Since learning about my daughter’s diagnosis of Down syndrome and my son’s diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning Disorder in the early 1990’s I have embraced advocacy skills—the skills of ‘speaking up.’ I have learned about successful advocacy through workshops, books and mentors and I have used these skills to change my kids’ personal situations, to improve systems and to promote public policies that support the recognition of the full citizenship of people with disabilities. Along the way I have picked up a few tricks that aren’t usually mentioned as advocacy skills, yet they work for me. Perhaps you will find them useful as well.
One of the techniques I have used to reach understanding with people who work with my kids is word pictures or analogies. Now this must be applied with a respectful touch--like anything else it could be insulting if you are not thoughtful (Obviously insults NEVER lead to understanding--which is in fact why people use them, but I digress... )
Sometimes, with our complex and highly individual kids, it can be hard to get people to understand them. It is common to try reports, evaluations, expert testimony, but sometimes providing information is not not enough to build understanding. (I have blogged about this before!)
When you are negotiating with a team about placement or classroom strategies or with legislators about removing community barriers and information fails to build the needed bridge many folks get frustrated and stomp out.
I would suggest that they have more tricks to try--they aren't done yet.
The next thing to try is a description of the things that are happening now (for example if your child is succeeding in Sunday school but not in Social Studies) or things that are possible if the new strategies or laws are implemented.
This is the time to be descriptive--supporting this with photos and more can also be helpful.
Yet, sometimes this fails also. The people you are talking to don't see what you mean still, they don't see how this relates to them--or they plain don't believe you.
Nope, it still isn't time to quit or throw huge tantrums--tempting though that will be!
Along with all of the above tools I recommend the using of analogies, metaphors and comparisons to add reach to bridge you are trying to build. When a teacher or a legislator is not be able to imagine our children responding the way we say they will or that they should do what we are saying they should, try comparing the situation with something familiar that seems similar in tone.
Over the years I have compared:
*My son's accommodations--which his team saw as cheating--with eyeglasses (I tell the whole story here.)
*My daughter's need for both OT and PT with her need for both mittens AND boots.
*My son's need for separating input from output when he learns with juggling (and my lack of ability to do it!)
*My son's need for teaching organization skills with the way Spanish is taught. (This one started out REALLY heated because they were one day trying to encourage him to be organized by telling him he was smart, the next day they tried negative reinforcement and kept him after school... no one was teaching him what they wanted him to know.... grrrr....)
*My son's learning disability with a scene from a popular movie where someone was walking along through the woods and suddenly fell into a hole and no one knew where the character had gone. Can't remember the movie right now... some army flick...
Something to add to your bag of tricks... let me know how it goes!
I am the mother of three, wife of one. I am a Partners in Policymaking graduate and a committed disability advocate. I want to catch up on my scrapbooking, learn more about art-journaling, get my house in order, read all the books I have set aside to read and change the world--not necessarily in that order. The opinions in this blog are my own and not those of any of employers.