Advocacy - active support of an idea or cause etc.; especially the act of pleading or arguing for something
(The definition of Advocacy from TheFreeDictionary.com)
Everyone advocates at different times. For example:
- Parents advocate for their children at school.
- Students advocate for classes they want, or programs, or events, etc. In college, a student may advocate for an accommodation to participate more fully in the class (i.e. a note taker, interpreter, longer testing time, etc.)
- Teachers advocate for students, parents, programs, events, and many other things.
When not at school, parents, students, and teachers advocate for what they want in many other situations. For example:
- At the doctor's office or in the hospital, they often need to speak up and clarify what is wrong and what someone's needs are.
- At a store, if a clerk gives you the wrong change.
It is important to understand how to advocate on your behalf or someone else's behalf so that we can get messages across clearly.
If we disagree with a decision that is being made, it is important to understand the other person's point of view and why they made that choice/decision, before advocating for a change. In "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey describes this process as:
- Listen carefully
- Ask questions to understand completely what the other person (whether it is a doctor or teacher or whomever) is saying,(not argue or discuss) and get all of the information from them.
- After you have all the information, assess and come back to the other person with what you would like to propose or advocate instead, and the reasoning behind it.
As a parent, you are your child's greatest advocate, supporter, and cheerleader. By becoming knowledgeable regarding educational laws as well as services and programs available within your community, you can ensure that your child receives a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). There are two primary laws that cover your child's rights to a public education:
- Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Understanding how Section 504 and IDEA work with and complement each other allows you as the parent to better assist your child's educational team to ensure your child's right to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) is provided allowing for maximum educational success.
504 and IDEA Comparison Chart
Here are some sources of assistance when your advocacy is not working. Families Together
is a parent organization with information and training for parents of children with disabilities on their rights and how to access the education system. Disability Rights Center
take complaints against schools for possible violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
(OCR) is the federal enforcement agency for violations of IDEA, ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act