Susanne Buxbaum, a veteran Child Rights Advocate in Monterey County, has worked exclusively on behalf of Children with Special Needs for over twenty years.  Her primary areas of focus is informing families about qualifications for special education services and accommodations.

She maintains existing relationships and quickly develops new ones with her community partners in Monterey County as well as private practice professionals in related fields, such as MFT’s, LCSW’s, pediatricians, psychiatrists, neurologists and speech pathologists.  Her work spans across the country as she provides assistance to families and quickly forms solid and trusting relationships with out-of-state organizations. 

It’s sometimes necessary to call on these relationships when seeking out the expertise of colleagues in these related fields to help a case come together. When time permits, Susanne has partnered with psychologists and behaviorists to lead workshops for Parents of Children with Special Needs, What Parents Hear, and SPED for Parents of Children Diagnosed with Autism. 

Email Susanne at

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Across the country, a handful of advocates who are independent contractors who Susanne has become acquainted with and has mentored, are ready for work when Susanne calls upon them.  These professionals consult with Susanne on cases that may set a precedent in that geographic area, or are high profile cases that require outside-of-the-box thinking, making the “individual” in “Individualized Education Programs”, the very operative word.  The majority of these experts have Special Needs children of their own, and understand the process from the inside-out, having lived through the struggles that client families often encounter.  By having other Professional Advocates available, screened, mentored and trusted by Susanne, it is less likely that cases will come up which she must refuse for reasons of a too-hefty caseload.


Over the years, one dynamic that most of Susanne’s clients have in common is what she’s called, “The Need To Be Heard”. Often these parents have tried to get the attention of teachers, principals, mental health professionals, desperately seeking answers to the question, “What is wrong with my child?”, when the child processes differently, for whatever reason, than others. 

Often, parents struggle for years as the academic clock continues to tick and their children lose ground, unable to do grade level work in the standard learning model. While trying to get a handle on the fundamental need (learning disability, mental health issue, neurological problem, etc.) of the Learning Different child, these parents are asked to “wait”, are frequently sent to various departments within a school, district, or community, then end up at the same place they started.

They long to talk to someone who understands the challenges they’ve faced, while their children are struggling at school: challenges at home regarding behaviors they can’t understand and are ashamed to discuss, even among close relatives; at work with a phone that rings too frequently, with calls from the child’s teachers, the principal, or worse, the Police Department, making it necessary for parents to quit their jobs, always running the risk of losing them, involuntarily, due to excessive absenteeism and too many “personal calls” to the office.

When these families begin receiving advocacy assistance from FMG., the process usually involves a series of meetings, some at school, some with other agencies, particularly once a family has filed a request for Mediation or Due Process, they need to know what to expect, how to act, who will be there, etc. They want to convey their totally appropriate anxiety to someone who knows what they’re going through. 

One FMG policy that can complicate matters even more for a family’s, is that of absolute confidentiality, mentioned in every client’s contract. FMG must insist that clients do not discuss their case with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and even with the child, in some cases. This requirement is meant to keep the facts “pure” and unpolluted by the comments or interpretations of well-meaning friends or family and is similar to commitments of confidentiality requested by attorneys in matters of civil law, and for the very same reason. 

Unfortunately, this hard and fast rule can sometimes make families feel isolated. And when calls to the one person who they MAY talk to, the FMG Advocate, are on the clock (at over $3.00/minute), families often feel like they just need reassurance or confirmation from someone that everything will be alright. Susanne recognizes that families really DO need feel the need, either to vent about their child, other children, the school, a teacher, concerns about an upcoming meeting, and require assurance (or perhaps to review the plan) about the events now in place to help their children become successful both in and outside of school.

Throughout the country, a group of Susanne’s former clients, educated in “the process” and wanting to help others who are now walking in their paths, have offered to be “on call” for these parents at no cost. FRIENDS and clients requesting this mentorship relationship are matched by Susanne, so that the concerns of the “new family” are similar to those previously faced by the FMG FRIEND.

Although FRIENDS do not provide legal advice or change strategic planning regarding a client’s case, they may, with client’s permission, take that concern to the FMG Advocate, if it appears that the client needs more information or has questions about any part of the plan.


Most of FMG’s clients’ children have had contact with or are currently receiving the services of a therapist, either through private therapy groups, during diagnostic evaluations or provided through County Children’s Behavioral Health. Occasionally, when conflicting reports appear regarding the diagnosis of one child, or when a situation is complicated due to unusual health conditions coupled with a dual diagnoses, for example, Susanne may request the assistance or feedback from a psychologist on the FMG Team. These professionals are familiar with Susanne’s strength-based family work, her advocacy style and unique relationships with each family and work as another professional member of the team to keep a family unified.


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