Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), families are equal members of their child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams. When your child has a disability, you can use your expertise to advocate for needed services. Research shows that parent advocacy can help families access services for their children.
How do I take care of myself while also advocating for my child?
Take time to care for yourself so that you can be the best you for your family. Just like a car needs fuel to run effectively, so do you. Consider the following ways to take care of yourself:
- You are not alone! Share your feelings and experiences with other parents of children with disabilities either online or at in-person parent support groups or trainings.
- Talk to your spouse, family member, or friend about your feelings and experiences. They may not know how you feel about advocating for your child.
- Spend time doing things with your child that you both enjoy, rather than only spending time on advocacy.
- Engage in ANY type of positive mental health activity, such as prayer, attending a worship service, therapy, exercise, or yoga.
In addition, if you advocate, there may be positive effects for you and your child. In the long run, if you conduct some simple and effective advocacy strategies, you may feel more empowered, in control, and less stressed.
What are some simple and effective ways to advocate for my child?
- Document: You can keep copies of all communication with school by saving emails, taking screenshots of emails and texts, and keeping paper copies at home. After a verbal conversation, summarize the conversation via email to document what was said. By keeping a paper trail, you are able to identify and advocate for needed services for your child.
- Find resources: You can find resources to help you advocate for your child. Such resources can include meeting other parents of children with disabilities, joining support groups, contacting the Parent Training and Information Centers, and visiting Wright’s Law.
- Communicate: Continuous communication with the school is a form of advocacy. Communication can include phone calls, emails, text messages, home/school notebooks or online shared documents, and in-person meetings. Such communication can help keep you and the school stay informed about needed services for your child.