1. Start with the assumption that you are an equal partner in your child’s education.
Parents of children with special needs should be involved as equal partners in their child’s educational planning. Unfortunately, many parents say, “How can I be an equal partner? I am just a parent. I don’t know enough to work with all those professionals!” A parent who feels this way will not “speak up” and be the best advocate for their child.
2. Deal with your perceptions or feelings about yourself as a parent of a child with special needs.
Understand the grief process and don’t let feelings of anger or denial get in the way of your ability to negotiate.
3. Acquire knowledge.
You don’t have to memorize everything about your child’s disability, laws, etc. You just need to be aware and know enough to ask questions. You also need to know the resources available that can answer your questions. YOU SHOULD:
4. Improve your skills.
You need skills to become a better advocate for your child. You need to know how to communicate with others and be assertive. And you definitely need to know how to ask questions. To become more effective you may also need to write letters and document issues. These skills are important and you can learn them – they just take practice.
Finally, the most important thing you can do for your child is to participate. Attend teacher conferences, parent group meetings, school functions. Go to PPT/PTA/PTO meetings, give your ideas and suggestions, and negotiate an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is truly individualized for your child.
REMEMBER – YOU ARE, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, YOUR CHILD’S BEST ADVOCATE!
Want more information on how to improve your advocacy skills? Check out our Advocacy fact sheets >>
Article by Connie Hawkins, Project Director, Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center, North Carolina