5 Skills You Need to Develop as a Parent Advocate

An advocate is someone who speaks or acts on behalf of another. Every parent is an advocate for their children, but for kids with disabilities, a parent advocate is heavily involved in issues related to education and healthcare. If you’re new to the idea of advocacy, here are five skills to practice as you take on the important job of fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves yet.

1. An advocate is informed.

Gone are the days when we relied solely on a physician’s instructions. Medical research, online support groups, hospital parent advisory boards and mentorship programs are all available to us for the taking. Sift carefully; not all you read is true, but it’s all valuable. Knowledge is power. Ask questions and learn all you can about your child’s diagnosis, the treatments available and the laws
that exist to protect your child at school. Knowledge is also confidence! The more you know, the more confident you will feel collaborating with other important professionals.

2. An advocate is a team player.

Physicians, therapists, school psychologists and intervention specialists are all part of your team. They have a special education, training and experience you don’t have. Whereas you likely didn’t choose to have a child with a disability, they did choose to pursue the profession of helping and healing children! Your team is in your corner, fighting with you and representing you when you aren’t there. Welcome them, trust them, accept their suggestions and learn from each other.

3. An advocate is tenacious.

Situations can occur when a school district is hesitant to accommodate for a child based on convenience or funding. An insurance company may deny coverage that is necessary for your child because they want him or her to fail at other medications first. A doctor may be resistant to try a new treatment. An advocate is willing to fight — with perseverance, facts and opinions, professionally and emotionally.

4. An advocate is not always right.

When you’re wrong, admit it. Fix it. Make the changes and try again. Your team will be inspired to show you the same courtesy and humility when they make a mistake. When they do, forgive them and move on. Advocacy is hard work and we all need the grace it takes.

5. An advocate is loving.

There is no one better suited than you to advocate for your own child. A doctor might know your child’s medical history, a therapist might know the best strategies to help them achieve their goals, but you know their heart. Don’t be afraid to take on the job for which you are already equipped! There is no one more qualified.

Getty image by Sjale

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