-08-30
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About Valerie Aprahamian

Valerie Aprahamian, Founder of Advocates For Angels, is a Non-Attorney Advocate, Author, Teacher of Special Education Law, and Speaker. Valerie’s life work has been to assist parents of special needs children in the development of their child’s Individual Education Program (IEP)—to enable each child to reach the highest expression of themselves and fulfill their potential in living a meaningful life.

As a mother of a special needs child, Valerie has been called to work with families, not only in education but also in awakening to the gifts these special angels can bring into their lives.

In Valerie’s experience as a non-attorney advocate for more than twenty years, she has represented hundreds of families with special needs children, attending more than two thousand IEP meetings. She holds a credential from William and Mary Law School at the Institute of Special Education Advocacy.

Valerie resides in Southern California with her husband Michael and her adult daughter, Chanel, who has the diagnosis of autism and seizure disorder. She has 2 other adult children, Michael-John and Celeste. Valerie is a credentialed Yoga Alliance teacher, as yoga practice is a major component in maintaining balance in her life. She enjoys painting and drawing, gardening and reading, and is an avid beach lover.

Check out Valerie’s book Advocating for your Special Needs Angel: A Mother and Special Education Advocate’s Practical Guide to Helping Children Find Their Wings on


  • Obtaining school records
  • Evaluating your child’s present school program
  • Helping you to have a clear understanding of the problems you are currently experiencing and what to do to solve them
  • Helping you to plan your IEP meetings and development of IEP parent agenda
  • Attending IEP meetings with you to assist and advocate for you and your child
  • Following up after the IEP meeting to make sure the plan is working which includes legal letters to document a time-line of events
  • Writing measurable and obtainable goals and objectives
  • Assist in developing appropriate modifications and accommodations
  • Development of Medical Health Plan
  • Assistance in determining appropriate educational placement
  • Coordinating services between agencies, doctors, service providers and school district staff
  • Act as liaison between parents and district administration
  • File Compliance Complaints with State Board of Education


Special Education Advocate Lynda Zussman

By Special Education Matters / 2018-08-23
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About Lynda Zussman

Lynda is an Educational Consultant and Advocate who helps families with the Special Education process to receive the best placement and services for their special needs child.

She maintains a credential in the State of California in Regular and Special Education and works in three different school districts. She is an expert at conducting IEP meetings and now consults privately to families.

Lynda believes there are no learning disabled students, only learning disabled teaching methods. All students can learn and be successful.


  • Personal History and Assessment
  • Classroom Observation
  • School/classroom observations
  • Home Visit
  • S.S.T. Meeting – Student Study Team
  • I.E.P. – Individual Educational Plan
  • 504 Plan – Modifications and Accommodations
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Woodcock-Johnson Testing
  • Private Tutoring