Becoming Your Special Needs Child’s Advocate

As appears on caring4ourkids.com, a resource for Parents of Kids with ASD, CFS, or Fibromyalgia

When your child has a special need, you instantly step into the role of advocate. Especially when your child is too young to speak up for his own needs, you have to fight to ensure your child gets adequate and just education and medical treatment. Being an advocate can be a challenge, especially if you find yourself feeling as though you are “going to battle” for your child, but it’s a vital role to fill. Here’s what you need to know about the role of an advocate.

What Is an Advocate?

According to the Autism Support Network, and advocate is someone who pleads on behalf of another. This is a very fitting definition for what you are about to undertake. As your child’s advocate, you are going to be pleading with those in authority to ensure your child gets the care he needs and the education he deserves.

What Does an Advocate Do?

Rather than looking at the definition of an advocate, we would be better off discussing what an advocate does. Here are some roles that you will be taking:

  • Gathering information – You are going to become an expert in your child and her diagnosis. You are going to gather information and documents to present to teachers and medical professionals as you advocate for your child.
  • Learning about the local schools – You are also going to become an expert in your local school district and what it does (and does not) offer. You will learn those who are in authority and how decisions about special education are made.
  • Know the legalities of special education – You are going to become an expert in the legal rights afforded to your child, ensuring that they get the most appropriate education for their specific diagnosis, condition and abilities.
  • Learning how to ask questions – If you don’t ask a question in regards to your child, no one lese where. You will learn how to dig to find out why something is being done for your child.
  • Learning to be a negotiator – Even though schools are required by law to provide appropriate education to all students, they aren’t always as equipped as they should be to do so. You are going to learn to negotiate with the school to ensure that your child is cared for, and the school leaves feeling that they “won” as well.

Ultimately, as your child’s primary advocate, it’s up to you to ensure that everything is being done to best assist your child in succeeding. You are going to take on many hats in this role, but in the end it is worthwhile as you see your child blossom and thrive.

How to Be an Advocate

As an advocate, make sure that you are doing what you can to make the process ahead easier on everyone, including your child. This means that it’s important to be respectful when dealing with teachers and doctors, so everyone works together as a team to achieve what is bets for your child. Remember to avoid taking out frustrations on these other professionals, even when you feel that your child is struggling. On the other hand, don’t let degrees and experience prevent you from speaking up. Remember, you know your child best, so trust your instincts when in meetings with medical or school professionals.

Why You Are the Best Person for the Job

Does this seem overwhelming? If you are new to having a child with a diagnosis, it can be. Don’t worry, soon it will seem like no big deal to be talking about IEPs and goal setting.

However, throughout the process ahead, it’s important for you to remember that you are the best person to stand in this role of advocate. Why? Because you are the one person in the world who truly has your child’s best interests at the heart of all that you do. You want to see your child succeed, not just in this year’s classroom, but also in life going forward. As you step into this role of advocate, remember that Caring4OurKids.com is here to help!

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