As one expert put it, parents should think of themselves as a social worker with a caseload of one — your child. By being a strong advocate for yourself, your child and your family, you can achieve what is best for all of you.
Early Intervention/Part C offers these seven recommendations to help you advocate for your child, especially when problems arise.
- Get involved and be informed. Understand your child’s strengths and needs. Know your rights and possible legal procedures. Get to know your child’s providers, teachers, therapists and other personnel and build positive relationships with them.
- Keep organized records. Make requests in writing and keep copies of everything. Send important letters “return receipt requested.” Keep notes of phone calls and conversations, and whenever possible, ask for confirmation in writing. Organize your records in a notebook or binder.
- Prepare for meetings about your child in advance. Know what you want to accomplish and prioritize your goals. Bring someone with you to the meeting, as well as all necessary documents. List your questions in advance.
Keep the focus on your child by bringing him or her to the meeting or by bringing a photo of your child.
- Follow up by keeping track of timelines, communicating with everyone involved and reporting on progress as well as concerns.
- Use resources creatively. Go up the chain of command when necessary, and talk with families and advocates who have been through the process and know what works and what doesn’t.
- Remember that you are the primary expert on your child. Keep your focus on your child and what your child needs. Work towards mutually agreeable solutions. Be flexible and creative. Keep the big picture in mind, focusing on what is truly important to you and your child.