“Why should I care about advocacy?” I have said it myself and heard it many times from other parents who have kids with disabilities. I used to question the importance of advocacy because I did not really understand what it was, the impact it could have or how to fit it into my busy schedule.
Whatever the reason, we must realize that advocacy is an important part of our lives because of the possibilities that it opens for our children and all people with disabilities. After all, we are a part of the same community. When we advocate for our children and all people in the disabled community, we make the present and future better for those we care about in our lives.
What is advocacy? Advocacy is defined as “to plead in favor of.” In short, it means to support a cause. What better cause than your child and other children in similar circumstances?
Why Advocacy? You should care about advocating for your child because no one loves them more than their families. Families and guardians know their children best and can see their gifts and talents. It is our job to spread the word.
We know our children deserve opportunities just like everybody else. They deserve quality medical care. They deserve a quality appropriate education. They deserve basic human rights like the rest of us.
Why Now? We are all busy. We cannot be too busy to get informed and educate, educate, educate! This is the only way to get doors open for your child. Dream for your child and go for it. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t do it, who will?
How do you get informed? Get to know other families who have children with disabilities. Find the people who have been in your situation by joining parent groups in your area.
Find out what is happening at the local level: Attend school board meetings or watch them online. Attend parent training offered by the district. Join the Special Education Advisory committee for your district. Go to training events at your local education service center. Meet with your city councilperson.
Learn about things going on at the state level: Talk with your legislators so they understand your family’s needs. They need to know what is going on in your home life. If appropriate for your situation, consider taking your child to meet them. They should know who they represent. Get on mailing lists of state organizations like Disability Rights Texas, The Arc of Texas or Texas Parent to Parent. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Join the email list from Texas Education Agency.
Use Reliable Resources for fact-based issues: While you can get useful information on Facebook groups, the information there may not be reliable. Families mean well and share their experiences or what they think is true. Always use a reliable source.
When we are educated, we are empowered. When we are empowered, we can advocate! Now get out there and do it!
Learn more about advocacy.