How to Advocate and Become a Better Advocate for Children with Autism

Advocating for children with autism is sometimes a rough road for parents and professionals. So today, I’m going to give you 5 steps both parents and professionals can take to advocate more effectively for kids with autism.

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Advocating is tough, and I’ve had both parents and professionals really go and advocate very hard for insurance reform. I had Dr. Amanda Kelly, known as Behavior Babe, on podcast episode eight talking about her advocacy efforts. On podcast episode number 3, I’ve talked to Kelsey, who’s a single mom of 2 who’s taken all my courses and she’s our online community manager.  She’s had to advocate for her kids very hard. I’ve had to advocate very hard for Lucas over the years too, and I’ve learned a lot from those advocacy efforts. I think within my course and community, especially the community that includes about half professionals and half parents, we do talk a lot about how to advocate and when to push harder and when to push less to get each child to reach their fullest potential. So, I want to give you five basic steps today to help you become a better advocate.

When we talk about advocacy, we really, a lot of times will go into that fight mode and we really have to get out of fight mode.  Everybody is well meaning and everybody would like to have your child reach his fullest potential. It’s just that there’s a lot of things that might get in the way. So when you think about advocacy, don’t think about fighting. Think about promoting the goals of the child and the goals of the family based on their assessment.

The first step is to not to get into fight mode and to really try to stay positive and supportive and calm and be assertive but not aggressive. So number one in advocacy is not fighting.

The second step is you always want to start with an assessment. I have a free one-page assessment that’s part of a guide that I wrote a year or so ago. And that one-page assessment can help you whether you have a 2 year old or a 20 year old, to really get the basics down. So always start with an assessment. That one-page quick assessment is not going to be enough. You’re going to need more assessments, but that might help you get started with just taking a look at the whole picture quickly.

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The third step after not fighting and starting with assessment, is we want to make sure the plan, the goals and the placement are based on the child’s assessment, not based on what’s available, financial implications, and all that stuff. I just looked at a VB-MAPP recently, and the VB-MAPP was done and it seemed okay, but the goals were not really intertwined with the assessment. The goals looked like more of a traditional ABA approach versus following the VB-MAPP assessment. So make sure that the assessment you’re using is tied in with the goals and also tied in with the family values and make sure it’s appropriate for the child’s age too.

The fourth step is to pair yourself with each other. If you’re a parent, pair yourself with the professionals. If you’re a professional, pair yourself with the parents. We all need 8 positives to every negative and we don’t want to just keep hammering more and more demands. If I am trying to advocate for Lucas and all they hear is, “well this isn’t going well and that’s not right and he needs more” and lots of negatives without any positives, the professionals in his life are going to start to resent me for putting so many demands on then. They’re trying their best, so try to step back and take a look at the other person’s perspective and all the variables at play and really try to give as many positives as you can.

And the fifth step is if there is disagreement, which there probably will be, instead of just fighting, go back to the assessment and look at the forest, not the trees. In some cases you might even need an independent evaluation or someone outside that can come in and kind of mediate the situation and see,  where the disagreement lies and how you might be able to help get back on track.

So those are 5 steps you can take to become a better advocate for children with autism. To listen to a podcast on advocacy, you can go to marybarbera.com/19 and if you are considering joining my online course and community, I would love to have you. You can sign up or learn more about my course and community by going to a free workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop. I hope that these 5 steps have helped you see how you might be able to better advocate for your clients and children with autism, and I hope to see you right here next week.

Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?
SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA’S FREE TRAINING