by Liz Talton
Advocacy is more important than ever for a child with a developmental disability. A developmental disability makes it challenging for a child to represent or argue for their care and education. Most of the time you don’t need a professional advocate for your child. Your love as a parent alone is enough to advocate for your child’s rights!
An advocate is a person who supports, argues, and recommends appropriate care for vulnerable individuals. According to West Virginia University, a family member or friend who advocates for an individual is informal advocacy. For parents of children with special needs informal advocacy means doing the following:
● Coordinate with your child’s teachers and therapists for a suitable IEP
● Know and defend your child’s educational and legal rights
● Support your child’s accomplishments with therapy and school
How to be your child’s advocate
- Educate yourself about your child’s disability
This is essential for advocating for your child! Without knowledge of your child’s condition or developmental disability, you cannot properly defend, support, or recommend proper care. If your child is on the autism spectrum, learn everything you can about autism spectrum disorder. Read books, research autism online, find out about therapies, and care for autism, talk to fellow parents who have children with autism…Anything to help you learn about your child’s diagnosis! It is important to educate yourself about your child’s condition because without knowledge you cannot educate others.
2. Believe in your child
Yes, your child has a developmental disability. But there’s no limit to the things he or she can do in life! People tend to put children with special needs in a box to represent all the things they “can’t” do.
But the truth is, special needs children are capable of anything!
To be your child’s advocate, you have to believe in your child! When someone tries to limit your child’s abilities, simply state your child will get there in his/her own time. While your child may have a limited vocabulary now, believe in his/her ability to form complete sentences, and communicate effectively.
Sometimes it’s not just strangers, friends, and family that try to limit your child’s capabilities, it is doctor’s and therapists. If you ever experience a situation where a therapist or doctor tells you your child is not understanding or developing at the correct rate, believe your child will!
3. Don’t take no for an answer
The one thing that shocked me with an autism diagnosis for my son is the waitlists for therapies. Since I live in a rural area, I am also experiencing a lack of available treatment options for my son. He is currently on a waiting list for an intensive 12-week autism treatment program and he has 80 other kids in front of him.
Just because my son is on a very long waiting list doesn’t mean I’m taking “no” for an answer. I’m advocating for his treatment by calling the therapist’s office every week to see where he is on the waiting list and what I can do to get him treatment faster. I refuse to sit by idly and wait for the
therapist to call me when they have an opening.
A part of being an advocate for your child is making sure they receive appropriate treatment. And sometimes that means you need to be persistent to the point of annoying therapy and doctor’s offices.
This same concept also applies to insurance and billing for autism treatment. If you receive a large bill your insurance will not cover, call the insurance company and appeal the decision. Autism requires many different therapists to aid a child’s development and it’s expensive.
4. Apply therapy techniques at-home
Although your child’s speech and occupational therapists help your child’s development, ultimately developmental success takes place at-home. Therapy techniques that are applied in office throughout the week need to be carried over to the home.
If the occupational therapist suggests more sensory integration activities, then work in more sensory activities during the day like exercises with a yoga ball! Carrying over therapy techniques into the home tells your child two important things:
- 1. You’re committed to his/her development or improvement
- 2. You believe in your child enough to keep trying new things
5. Get involved with your child’s IEP
It can be an overwhelming feeling when a school district creates an individualized education plan (IEP) for your child. Your child’s IEP will (most likely) be created by a team of school district staff that include a school psychologist, a speech therapist, and a specialized education teacher. While they provide a professional and third-person assessment of what skills your child needs help with…
You are the best person to help them create an IEP! This is the best way to advocate for your child because you are directly involved with your child’s IEP and can make suggestions for improvements. But remember to be open to new ideas and ways of helping your child succeed!
Another benefit of being involved in your child’s IEP is getting to know the teachers and/or therapists. This helps when behavioral issues arise with your son or daughter in the classroom. Your involvement can help ease problems in the classroom because you already know the teachers and can talk openly about the behavior improvements that need to be made.
No One Knows Your Child Better Than You
If you have a child with special needs, advocating for your child is so important! There are a lot of people involved in treating your child’s developmental disability. But no one knows your child better than you do! This is pivotal for helping others understand how your child learns best, behaves, and your child’s preferences.
About the Author
Liz Talton is the contributing author for the Speech Blubs blog. After her son received an Autism Spectrum Disorder evaluation, she decided to do all she can to help her little one. She is a full-time blogger, and a creator of Pitter Patter of Baby Feet, a website dedicated to trying to conceive; fertility; pregnancy; mental health and anything related to motherhood. Before starting a family, she received a master’s degree in forensic psychology and mental health.
About the author:
Liz Talton is the contributing author for the Speech Blubs blog. After her son received an Autism
Spectrum Disorder evaluation, she decided to do all she can to help her little one. She is a full-
time blogger, and a creator of Pitter Patter of Baby Feet, a website dedicated to trying to
conceive; fertility; pregnancy; mental health and anything related to motherhood. Before starting
a family, she received a master’s degree in forensic psychology and mental health.