About Us

Valerie and daughter Chanel.

Valerie and daughter Chanel.

Valerie Aprahamian, founder of Advocates For Angels, is a non-attorney advocate, author, special education law teacher and speaker. She helps parents of special needs children in the development of their children’s Individual Education Program (IEP). This enables each child to reach the highest expression of themselves and fulfill their purpose. As a mother of two special needs children, 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 the lives of everyone around them.

In Valerie’s experience as a non-attorney advocate for more than 18 years, she has represented hundreds of families with special needs children, attending close to 2,000 IEP meetings. She holds a credential from William and Mary University Special Education Law Institute and attended Grace College of Theology, majoring in clinical psychology, and Mount San Antonio College with a focus on fine arts.

Valerie worked extensively in creating a disabilities ministry at several churches in her area and founded a FETA group (From Emotions To Advocacy), where she taught special education law for more than 10 years. Valerie successfully led a system reform in her local school district to improve the relationships between parents and special education administrators to ensure the provision of FAPE to children on IEPs.

Valerie resides in Southern California with her husband, Michael, their three children, Chanel, Celeste and Michael-John, and their two dogs, Jonas and Bijon. She is a delighted grandmother of Symphony, daughter of Jessica, Valerie’s eldest who passed away at age 28. Valerie is a credentialed Yoga Alliance teacher, as yoga practice is a major component in her spiritual development. She enjoys painting and drawing, gardening and reading, and is an avid beach goer.

 Benefits of Inclusive Education

Valerie’s strong belief in inclusion was birthed out of her own story as a mother of a special needs child.  Her daughter, Chanel, was a fully included student for most of her school career.  From the age of 6 years old, Chanel was educated in a general education classroom, even though she was diagnosed with autism and seizure disorder.  Chanel received all special education supports and services that were necessary to meet her specific needs in the general education classroom.  This was quite an accomplishment, considering it was 1996 when the term ‘inclusion” was not familiar with educators or administrators at school sites across the country.

Chanel attending graduation.

Chanel attending graduation.

Valerie continued to pioneer her way through the controversy of determining the definition of “appropriate” education in terms of inclusion.  She worked with TASH, TASK, CAN, and spoke at many inclusion conferences during those years in an effort to promote change in our system and equality for our children in education.  While advocating for inclusion as a whole, she strongly continued her pursuit to promote change in her local school district.  As the change in the system moved from segregation to inclusion between the 90’s through the new millennium, Valerie not only represented her own daughter, but also assisted more than 100 families in the Corona Norco Unified School District.

During this time, Valerie lead a group of more than 45 families in the Corona/Norco Unified School District to take action in an effort to change the way in which the Special Education Department worked with parents and advocates.  The intention of their movement was to reveal the lack of inclusive education, denial of supports and services, unwillingness to address parent concerns and violation of parent rights.

The group filed 14 due process hearings, spoke before the CNUSD Board of Education, met with the Superintendent, filed Compliance Complaints and had their efforts documented in the Press Enterprise newspaper.  As a result, CNUSD’s Special Education administration was replaced with individuals who were willing to work collaboratively with Valerie Aprahamian, respect parent rights and address parent concerns.

Since then, Valerie’s agency has been highly respected while working with CNUSD and many other surrounding districts in meeting the needs of more than 200 families.  Her passion, focus and determination lead her to be successful in changing the system from a “district verses parent” mentality to an IEP team collaboration.  Hence, the intent of IDEA and procedural safeguards for students with special needs are honored and implemented in the manner in which they were written.

Valerie’s efforts were personally rewarded in July of 2010 on the day of Chanel’s high school graduation when she received her diploma.  Valerie persevered even after the UCLA developmental team gave her the bleak prognosis of her daughter at 3 ½ years old.  They predicted that Chanel would never talk, read, or write and that her impairments were so severe that she would most likely need to be institutionalized.  The psycho-educational assessments that continued throughout the years, determined a similar outcome but Valerie knew in her heart that they were wrong.  She believed that many special needs children are unable to test accurately by the “standardized model” and that determining a ceiling or prediction of ability was not valid for children who learn differently.

Advocates for Angels continue to develop inclusion programs for children like Chanel.  Advocates for Angels agree to nothing less but high expectations for each student by focusing on the strengths of the child instead of the limitations and deficits.  We assist parents to develop an appropriate IEP, navigate through the IEP process, and educate them on their parental rights and IDEA.  We provide qualified and knowledgeable advocates who are successful in holding school districts accountable to meeting the needs of your special needs child.

If you would like to talk to Valerie about your child’s IEP or receive more information about Advocates for Angels, she can be reached at (909) 841-2600.

 

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