Workshop two – Parent Advocacy

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
                                                                                                –  Alice Walker –

This is how Holly Major, support specialist for Pathfinder Parent Center began her workshop on parent advocacy at the Region VIII conference in Fargo, ND.  She had further expanded on a recent post regarding this topic, so I found it helpful to parents and families wanting to become more involved in their child’s lives.

Experiences are valuable and will go by very quickly.  A parent will always be a childs first and most important teacher and parenting is the most important job that every parent takes on.  Here are some tips to becoming an affective advocate for your child:

1 –  Understand your childs needs/abilities

  • Know the services appropriate for your child
  • Have high expectations for your child and the service they receive
  • Find the right accommodations
  • Use resources to learn more!

2 –  Know the Key Players

  • Find out who the decision makers are
  • How can you find their names?
  • What type of organization are you working with?

3 –  Know your rights/responsibilities

  • Read websites
  • Ask how service is funded
  • Ask to see laws
  • Ask questions – It’s likely others have the same question
  • Join a group

4 –  Be well organized

  • Keep records
  • Put everything in writing – email, letter, text, etc.
  • Keep a phone log
  • Have a meeting, keep accurate notes

5 –  Use Clear/Effective Communication

  • Keep your eyes on the prize! – Find the right services for your child
  • Listen and ask questions – What is right?
  • Turn negatives into positives
  • Speak clearly, don’t make people feel defensive
  • Much of communication is non-verbal, remember that when meeting face-to-face
  • Show respect, be thankful, manage your emotions
  • Apologize if necessary
  • Separate the person from the problem
  • Remember that not everyone has all the answers
  • Check your facts
  • Choose your battles

6 –  Know how to resolve disagreements

  • Talk to the right people first
  • Follow the formal processes for solving the problem
  • Remember, being fair is not about treating everyone equally, but about giving everyone what they need.