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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

Advocating for your child with special needs

Mental health awareness is growing in our community, however there remains a need for

advocates to maintain this momentum.

Advocacy (literally: to add a voice) can be grouped into three broad categories: self, individual, and system.

Self advocacy Self advocacy is essentially the ability to speak for yourself, to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and to communicate your needs and desires.

Individual advocacy

Individual advocacy is supporting and standing by someone to help when their rights and needs are not being recognized or addressed.

System advocacy

System advocacy targets information and policy change at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

You do not need to be a professional to advocate for the needs of your child, yourself, or

anyone for whom you can be a voice. You simply need to care.

There are a lot of roles and ways to advocate and they can be looked at in three areas: 1. Support, 2. Education, 3. Values.

Support can broadly be seen as having someone’s back, being a member of a team. You are

helping them be heard, clarifying their rights and needs/wants surrounding decision making.

This may involve communication with the other professionals involved. Often this a is a large

welcome relief to the individual. Staying educated on current practice, research, and programs, and being able to evaluate the appropriateness is helpful in empowering individuals with the right information. Standing for what you believe and helping others who need it, championing a cause, brings inspiration to individuals and can help effect change.

How can I be an affective advocate?

1. As an advocate for your child, you will need to learn, ask for, and organize the information in a way that will help you prepare for interactions with the professionals and family/community members involved.

2. You will need the information to collaborate with the education and medical communities.

3. You will need to stay calm when faced with frustrations.

4. You also will need to recognize when you need to reach out for assistance, and get help.

5. Throughout it all you need to be brave!

Research indicates the overall positive long term effects of early advocacy, both in

education and health. It is challenging and frustrating at times, but it is also rewarding and

empowering for your child.

To set up a free consultation with our education advocate/consultant, Mike DeBruyn, reach out to us at 519.751.0728 or email For more information about Mike click here

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