If you have a child with special needs, you know that advocating for them can be a full-time job. But even if you don’t have the time to dedicate to being an advocate full-time, there are still things you can do to help your child get the best care possible. Here are nine tips for families with special needs children:
1. Get to know your child’s condition.
The more you understand about your child’s condition, the better equipped you’ll be to advocate for them. Read up on the latest research and developments in treatments, and talk to your child’s doctor about what they recommend.
2. Build a support network.
You don’t have to go through this journey alone. There are lots of other families in similar situations who can offer support, advice, and understanding. Look for support groups in your area, or connect with others online.
3. Know your rights.
Families of children with special needs have certain rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Familiarize yourself with these rights so you can make sure your child is getting the education they deserve.
4. Stay organized.
Between doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, and school meetings, it can be tough to keep track of everything. But staying organized will help you make the most of your time and advocate effectively for your child. Create a system that works for you, whether it’s a physical notebook or an online file folder.
5. Be prepared to advocate at any time.
You never know when you might need to speak up for your child, so it’s important to be prepared. Keep a list of your child’s medications, allergies, and medical conditions in your purse or wallet, and have a copy of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) on hand. That way, you’ll be ready to advocate for your child’s needs whenever the situation arises.
6. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
Your child looks to you for strength and encouragement, so it’s important to be their biggest cheerleader. Show them that you believe in their ability to overcome any obstacle, and celebrate their accomplishments, big and small.
7. Seek professional help if you need it.
Advocating for a special needs child can be emotionally and mentally draining. If you ever feel like you’re struggling to cope, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Talk to your doctor about what resources are available in your community, or look for a therapist who specializes in working with families of children with special needs.
8. Connect with other families.
Sharing your experiences with other families in similar situations can be very helpful—and it can also be a lot of fun. Plan playdates, go on group outings, or just get together for coffee or lunch once in a while.
9. Get involved in the larger community.
There are lots of ways to get involved in the advocacy community, whether it’s joining a local support group, volunteering for a Special Olympics team, or testifying before your state legislature about issues that affect people with disabilities. Getting involved will help you make new friends, gain valuable skills, and provide much-needed support to others.
We hope these advocacy tips have been helpful. If you’re looking for more information or support, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or one of the many other organizations that specialize in helping families with special needs children. Advocacy can be hard work, but it’s worth it when you see your child making progress and achieving their goals.