As a parent of a special needs child, you probably have years of experience advocating for your child. You have worked for years to get the medical, psychological or social care that he needs and to keep him doing his best in school. You have advocated for evaluations, worked for the best possible IEP and spent hundreds of hours researching information and sharing information about your child with teachers and doctors. It can be hard to know when it is time to step back and let your child advocate for himself.
How Children Benefit from Learning Self-Advocacy
Self-advocacy is a vital skill because most children will be providing at least some of their care for themselves in adulthood. Individuals must have the strength of purpose and character to realize that their needs are important and that they deserve to be respected. Your child will need to advocate for himself if he goes to college or to a trade school, and he will certainly need to stand up for himself at future jobs.
First, you must let him know about his medical problems or his learning issues. If he is not fully aware of exactly where he needs help, he will not know what to do to find success. Next, your child will need to become comfortable talking to professionals about what he needs. Often, the best place to get started with this is at the IEP meeting. Children are allowed into these meetings and are sometimes the individuals best poised to get necessary changes made. Once your child is in junior high or high school, let him start speaking up to teachers rather than scheduling and running the meetings yourself.
Finally, let your child know exactly who is on his side. Tell him about his support system, and show him who the “safe” people are for when he needs help. This could be a relative, a family friend, a school counselor, a psychologist or even a tutor.