How To Be an Effective Advocate

To advocate for your child means to keep them covered, guarded or protected. You are the primary person assigned to meet their mental, physical, social, and emotional needs.

There is a fine line between meddling and helping. Here's a quick test.

If you are greeted with smiles and lots of eye contact, you're doing a great job!

If people duck for cover when they see you comming, you might need just a few pointers!

While school is the most often considered area of advocacy, you may find that you will need to work with your church, friends and family, and with medical professionals as well.

Qualities of an Effective Advocate

If you want to be an effective advocate , you must first be a good listener!

You need to have a positive, can-do attitude, be a good communicator, and be knowledgeable about your child’s specific diagnosis and how it affects them at home and at school. You must be consistent in relating to other professionals.

You need to be informed about special education codes, rights, and responsibilities. Remember, everyone has responsibilities, not just the school!

Never forget, you know your child better than anyone else.

Establish Good Communication

Open the lines of communication with your teacher early in the year. They need to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to create appropriate accommodations. They need to be aware if there are any IEP's or 504 Plans in place. You and your teacher are a team, not advisories.

Be involved in your child’s classroom, but be considerate of the teacher’s time. The key is not to make school your part-time job, but to have a comfort level with the school and the classroom.

You need to be comfortable the teacher, and aware of how your child behaves at school. It also lets your teacher know that you are available and open. Volunteer, grade papers, or help with a workshop or station group.

Keep good records

A good advocate keeps good records of anything that affects your child at school. This could be the results of doctor’s or therapist appointments, or questions your teacher may have for other professionals.

Keep records of communication with anyone that has anything to do with the care of your child. It can get hairy keeping everything straight.

After several failed attempts, I have finally found success using a product called MomAgenda . It has regular schedules at the top with space at the bottom for individual schedules. Instead of writing down everyone's name, I use those spaces for my notes, such as behaviors, food diary (allergies), school notes, and so on. For me, it was easy to refer to when people asked questions about specific things.

Gossip Will Ruin Your Credibility

If you ever have a question, go to the source! This will save you a lot of time and heartache. Your child will probably come home with some crazy stories.

Learn to question, investigate, and seek answers from the most appropriate person, usually the teacher. It can happen in other areas, such as at church, with family or friends, or at someone’s house. Once you know what’s really going on seek to find a solution or offer an apology!

Hashing it out with five of your closest friends will only muddy the waters and could damage your credibility as an effective parent.

There is a time to speak.

There is a time to listen.

There is a time to wait.

And, there is a time to act.

A wise person knows the difference.