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The Unexpected Journey of Becoming an Advocate for Your Autistic Child

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An advocate can be defined as a person who pleads on behalf of another’s cause.

Plead can be defined as making an emotional appeal.

Lastly, a cause can be defined as a principle for which a person or group is dedicated to fighting for.

So, an advocate is a person who makes emotional appeals on behalf of someone else based on a principle to which that person is dedicated to fighting for.

Sounds like a role that should require years of training, right?

Sounds like a role one would only accept after realizing the considerable responsibilities it entails, right?

Wrong. If you are the parent of a child with autism, you didn’t get a choice. You received no training. You became an advocate from diagnosis day one. This is what it’s like for many of us:

You had to learn to flip an emotional switch into fight mode with no advance warning: to fight insurance companies for services, to fight your child’s school system for accommodations, to fight your community for equal access, and the list just goes on.

The exhaustion you experience has been compared to the fatigue of a combat soldier. It’s real.

You spend extra hours every day caregiving and advocating for your child.

At first, navigating this role was intimidating. When you walked into your child’s early IEP meetings, you were alone facing a roomful of people supposed to be on your team, but often it didn’t feel that way. When your insurance company cut your child’s therapy hours without warning, you spent hours on the phone trying to fight for those hours back, but you didn’t know how.

Over time you evolved. You become more assertive, even aggressive when necessary. You began to carry the weight of advocacy like a combat soldier in his heavy fatigues and artillery.

Carrying that weight helped you build the emotional muscle necessary to be an advocate for your child. You grew the strength to overcome intimidation and uncertainty, paving the way toward conviction and confidence.

While advocacy wasn’t a role you sought, it is a role you have embraced. You stop at nothing to advocate for your child today, tomorrow, and until hopefully, one day they can advocate for themselves.

And for that, dear friend, I tell you this: wear that advocacy as a badge of honor. You’ve worked hard for it, your child has benefitted from it, and you figured this out all on your own.

You should be proud!

Getty image by We Are.

Originally published: June 28, 2021
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