Learn to advocate or speak up on behalf of your child
Experienced parents encourage other parents to learn to advocate for their child who is deaf or hard of hearing as early as possible. Why Your Child Needs You to Become an Advocate, A PACER Center publication, states that advocating for your child is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever have, and can have lifelong implications. For starters, no one understands your child like you do. You know his or her strengths, challenges, spirit, and dreams better than anyone. You have a vision for your child’s future and a sense of what it will take to achieve it. You have opinions on what is working and what is not. Your educational team members need you to provide this information to help them support educational goals and objectives with the vision you have for your child.
An “advocate” can be broadly defined as “someone who speaks up on behalf of others to make things better.” Advocacy covers a very broad range of activities that just about everyone, in many settings, does every day. Most of us have advocated for others. You have probably already had to speak up on behalf of your child to a teacher, day care worker, doctor, nurse, social worker, other parents, relatives, or friends.
Your child needs you to advocate for him or her in the area of education. Parents have a legal right and responsibility to advocate for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The federal special education law, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), requires parent participation. The special education services for a child are developed in a decision-making process involving the child’s parents and school district staff.
Professionals are qualified to serve your child by reason of their education; you are qualified to advocate for your child by reason of your role as the parent. You are the only person on the team who knows the complete child: how the child functions at home and in the community, the child’s medical and academic history, and your child’s interests, preferences, and desires.
Professionals have knowledge and expertise in a specific area, but they are only a temporary part of your child’s life. You are the only permanent member of your child’s educational team, at least until your child turns 18. Professionals deal with many children, while you only have your child to think about. Your child is served best if you and professionals work together.
To learn how to advocate for your child, visit:
- Minnesota Hands & Voices ASTra Educational Advocacy
- How to Communicate Effectively with Early Childhood Professionals (PACER Center)
- Working together: A Parent’s Guide to Parent and Professional Partnership and Communication Within Special Education (PACER Center)