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How to Best Advocate for Your Child with Autism

Here we are going to go over how you can best advocate for your child with autism. Believe it or not, children with Autism have unlimited possibilities. The degree of success a child with autism will have depends greatly upon early intervention and appropriate educational support.

Parents and providers should never view any challenge that they are presented with as hopeless. Everyone has hurdles to overcome in both collaboration and communication with the people you trust to treat your child, but it worth the effort.

Working with Schools

One of the most frustrating places to advocate for your son or daughter with Autism is the school district you live in. First you need to understand that no one in the district will be a better advocate for your child than you. Second, even the best school districts are limited in what they can do for a child with Autism (depending on the where that child is on the spectrum) and it isn’t because they don’t want to help… it is because they are limited on funds and staffing.

What can you do? Make sure that your child has an IEP. The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a very powerful document, more powerful than most parents realize. IEPs that are well written can drive your child’s educational program as well as provide the documentation that is needed if a situation happens where your child is not making progress.

When a child with autism has a therapist and teachers that work in collaboration with one another on a consistent basis is the most progress seen. A well rounded program that addresses the child’s needs, components of differentiated instruction and evidence based interventions can provide amazing outcomes.

Specific Knowledge and Skills that will Aid You in Effectively Advocating for Your Child

  1. Be as well informed as possible about your child’s needs. This means learning as much as you can about autism and treatments for autism. Know what the best practices are and how your child’s needs can best be met in an academic setting.
  2. Be prepared. Become knowledgeable about the rights and services that are available to your child. School districts do receive parent education dollars through IDEA and usually provide ongoing training for parents. You can also find out about different courses and programs that various autism agencies provide to parents. Go to as many as you can.
  3. Remain focused on your child. IEP meetings can become very heated debates. The most progress is made when collaboration takes place, contention doesn’t help anyone. The goal should always be to help your child.
  4. Communication needs to be clear. Effective communication is one of the most important skills you can have to be a successful advocate. All too often communication that is given from the school is vague and often in educational jargon. Parents don’t usually understand the acronyms because it is outside of their knowledge base. On the flip side, parents need to communicate from a non-emotional place and focus on the present and the future and not on the past. Effective communication can bridge gaps.
  5. Proactive over reactive. Take time to create a list of objectives and items that you want to cover in the IEP meeting. You may need to take strategic breaks during the meeting to allow everyone time to cool down. Plus it can sometimes be beneficial to end a meeting that continues to go in a negative direction.
  6. Ask questions, as many as you need to get the answer you understand. If terms are being used that you are not familiar with, ask what they mean. You need to understand policies and procedures as well as the plans and interventions. The more you know, the less frustrated you are going to be.
  7. Stay positive and supportive. It is important to feel good about where you are taking your child for the day. The IEP team should be a team that works together to build a strong educational plan for your child. Understand that there is a difference between assertive and aggressive.
  8. Know what your rights are. Know what alternative options you have available to you before you go to the meeting so that you can stay focused. Remain confident and stay strong, so that you can passionately and persuasively represent your child.
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