Advocating for Your Special Needs Child in 3 Steps

February 4, 2014 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Advocating for your special needs child is challenging for many reasons. Some of the parents that I work with have great difficulty with stepping out of their comfort zones to get the best services for their children. One parent I worked with in the past was so anxious that she had trouble seeing that she had the power to make decisions for her son’s well-being. So, I thought of tips for parents on how to advocate for their children.

Acknowledge your fears about Advocating

This is a particularly challenging issue that I see all too often in my work with families. There are parents that are so afraid to speak up for their children that they are paralysed. This is due to many reasons, but in my experience, it has been more about the outcome of advocacy. What are you most afraid of? What is the worst thing that can happen? Being aware of your fears in relation to your child’s educational/emotional needs can help you work through those fears and then allow you to take action on behalf of your child. Think about what is the most important part of advocacy - it is your child that needs help.

Advocacy is hard, but these 3 steps can help you overcome your fears and advocacy for your child. More on Life with Bob Blog

My biggest fear was knowing that Bob had ADHD and that I was not doing the best I could for him. By speaking my fear out loud, I saw that those were just words in my head, but not necessarily my reality. Besides, Bob needed me.

Know your child

Part of the difficulty of advocating for your child is not knowing how your child is doing academically, socially and emotionally. You can get this information by talking with your child and finding out about strengths and weaknesses. What trouble does your child have getting along with other kids or focusing in class? Where does your child excel in the classroom? The answers to these questions can help you figure out what the best course of action is for advocacy.

When Bob needed extra time for tests (before his ADHD diagnosis), I spoke with Bob about his difficulties. He complained that he would run out of time for tests. Bob also stated that certain subjects were more interesting than others.

Collect information

Besides communicating with your child about strengths and weaknesses, gather all of the information you can on your child’s academics, behavior and extracurricular activities. You can do this by meeting with your child’s teachers to get report cards or copies of an individualized education plan (IEP). You can also check in with other service providers such as after school and weekend programs to see how your child is doing in settings outside of school. I met with Bob's pediatrician to obtain a letter for the school in order for Bob to receive extra time on exams.

Advocacy can be very challenging and even discouraging because it can be a long, drawn-0ut process. But, if you use the tips above, you can get your child the help he or she needs.

Photo credit: The Children's Alliance via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2014, February 4). Advocating for Your Special Needs Child in 3 Steps, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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