How to be Your Child’s Advocate
If your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), chances are your most heartfelt desire is to be the best advocate you can to ensure your child gets the right care and services. As parents, we want to feel that we stand up for our children and prepare them for the world to the very best of our ability. In the case of a child with special needs, this can be especially daunting. Here are practical steps that can move you closer to that goal.
1. Get educated
It’s important to find out everything you can about your child’s specific disability. Look for local and national organizations that provide resources and recommendations. Once your child is school age, educate yourself about the Special Education process and your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
2. Get connected
Connecting with other parents of special needs kids is a great source of emotional support as well as expertise. No one else can offer you the same type of insights into your local school district as parents whose children have been there and worked with those teachers and principals. If you aren’t comfortable with face-to-face support groups, try an online group.
If you’re not sure where to start, search for groups related to disabilities or parent advocates. It helps to have the support and encouragement of someone else who truly knows what you’re facing.
3. Get organized
Create your own advocacy notebook with separate sections for school records, medical records, professional evaluations, letters and notes from teachers/school staff, and for information you’ve gathered specifically about your child’s disability or special education laws/regulations in your state. It’s also helpful to keep a copy of letters you send to the school or other professionals regarding your child, along with an informal log to track information gathered on the phone. Take your notebook with you to meetings. You’ll not only be better prepared, but you’ll be recognized as an expert on the team (which you as the parent, most definitely are)!
4. Get specific
As your child’s advocate, your most important skill is the ability to make sound decisions. To make the best decisions, you need to know the best options and the most accurate information. When you need more information, ask for what you need and keep asking until you get an answer. If you would like to see something different happening with your child’s therapy or education, put your request in writing and share any suggestions you have.
Always remember that you are the most important person in your child’s life. Get help, get support, find resources, and you’ll be your child’s greatest advocate and cheerleader.
Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 233-8833.