WNY Family Magazine July 2018 - Page 52

E veryone is an “advocate!” Al- though you may not have realized it, you have advocated for yourself and others at some point in your life. As a parent, you have spoken on behalf of your child — maybe to a teacher, day care worker, doctor, nurse, social work- er, other parents, relatives, or friends. You speak up be- cause you want something to change. Advocacy Skills Can Make A Huge Difference Advocacy is all about effective communication and listening skills. Par- ents and professionals can improve their partnership by using active listening strategies and good com- munication. When a posi- tive working relationship is developed, it creates a win-win situation for the child. As advocates you can work to change “systems,” or to address a spe- cific issue that affects your child. Sys- tems that impact the families of children with disabilities can include schools, healthcare and insurance, government and social services, faith-based organiza- tions, and others. Most of the time these systems are helpful, but sometimes they may not adequately meet the needs of your child. That is when good advocacy skills can make a huge difference in the life of a child. Empower Ability Inspire Advocate Special Needs Potential Thri Growth Strategies and appropriate public school edu- cation.  You have the right to be a part of ev- ery decision regarding your child’s education, including the process of finding out if your child needs spe- cial education services.  You should familiarize yourself with your child’s rights. These rights are federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Edu- cation Act (IDEA). You are your child’s best advocate and most effective when you do the work that is required to build positive relation- ships with the professionals that work with your child. Keep these general tips on hand! 52 WNY Family July 2018  Focus on your goal.  Show respect and ex- pect it from others.  Manage your emo- tions.  Ask questions.  Rephrase for clarifica- tion.  Say, “Thank you.” When you Disagree Getting involved in your child’s edu- cation is one of the most important things you can do to make sure that your child gets the support they need from kinder- garten through high school. This is espe- cially true if you are the parent of a child with a disability. Here are some basics when it comes to the education system:  Your child has the right to a free Tips for Good Communication at a Meeting  You know your child and your in- put should be considered at every opportunity.  Disagree without be- ing disagreeable.  Apologize if needed.  Separate the person from the problem.  Realize NO ONE has all the answers.  Make sure your facts are correct.  Choose your battles. Tips for Written Communication Letters should:  Be sent to the person who can make a change  Be dated and signed  Focus on one or two issues  Be no longer than one page  Set a deadline if a reply is request- ed  Give your contact information  Remember to keep a copy for your- self Six Skills to be an Effective Advocate 1. Understand your child’s disability. Understanding helps you:  Know which services are ap- propriate for your child  Have high expectations  Find the right assistive technol- ogy (AT) and accommodations 2. Know the key players: Who’s on your committee?  Who is the decision maker?  Are staff people public, non-