There are a lot of challenges that parents of autistic children face. One such challenge is the fact that special needs children often get pushed aside when it comes to their education. This may happen when their diagnosis information has not been properly shared or when the school district is short on resources. An autism parent advocate is someone who is checking to make sure their autistic child’s needs are being met. This will need to be on a continual basis over the weeks, months, and years. Autistic children are often not properly taken care of in the public schools education system. This is because they need an educational advocate to help them get what they need. As an autism advocate, it is your goal to create a positive, collaborative relationship with the school system to ensure your child’s needs are met.
The 3 Ways You Can Best Advocate For Your Autistic Child
Helping to increase autism awareness is often the mainstay for autism advocates. This is because information and knowledge are one of the best ways to combat ignorance and false perceptions. Knowing what to expect and how best to deal with it makes things smoother for everyone. As ADA says, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder. It affects how people communicate and interact with others, as well as how they behave and learn”. Understanding this basic information helps other people begin to understand your child better.
Because autistic children often have difficulty with communication skills, it is important that they have an educational advocate. The main goal is to develop a partnership with the school and teachers so that you can work as a team. When you have a special needs child, you may need to lobby for them to get their needs met at every level of their education. Unfortunately, without an advocate, they don’t have much of a voice and can sometimes be neglected by school administrators. In this article, we will go over several ways that you can advocate for your autistic child.
1 – Be Proactive
If you have done a free child autism test and then followed up and gotten an official diagnosis, you are now armed with the information you need to help advocate for them. Make sure to share the official diagnosis with the school administration and teachers. Be friendly and learn their names because they will be your partners in this process.
It is really important to be proactive in getting your autistic child’s needs met and not simply reacting to things. When you have specific concerns or requests, it is a good idea to set up a meeting with the school. This will provide a way for you to express those concerns and get the administrators on the same page. Be as prepared as possible and set the tone of the meeting. Make sure that the administrators understand what your position is and that they will need to figure out how to meet your child’s needs.
2 – Be prepared
Before any meeting or communication, you should have done some research. Find out what your child’s rights are in your state. There are some guarantees that the school needs to give you based on the local regulations of wherever you live. When you know your state laws and rights, you have a better standing to make sure that the school is doing at least the minimum they are required to do.
The Autism Speaks organization states that “The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) … mandates that the state provide all eligible children with a free and appropriate public education that meets their unique individual needs”. Visit their site to learn more about possible early intervention programs and special education services.
You should also be prepared with any documentation from doctors that will outline what your child’s needs are. This gives you specific things to ask for which have their basis in a clinical standpoint. Have any reports or suggestions for the school done by professionals to bolster your case.
3 – Communicate well
Ambiguity can really hurt your chances to get what your child needs. It is extremely important that you know how to communicate well. Try to make your point understood without any room for miscommunication. With this purpose, you may want to write your ideas down before hand. In this way, you can be sure to present your requests in an organized fashion.
It’s helpful not to use emotional language, not only to keep things professional, but also to clearly articulate what it is that you need to have happen. Emotions are natural, but will get in the way of proper communication. On the flip side, the school will sometimes use language that is vague or confusing. Be sure to ask for clarification of unknown terms anytime you encounter them. Ask a lot of questions to be sure that you understand what is being said. In this way, you can then clearly articulate what you want to say in return.
Children with autism have special needs and may struggle to communicate well with teachers and parents. As an autism advocate, it is your role to be proactive. Read up on your child’s diagnosis. Be familiar with all the diagnosis information and materials that the doctors provide. Be sure the school has this information as well so they came come up with an individualized education plan (IEP) to suit your child.
If you encounter any difficulties with the education being adequate to meet your autistic child’s needs, schedule IEP meetings with the school administration and/or teachers. Come prepared with a good attitude to recruit these people as partners to better understand and meet your child’s needs. This may be an ongoing process but have faith. There are so many great teachers out there and you are helping your child progress. If you are struggling with the process you can sometimes hire a special education advocate to help you. Addressing the developmental disabilities will help improve the quality of life for you and your child.
You may find it useful to check out AwesomismMom– a site by a mother of an autistic adult who has been through it all. Building a autistic community with appropriate supports will help you get through the rough times.