Establishing Advocacy Priorities

Establishing Advocacy Priorities
Parents of children with special needs often have the same goals and dreams for their sons and daughters with disabilities as they and other parents have for their mainstream siblings and peers. During the time between hearing a diagnosis and having a general understanding their child's condition, many parents question whether it is realistic or fair to hold on to what they hoped for when their child faced only the ordinary challenges of life.

Because there is no benefit to accepting limits on what our children can experience or achieve, most of us raise our expectations and dedicate ourselves to creating the best possible life we can imagine. It helps to know that families of children with the same diagnosis reach out to educate us about how much further we can raise both our expectations and the ways we help our sons and daughters to achieve an even better quality of life and richness of experience.

Sometimes, parents and advocates get so carried away by possibilities that practicalities and realities are dismissed. While that is a much more nourishing environment for children, it is helpful to engage in respectful dialog with those who have different opinions and experiences, so we can build the strongest community of support and encouragement possible. There may be adversaries in your fight who are also strong advocates for individuals with disabilities in your community.

Families, advocacy organizations and medical professionals establish advocacy priorities for children and teens with developmental disabilities, chronic health conditions or other special needs that maintain support, encouragement and opportunities throughout the lifespan of each individual. Parents may rely on early intervention recommendations, special education evaluations, or current information about their child's diagnosis for short term goals. Advocacy organizations choose priorities when preparing budgets and considering urgent issues and community needs. Some advocates have specific agendas that relate to family members, clients or political beliefs.

While setting or managing short term goals and dealing with immediate crisis situations can be overwhelming, most parents and advocates also worry about the future when planning where to put in the time and energy required to increase options for children and teens who have special needs. With a five year plan and ten year goals, we are more likely to keep moving in a positive direction rather than getting bogged down in lost opportunities that are distracting us from what is currently available and possible. We should always keep moving forward to better possibilities for our families. Sometimes that means disengaging in negative situations and striking out in a new direction.

Our sons and daughters have a greater capacity for ambition, achievement and performance than we can imagine. Just like their mainstream peers, they may find their main passion in life where we are not looking. There is always something interesting they will encounter just down the road to opportunity. Thank you for building those options and pathways for your children and those who follow.

Browse at your public library, local bookstore or online retailer for books like:

Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

The Guide to Good Health for Teens & Adults With Down Syndrome

Guiding Teens with Learning Disabilities: Navigating the Transition from High School to Adulthood

6 by '15
Six Goals by 2015: Employment; Community Living;
Education; Transition; Healthy Living; Early Childhood

You Should Also Read:
The Disability Hierarchy, Equity and Advocacy
Patient Advocacy for Children in Hospitals
Disability Advocacy and Awareness

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