As parents, one of the ways we prepare our children for the future is by being their advocate. Early advocacy can be as simple as joining an inclusive playgroup. It can be as stressful as working with your insurance company to get coverage for needed therapy services. Once our children start school, we advocate for them by learning the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process and attending Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings to ensure that they are getting the most out of their schooling.
Children of all abilities need to understand the importance of making their own decisions and the consequences of making poor choices. It’s all about growing up and learning how to manage their daily lives.
It’s important to teach our children to be self-advocates. You may not realize it, but allowing your preschooler to make decisions (Juice or milk? Book or puzzle?) is an important first step toward helping them learn to make larger decisions for themselves and communicate their needs as they grow up.
When children are given a choice where “Yes or No” is a valid option, honoring their “No” response and the result of their choice is an important learning tool. It also teaches children with disabilities that they can say “no.” Too often adults with disabilities say “yes” because they think it is the right response. Usually they never had the opportunity to learn that “no” is an okay choice. Self-advocacy starts early.
When our children get to high school, it is important to advocate for transition services. This is the time to involve our kids in the decision-making process if we haven’t done so already. This is called self-determination. It is an opportunity for them to take charge of their own lives. With our guidance, our children can set goals for the future. Then we can help them acquire the skills they need to prepare for life after high school.
My son began his first part-time job a couple of months ago. In some ways, it’s going well, but there is room for improvement. As his parent, I advocated for him to have a job coach to work with him on appropriate work behavior and completing tasks. I believe he’ll only need the coach for a month or two to help him be the best he can be at his job. Once he is in his routine after receiving guidance, this will make him a stronger employee.
I’m proud to be my son’s advocate and know that together we will build a meaningful life for him!
Learn more ways to help your child learn independence on this website.