I’ve mentioned before in this blog that my daughter’s had some delays. Recently, she had an occupational therapy evaluation where the possibility of apraxia (a lifelong motor processing issue that needs heavy-duty therapy for years) was raised.
I went into a bit of a panic as I learned more about it. Then I started educating myself and speaking up to my current speech therapist, as well as making calls to explore the possibility of a change. The up side is, we’re going to start on a new, intensive treatment plan.
I don’t know how this is ultimately going to turn out. But I do know that more advocacy is probably in my future. And I think that whether your children are experiencing delays or not, as parents, all of us will be confronted with situations where we need to stand up for our children when they’re not yet ready or able to do it for themselves.
That can be a daunting prospect for many. So here are some suggestions that I hope will help.
1) Get clear in your mind that advocacy is needed.
This might mean doing research, or just consulting with your partner or other friends. It might mean finding an online support group and seeing other people’s experiences.
What can happen when we first encounter a situation where it may be needed is that we either jump to the conclusion that we DEFINITELY have to do something, or we get spooked and do nothing at all. I’d advise a more careful middle way.
2) Decide what your objective is in advocating for your child.
It might be that you know exactly what you want to achieve and can make a specific request (and if you’ve taken suggestion #1, then it should be a realistic goal. Obviously, realistic goals are much more achievable. But if you want to aim for the sky, then you should, provided you’re aware that’s what you’re doing.)
It might be that what you want is for the school, the outside professionals, other parents, or whoever else is involved in the situation to come up with a plan alongside you. Coming up with a plan that utilizes other people’s knowledge is often the best plan you can make.
3) Set up the phone call, meeting, etc., and then start your pre-planning.
Some people are very comfortable speaking up; others have to fight through their own self-esteem issues. As a parent, you might also have to fight through your fears for your child, and perhaps your own denial and grief that you’re in the situation.
I know that’s been part of my experience in helping my daughter with her delays. Often, my husband and I feel sad that there are ways she hasn’t yet caught up to the kids. With the possibility of apraxia, we have to confront that she might have lifelong struggles.
We allow ourselves to process these feelings, and then we move on to how to advocate on her behalf.
If you’re struggling with your self-esteem, you might not feel worthy of being listened to. I’ve noticed that for some parents, they do feel their children are worthy, even if they feel that they themselves are not. Tap into that. And then hopefully, once this particular bout of advocacy is through, you can begin to deal with your own confidence issues.
4) Speak up!
On the phone, in the meeting, in whatever venue works. I’d advise bringing notes, if only because it can give you somewhere to look while you’re collecting your thoughts. Also, notes can help with organization and make sure you don’t forget anything you wanted to address.
You might encounter full cooperation; you might encounter resistance. Be ready for the gamut.
If you’re a person who gets very emotional, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you’ll need to harness it in service of your objectives. You might need to bring your partner or a friend to help you calm down and/or to speak on your behalf at times.
5) Review the outcome.
If it’s not what you want, you can always call another meeting. Or you can try to involve new professionals. Or you can go up the food chain to a supervisor and then a supervisor’s supervisor. It doesn’t end the first time you encounter a “no.”
Advocacy for your child is an ongoing process. It involves assertiveness skills, and the good thing about those is that they’re skills–meaning, they get stronger with practice.
By advocating for your child, you can actually begin to improve your own self-esteem. The more you behave like a person who deserves to be heard, the more you’ll feel like one. And your kids will also reap the benefits.
Meeting image available from Shutterstock.