WESTFIELD, NJ — Greer Gurland, author of “How to Advocate Successfully for Your Child: What Every Parent Should Know About Special Education Law” (Amazon Books) will speak at Westfield Memorial Library on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Gurland is a Harvard educated lawyer specializing in special education law and the mother of five children with special needs who attend Westfield public schools.

“The book is a work from the heart. I was inspired to write it by the many parents I've spoken to who would do anything for their children, if only they knew what to do,” Gurland said. “I want parents to know that they have what it takes to be their child's best advocate. And that they are not alone."

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Gurland encourages parents to start by attending a meeting of their local special education parent committee. Westfield’s committee meets at Edison Intermediate School monthly, she noted.

Gurland knows first-hand what it’s like to face legal challenges on behalf of her kids.

“As a parent and as a person, I want to be reasonable,” she said. “It has been hard sometimes to know when I am within my rights to ask for help with an issue my child is facing. I needed to learn more about my rights to navigate those questions. My mission in writing ‘How to Advocate Successfully for Your Child: What Every Parent Should Know About Special Education Law’ was to make that information available to every parent. I don't want the next generation of parents to have to learn the hard way. In addition, many people have helped me, and continue to help me, along my journey — it’s my turn to pay it forward.”

Gurland said that many parents worry about the stigma that goes along with special education.

“I worried, too,” she said. “I hesitated to share the challenges my kids were facing, which include autism and ADHD. But I learned over time that I had to be more open, to get my kids supports they needed. Even more important, I felt I needed to be more open in order to help my children realize that that they are human, that they have great gifts as well as challenges they can overcome — but that requires understanding what they are. Eventually, they need to be able to advocate for themselves.”

So many misconceptions exist about special education, Gurland said.

“It’s come a long way. And education is a broad concept,” she said. “Children who are very bright can have learning differences and/or social, behavioral or emotional challenges that schools can help to address. I try to explain to parents what special ed looks like today, so that parents have the opportunity to take advantage of it for their children, where that’s appropriate.”

Copies of “How to Advocate Successfully for Your Child: What Every Parent Should Know” will be available for sale at the presentation. The book is also for sale on Amazon Books. It is available in Spanish as “Cómo abogar con éxito por su hijo: Lo que todos los padres deben saber acerca de la Ley de Educación Especial” courtesy of a grant from Children's Specialized Hospital.

Pre-registration for the event is requested. To sign up, click here. Westfield Memorial Library is located at 550 East Broad Street.