Advocacy: The What, Why, and How

Advocacy: "public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy" (a quick Google search, 2019).

...but what does that really mean?

Advocacy is such an important topic to me  and it is one I never thought about much - until my son was diagnosed with autism.

Now, advocacy is a huge part of my life.

To me, advocating means standing up and speaking out for my son:

I want people to understand him and his needs.

I want him to have access to the things that his neurotypical brother has, and sometimes that means he needs accommodations to help him be successful in those situations.

I want him to be accepted for who he is.

As parents, it is our responsibility to take care of our children.  When your child has autism, "advocate" seems to come along with the territory.  We never got any specific training in the area of advocacy - our children didn't come with an "Autism Parent/Advocate Handbook," yet, here we are.

Advocacy isn't always easy.  Sometimes, it makes you look like "the bad guy." "That" parent.  The one who seems to always be fighting for something, demanding things for their child.

Am I "that" Parent?

Yes.  Yes I am.

I promise you, I'm not "trying to be difficult."  I'm not asking for special treatment.  I just want my son to have the things he needs in order to be successful and happy...isn't that what we all want as parents, regardless of an autism diagnosis or not?

Being an advocate often means fighting for change.  Changes at school, changes in the community, changes to policy.

Where does this change start, though?

It starts with me. It start a with you.

I love this quote from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax:

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better, it's not."

I cam say with 100% certainty that no one cares more about your child than you.  You are your child's biggest advocate.  It is up to you to create change.

So how do you do that?

Tell people what your child needs.  Fight for it and make sure it happens.

Educate others about autism and accommodations.

Talk about the hard stuff, and  let people know how they can help.

Actions often speak louder than words, so show people what to do.  Be kind.  Be accommodating.  Be accepting.  Be helpful.

We can change the world for our kids, one act of advocacy at a time.


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