Becoming a parent advocate is not an easy undertaking. You need to master the art of persuasion while keeping an open mind to objectively examine complex issues.
Engaging with different stakeholders, including school officials, teachers, and medical professionals, can be a daunting experience.
However, even the best parent advocates can fall into the trap of making some common mistakes. In this blog post, we’ll explore these blunders and show you how to avoid them.
As a parent of a child with special needs, you know the importance of being an advocate for your child. You fight for their rights, make sure they receive the services they need, and advocate for them at school. However, even the best parent advocates can make mistakes.
Here are some of the most common – and tips on how to avoid them.
As parents of children with special needs, we work hard to ensure that our children have access to every resource available.
We spend countless hours advocating for their best interests, researching and learning everything we can about their conditions, and seeking assistance from medical professionals and educators. It’s easy to assume that we know everything there is to know about our child’s situation, but the truth is that this mindset can hinder successful advocacy.
Every child is different, and every case is unique. While you may be an expert in advocating for your own child, it’s essential to remain open-minded and always be willing to learn new information about other children with special needs. This open attitude can lead to collaboration and partnership with other parents, educators, and medical professionals.
Medical research is always changing, and new treatments and therapies are continually being developed. It’s important to note that what was considered the gold standard of treatment five years ago may no longer be the best option.
As a result, it’s vital to stay up to date on new developments, therapies, and medical knowledge through continuing education, medical literature, and expert consultation, so you can advocate for your child’s best interests accordingly.
One of the most significant advantages of being a part of a community of parents of children with special needs is the wealth of information and shared knowledge available to you. Other parents and advocates can be an invaluable resource for questions you might have, information you might need, and advocacy tips that you may not have thought of before.
Use social media, attend events and workshops, and reach out to others in the advocacy community to create a support system that can help guide and assist you.
Building a strong relationship with your child’s school can benefit your child in countless ways.
When you have a positive relationship with the school, it becomes easier to communicate with teachers and administrators about your child’s needs and progress.
This communication ensures that your child receives the support they require to succeed in school, such as accommodations and modifications. Additionally, when the school sees that you are invested in your child’s education, they may be more likely to provide additional resources and support.
Not only that, but building a strong relationship with the school also means building a relationship with your child’s teachers. Your child’s teacher plays a vital role in their academic success, and by building a relationship with them, you can work together to ensure your child’s needs are met.
Try to attend parent-teacher conferences, introduce yourself to the teacher, and ask them about their teaching methods. By getting to know the teacher, you can also gain insight into your child’s learning style and how you can support them at home.
Remember that the school wants your child to succeed just as much as you do. By working together with the school, you can create a team environment where everyone is invested in your child’s success.
Attend school events, volunteer to help with classroom activities, and participate in parent-teacher organizations. These actions show the school that you are invested in your child’s education and are willing to work with them to ensure your child’s success.
Be willing to hear the school’s perspective and work together to find solutions that benefit your child. If a problem arises, take the time to listen to the school’s point of view before jumping to conclusions.
When you’re unaware of your rights and your child’s rights, you may miss out on services that could benefit your child or be denied services that they’re entitled to. You may also be in the dark about important legal protections that can help your child succeed in school and life.
You may not know how to advocate for your child’s needs effectively, resulting in frustration, disappointment, and feeling powerless. Knowing your rights as a parent and your child’s rights, is essential to ensuring that they have the best opportunities available to them.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to become informed about your rights and your child’s rights. One of the best ways to do this is by connecting with advocacy groups and support organizations in your area.
Attend parent training workshops and webinars, listen to podcasts, ask questions, and get involved with local groups.
Focusing too much on the problem can be like being stuck in quicksand. You feel like you’re making progress, but the more you focus on the problem, the deeper you sink.
While it’s important to identify and acknowledge the problem, it’s equally important to focus on finding solutions. When you focus solely on the problem, you can become consumed by negative emotions such as frustration and anger. It’s crucial to shift your mindset and start looking for solutions. This positive attitude can help you and your child move forward.
As a parent advocate, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and minutiae of the problem. You want everyone to understand every aspect of the problem your child is facing. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
But there comes a point when the details can become overwhelming and counterproductive.
Instead, focus on finding solutions and look for small steps that can be taken to make a difference. Knowing that you’re making progress, no matter how small, can be motivating and empowering.
Just like you can’t pour out of an empty cup, you can’t care for your child and be the best advocate possible if you neglect your own physical and emotional well-being. Parenting is already a tough job, but parenting a child with special needs adds extra stress and responsibilities.
Therefore, taking care of yourself needs to be a non-negotiable part of your role as a parent advocate. Make time for yourself, schedule regular checkups, and engage in activities that nourish your soul.
Many parent advocates feel guilty when taking care of themselves because they believe it will take away time that should be spent advocating for their child. But guess what? Taking care of yourself doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a great one! Your child needs a healthy and happy parent to navigate the many challenges that come with raising a child with special needs.
So, prioritize yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Remember – you don’t have to do everything alone. Seek support from friends, family, or professional therapists to help you navigate the difficult journey of being a parent-advocate. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
The sooner you recognize that you can’t do everything on your own, the sooner you can find the support you need.
Being a parent advocate can be challenging, but by understanding and avoiding common mistakes, you can better advocate for your child and ensure that they receive the services and support they need.
Remember to stay informed, seek support, remain respectful, and listen to your child. You got this!
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.