How can I be an advocate for my child with special needs?
Advocacy means supporting and enabling another person to meet their needs, especially when they may be particularly vulnerable. As a parent of a child with autism or other special needs, you likely already advocate for your child in various situations. Below are eight strategies for how to be a strong advocate for your child in the school system.
How to be a Strong Advocate for your Child
Know your child’s rights and your rights and responsibilities as a parent in the school system
Create a partnership with the school
- The school-based team will be your direct route to sharing successes, discussing priorities, and addressing any issues that arise. It is important to build a positive relationship with the school-based team in order to collaborate and plan for your child’s education plan.
- Keep a record of all communications with the school and other professionals involved.
Actively participate in meetings
- Be ready to participate in meetings with the school-based team by coming prepared with key information and questions.
- Tips for advocating at a school meeting:
- Bring a picture of your child if they are not attending.
- Have a clear idea about what your priorities are and be prepared to explain them.
- Talk about your child’s strengths and challenges.
- Ask for deadlines and benchmarks.
- Invite other support people who work with your child, such as your behaviour consulting team, and notify the school-based team that these team members will be attending.
- Identify the next steps in the action plan for your child’s individualized education plan, including a timeline and who is responsible for what.
- Take detailed notes during the meeting.
Identify key problems and possible solutions
- Along your child’s educational journey, problems may arise. It is important to clearly identify any issues, and to use good communication to notify the school-based team of the issue, in order to reduce barriers and solve the problem as quickly and successfully as possible.
Pinpoint who key decision makers are
- Depending on the issue at hand, you may need to advocate at different levels. For example, if there is an issue with funding in the school system, you may need to approach the school board or Ministry of Education. It is important to know the roles of the various people involved in your specific school and the larger school system, and take the steps necessary to advocate to the right person.
Know when to seek support from others
- Advocating for your child is not an easy job. Seek out support from family members, local support groups, or your home-based team.
Do not be afraid to fight for your child’s needs.
- As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else and if your child has an unmet educational need, you have every right to seek out a solution to meet the needs of your child. By knowing your child’s and your rights, collaborating positively with the school, actively participating in your child’s education plan, and seeking out support from others, you will be a strong advocate and give your child a much louder voice.
For more information on inclusion and advocacy in the school system, check out Inclusion BC’s parent manual on inclusive education or a free ACT presentation on the essentials of advocacy.
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Family Centred Practices Group designs and monitors intervention programs for families with young children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or related disability. Family Centred Practices Group is delighted to announce we are Canada’s first Behavioural Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE).
The BHCOE is a reputable, international accrediting body in the field of behaviour analysis. Their assessments are developed by experts in the field to distinguish exceptional behavioural health providers. This accreditation certifies a continued demonstration of exceptional international clinical and administrative standards deemed by an independent third-party evaluator.
The quality of work performed by our staff, the effectiveness of our clinical applications, and the attentiveness to each child’s individual needs is at the highest standard. To maximize a child’s opportunity to reach his or her full potential, we emphasize a proactive approach to teaching and learning. We accomplish this by capitalizing on naturally occurring motivational conditions and the principles of positive reinforcement. Through the use of these and other behaviour analytic practices, a child’s ability to experience success across environments is enhanced.
We gratefully serve families all across the Lower Mainland.This includes families living in the regional districts of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Tina Linton, M.Ed., BCBA – Clinical Director
Tina Linton received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario and her Masters degree in Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA™) with over 20 years of experience working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in home, school, and community based programs. Tina began her career in Ontario working as a Behavioural Interventionist. She moved to Victoria, BC where she continued supporting families of children with ASD and assisted with the start up of the Autism Early Intervention Program at the Queen Alexandra Center for Children’s Health in her role as an Autism Interventionist. When she moved to Vancouver, Tina began working with the Family Centred Practices Group and, after completing her Masters, was promoted to the role of Senior Behavioural Consultant. Tina also worked with Douglas College in their Behavioural Interventionist Citation Program and is a founding partner of the “Behavioural Interventionist Training Partnership”. Tina assumed the role of Clinical Director in November of 2008 and began managing the business.