Advocacy Tips for the Long Haul
I have made plenty of mistakes along the way. But here are my top 10 tips to help any child thrive.
1. Have a Clear Vision: The key to achieving any goal is to have a clear picture in your mind of what success looks like. You need to be able to define it and to give specifics of how you will know you have arrived. It sounds simplistic but visioning is the process of goal setting. So often I talk with families and they want someone to offer them a “menu option” to help them to identify the path. The truth is that every child is different and the gateway to success depends on each child’s strengths and weaknesses. Bottom line: there is no “one size fits all” approach.
2. Identify the Cast of Characters: Even when you think everyone is against you, there is always one person who identifies or understands what you are trying to achieve for your child. Ask for their input and help to refine your approach and to engage supporters. One mom put it best, “Be focused in your goal, be consistent in your messaging, build consensus with a core group to move forward.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!
3. Determine the Best Way to Unite the Decision Makers: You may need to, “divide and concur,” by having lots of, “meetings before the meeting.” This is the stuff that sends working mothers into overdrive, and non-working mothers to feel like they need to be paid for their time! The reality is that if you want to achieve different results – you need to challenge yourself for a new outcome through an innovative path that you have not traveled before. Building relationships takes time, but it delivers the greatest return on your investment.
4. Gather Data: “Emotion muddles the water,” that being said you need to boil your case down to numbers. Statistics speak volumes. It’s a great strategy for overly emotional beings like me, “the Ubber Mommy Bear!” When you can present information in a numerical manner it takes the drama out of the situation and brings clarity to the problem that needs to be addressed.
5. Rally the Troops: Often children with special needs show their talents to different people and in varied settings. It’s best to bring as many folks to team meetings and IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) as possible. The “more the merrier.” This gives the team a more comprehensive view of the child and the potential for a more innovative and successful plan. It also helps to feel supported when you, the parent, are nervous. I don’t care how confident you are – parents often feel like they are being judged by the school team. To some extent they are – but by bringing a group of experts about your child – shows them that you mean business and are serious about advocating for your child’s success.
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