A diagnosis looks different for every child with special needs. Learning about the wide world of resources for your child, including special needs advocacy, can help you make informed decisions for your family. But what exactly does a special needs advocate do?
A special needs advocate helps parents make sure a child’s special needs are met. They support you in receiving services and financial assistance like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), interpret documentation, and work with schools to plan individualized education programs (IEPs).
There are several roles that an advocate may play in supporting your child with special needs, including:
It would be useful to find out what training the advocate has received. Skills such as communication, collaboration, presentation, and maintaining a professional relationship are important proficiencies needed by anyone who is an advocate. They should have current information and a good knowledge of special education in general as well as special education law. Care must be taken to ensure that their information is current and accurate. Practical experience such as attending IEP meetings or case conference participation should also be expected.
It is important that the advocate gets to know your child. This way, the advocate can better assist you in customizing your requests to the needs of your child. Each situation is different and requires open minds to come up with solutions based on the unique situation. The advocate should be able to explain how your child’s disability may impact his or her learning and then work with you to help prioritize your child’s needs.
Your advocate needs to understand that no matter what, you have the ultimate final decision-making power. An advocate who interjects too much personal preference, or who does not respect your final word is overstepping his or her role. Ultimately, decisions are for you, as the parent, to make when given options. A good advocate should know and encourage this.
The best advocates look for win-win solutions and will support you in every aspect. This means that even though your advocate is helping you to understanding systems or working with the school to create an acceptable program for your child, he or she is also collaborating with the school and the district to achieve a solution that puts everyone on the path to success, if possible. supports your child, but does not put the school in a financial or personnel strain? While you may want “everything” for your child, every other parent who has a child in special education does too, and if it strains the school or district financially or personnel-wise, then it is counterproductive for everyone.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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