Choosing to work with an advocate is indeed a BIG decision. Choosing the right advocate can help you to secure a brighter future for everyone.
Merryn Affleck Executive Officer of Autism Northern Territory has over 20 years experience providing Autism Advocacy services to parents struggling to meet the needs of their autistic child.
An advocate, in the most pure sense, is someone who speaks for you when you are unable to speak for yourself. As parents, we do that for our children all the time, especially when we have a child with special needs. But there are times when life can be so overwhelming, there can be so many things to attend to, that we can have trouble even speaking for ourselves, let alone our child. And this is when the services of an advocate are invaluable.
Choosing to work with an advocate is indeed a BIG decision but do not hesitate to reach out. Choosing the right advocate can help you secure a brighter future for not only your child but your entire family.
People hire an advocate for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to support them in their first meetings with school personnel and to help with the creation of the important documents that are designed to support our kids in school. Many parents recognise that there is just so much to learn and do and they don’t want to mess up their child’s education.
A good advocate will not only streamline these meetings but will also teach you about the process and how you can best prepare yourself in the future.
Other parents hire an advocate when things are obviously going wrong. Most often they have tried their best to fix the situation but soon find that nothing has changed or it has got worse. An experienced advocate should be able to enter an often volatile situation and remedy it.
Each situation, each family, each child is different and it takes an experienced advocate with the ability to think under pressure to create a truly wonderful educational plan and team.
The best advocates brings a supportive and collaborative approach to every meeting. The main goals should be to have well written documentation as well as the creation of an amazing team atmosphere where YOU are a recognised and valuable member of that team.
Every team member needs to feel they are working on behalf of the child and that they are supported and appreciated. Without this, any team will quickly collapse.
Advocates can help to open doors to community services that you might not even know exist, and by doing so, can reshape the future not only for your child, but for your family.
So look for someone with experience, knowledge of the systems and negotiating skills in order to create a whole environment that will work for the benefit of you and your family for many years to come.
Executive Office at Autism Northern Territory