Thursday 3 February 2022

What Makes a Great Advocate?

The moment that we received L's, and then O's, Autism diagnosis, Daddy Superhero and I started on a new journey - becoming advocates for our little superheroes. We could have easily employed the services of an Autism advocate but we know our little superheroes the best.

Being an advocate means that I am assisting my little superheroes to access the services and support that they need both at school and in the community. Until they find their own voices to self advocate, I am their voice.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, being an advocate for my little superheroes is very rewarding but it is also hard work at times. Being an advocate can take you out of your comfort zone if you do not feel confident in speaking up for another person.

Families are generally the best advocates for their children but at times, parents may not physically have the time to attend meetings for their children or they not feel comfortable with the idea of any potential confrontation. If families are also on a learning journey with their children, they may not feel confident in knowing what supports that they should request for their children.

So if you are not confident in being your own or someone else advocate, what qualities should you look for in a great advocate?

Ultimately, advocacy is about speaking on an individuals behalf, and supporting the best interests of an individual while promoting and protecting the individuals rights.

Not all advocates are the same - the role that they play will vary according to any training and study that they have undertaken, their experience in both an advocacy role and with Autism as a whole, and they may have expertise in different areas (education, social, with different disabilities and so on.) 

Anyone can assume the role of an advocate, but the strongest advocates are those who have a direct relationship to those who they are advocating for. That relationship could be that they are a relative of the individual or it could be that they have direct experience with the individuals disability.

In regards to an Autism advocate, the individual should understand and know that Autistic individuals are capable and bring enormous value  to their community. An Autism advocate should know and understand that all Autistic individuals are unique from the next. That the supports that suit one Autistic individual may not suit the next.

A great advocate will want to assist you to become, and assume, the primary advocate role in your child's supports. Through assisting you to advocate for your child, they should provide you with the skills to begin feeling confident to advocate effectively for your child.

They won't make the decisions for you, rather they will assist you to become well informed about your child's needs. They should assist you to consider and weigh up the best options for your child. A great advocate should empower you, and your child, to make the best decisions for your child.

A great advocate should be able to investigate and explore alternative support services for your child. They should be familiar with local therapy services that are available and that would suit your child's needs. They should also be able to point you in the right direction of support services for yourself as a carer.

A great advocate should listen, truly listen, to you and your child about what their needs are, what their goals for the future are and any skills that your child would like to improve on or develop. 

Advocates can be the important link between families and service providers. A great advocate should maintain a professional, respectful and collaborative approach when meeting with yourself and your child, as well as when they are engaging service providers on your behalf. They must be able to communicate with strength and clarity so that needs of your child are met.

When you meet with any potential advocate, you need to feel as though you are connected with them. You will need to have trust and confidence in your chosen advocate that they have your child's needs in mind at all times when they are performing their role. Don't be afraid to meet with several potential advocates prior to engaging them as an advocate.

And above all, trust your gut instinct as sometimes this tells us more about how we feel about some one than any information they give us.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog. I do read all the comments that are posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen xx