There are many things to consider when you have a child with special needs. Whether it is known as soon as they are born, or any delays become apparent as they grow older it can be a huge learning curve. The processes of helping your child can be overwhelming, isolating, and frustrating. Depending on the needs of your child, there may be many different appointments, therapies, education processes and meetings, and family affairs you have to consider. Being your child’s strongest and biggest advocate can become a huge part of your life.
Here are different ways you can be an advocate for your child:
Remember You Know Your Child Best
It’s most important as family, friends, strangers, doctors, therapists, teachers, and schools give suggestions, diagnoses, and advice (solicited or unsolicited) that you remember you know your child best. You should always make decisions based off what you think is best for your child. You know their needs, their behaviors, what they like or do not, you know how you can push them or not, all these factors need to go into decisions.
Educate yourself. Learn about your child’s disabilities or delays. Understand the complexities this may mean. For instance, Autism has so many different factors. You need to understand the diagnosis your child has but then understand how it effects your child. Then learn what your child needs to remain calm, learn, focus, be independent, etc.
Build and nurture relationships with the adults that are a part of your child’s life. This can be grandparents, family members, doctors, therapists, and teachers. To have a good and open relationship with them will help you work with them to do everything that’s best for your child. It will also help you speak up when needed because you feel comfortable with them and how they will receive any dissent in your child’s care.
Stay Calm and Collected
When any moment comes that you have to step up for your child, remain calm and collected. Speak up for your child without excess of emotion or anger. If you’re angry it’s most likely going to be met with more anger or disdain. It can also be hard to get your point across if you’re too emotional. Things before you speak, write it down, keep your thoughts organized, and get what your child needs.
Set Goals and Follow Them
Set achievable goals for your family and your child. This may be behavioral goals, speech goals, movement or physical therapy goals, independent goals, anything. Set them while focusing on your child’s needs, pushing them without frustrating them. It can all be a huge game of give and take but following any goals and helping your child grow is the advocating for them to be strong and as independent as possible.
Speak Up for Your Child (Help Them Speak Up For Themselves If They Are Able To)
If something needs to be done or changed then speak up for you child if they are unable to do it for themselves. If your child can speak and express their own wants and needs, then encourage them to speak up and advocate for themselves. This is a huge, life changing, skill that will be extremely beneficial for themselves as they become adults.
Always Focus on Your Child’s Strengths
Focusing on your child’s strengths rather then weaknesses can help them build a more positive self-esteem and self-image. Also, it helps you as a parent focus on your child rather than any delays they have. While it’s important to set goals and help them grow and achieve it’s also important to love your child for who they are.
Embrace Your Child’s Uniqueness
When advocating for your child it’s important to embrace who your child is. This includes their personality, habits, and how they are unique. It’s important while parenting your child to be guided by their needs. This may change as your child does.
A huge part of advocating for your child can mean educating others about your child. This can mean helping others understand their diagnosis, behaviors, and how they can help your child when it’s needed. Educating those around your child will help them gain patience and understanding your child needs.
Don’t Lose Yourself
It’s easy when focusing on your child’s needs, especially for a child that has a lot of needs, to lose yourself in the process. Remember as a parent you cannot be there for your child if you do not take care of yourself first.