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Special Education Advocacy Services
Christine Hesling lives in Southern Chester County with her husband and five children, two of which are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Christine’s advocacy started on behalf of her own two children, and later evolved into the role of helping other local parents seeking advocacy support and assistance for their children with special education needs. Through her tireless dedication and advocacy on behalf of her own children, and her commitment to sharing her knowledge and skills with others, Christine has assisted countless families in Chester and Delaware Counties in identifying appropriate programming and placement needs, and acquiring improved special education supports and services for their children. Christine brings to her position as a paralegal/advocate a strong commitment and dedication to McKinley & Ryan clients to empower parents to be knowledgeable and confident advocates on behalf of their children. She has internalized the core values of advocacy, and has been an inspiration to many families navigating their way through the special education systems in Pennsylvania.

In 2002, Christine successfully represented herself, pro se, at the due process hearing and appellate levels on behalf of two of her children. Her successful advocacy on their behalf and strong desire to expand her knowledge and growth as an educational advocate first led her to the Law firm of McKinley & Ryan in 2003, where she worked under the general supervision of counsel. Christine left McKinley & Ryan in 2006, taking an administrative leave to pursue undergraduate studies. While attending school, Christine worked part-time for several local special education attorneys providing advocacy services and administrative support. From 2009-2011, Christine worked for the Educational Advocacy Team as a fee-for-service advocate with the Arc of Chester County.

Having recently returned to McKinley & Ryan, Christine assists counsel in all phases of special needs client representation including, but not limited to, case law research, records review and organization, attending IEP/GIEP/IFSP meetings, mediation hearings, resolution sessions, and assisting counsel at due process hearings in an effort to secure appropriate educational programs and placements for the firm’s clients. Christine also provides resource support to McKinley & Ryan clients seeking appropriate District or Independent Educational Evaluations/Reevaluations (IEE’s), providing client referrals for consultations for Speech/Language, Occupational/Sensory Integration, Physical Therapy, Assistive Technology, Functional Behavioral Assessments, Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluations. Christine can also provide assistance to firm clients in filing Special Education Division of Compliance (DOC) complaints through the PDE Bureau of Special Education and discrimination complaints through the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Christine is knowledgeable of IDEIA ‘04 state and federal regulations, special education case law, ODR/Due Process Administrative Proceedings, discipline and zero tolerance issues and policies, including student rights in manifestation determination and expulsion proceedings. She is knowledgeable of FERPA regulations in relation to student privacy matters and records requests, and in facilitating requests for student records from school districts and local MH/MR agencies. Christine’s experience includes assisting families with educational programming and placement needs for early intervention, pre-school, elementary, secondary and vocational/transition planning for post-secondary students. Christine provides consultation and advocacy support services to parents needing assistance for children with ADD/ADHD, (OHI) Other Health Impairments, medical-based needs/accommodations, Autism/PDD-NOS/Autism Spectrum Disorders, Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD), Learning Disabilities, Dual Eligibility Cases (LD/Gifted), Mental Health, Behavioral and Residential Support needs.

Christine is currently awaiting Board Certification as a BCEA (Board Certified Education Advocate) through NSEAI, the National Special Educational Advocacy Institute. NSEAI is an accredited program providing national board certification through continuing education and training for Education Advocates and Consultants. NSEAI is endorsed by the National Center for Autism Resources and Education. BCEA advocates must complete an intensive, 9-month Special Education Advocacy Training program including 75 hours of direct instruction through NSEAI’s Board Certified Educational Advocate program.

In September 2000, Christine served as the first President of the Avon Grove Area Advocacy Support Group in Southern Chester County under the auspices of the ARC of Chester County via a grant by the Pennsylvania Disabilities Council. Christine has served as a regular member of the Chester County Right to Education Task Force under CCIU-24, and assisted parents and District in addressing LEA/SEA compliance issues in special education. Also in 2000, Christine founded Project COPE, a parent advocacy group providing technical assistance and resources to special needs parents in Pennsylvania, navigating the due process and appeals administrative tribunals, pro se (without legal assistance). Christine also previously served as the Co-Chair on the Chester County Right to Education Task Force, working in tandem with the State Task Force and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to monitor and report on local special education issues and SEA/LEA compliance pursuant to special education state and federal regulations.
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