As a parent, you are in the unique position of being the greatest observer of your child’s daily wins and challenges in their skills development, frustrations and emotional state. This also makes you the best and most important advocate in your child’s life.
Your role as their advocate is to make sure they have every possible opportunity to achieve their potential in life. That means speaking up on their behalf and making sure everyone in their life is working towards the same goal.
This is by no means an easy task, as you probably have several specialists involved in your child’s development. However, there are a few strategies you can use to try and make the task a little easier to manage.
Strategy 1: Get to know your specialists
Whether it’s your child’s Speech Pathologist or their classroom teacher, the specialists in your child’s life play a central role in your child’s development. It is important to develop a relationship with these people to ensure effective communication and to make sure everyone is working towards the same end goal.
- Get to know your specialist as a person – This means taking a few minutes just to enquire after their family, ask how a recent holiday went or if they’ve got any plans for the weekend. This is more about setting up a good rapport with your child’s specialist, rather than walking in the door, receiving the therapy (for example) and walking back out. It is amazing the difference having a good rapport with them can make.
- Be candid and honest – If you have a concern, talk about it. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t try to ‘hide’ information from your specialist because you’re embarrassed or unsure. Just always be honest and open, your specialist can only work with the information you have given them.
- Don’t feel rushed if you have something to say – Even the most understanding of specialists can get caught up in a busy day. However, if there’s something on your mind, don’t leave with it unsaid. It will just weigh on your mind. Even if it’s just raising it for discussion at the next session, you would have taken an active step
in addressing it.
Strategy 2: Be organised
Chances are you have more paperwork than you may know what to do with, from diagnostic and therapy assessments, to support information and service provider contacts. Make life easier on yourself with a few of these simple tasks.
- Compile a file – An organised file of all the paperwork relevant to your child will avoid last-minute rushes to find particular assessments etc. prior to an appointment. Section it off in areas relevant to your child, such as assessment results, schools reports, individual education plans, doctors’ appointments and general information sheets.
- Have a ‘to ask’ sheet – How many times have you thought, I must ask ‘this’ but by the time you get to your next appointment, it’s been forgotten. A simple sheet of paper on the fridge or a notebook in your handbag is a great way to ensure things don’t get forgotten. Your child does something differently you want to discuss, write it down. They achieve a milestone, write it down. The next time you have a therapy session or a meeting at school, take the list to make sure nothing gets forgotten.
Strategy 3: Share information
This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of advocating for your child. Without having all the information, the specialists in your child’s
life may not have all that is needed to make service delivery choices for your child. This is especially important where there are multiple
people providing support to your child, such as a GP, Speech Pathologist and a teacher.
- Regular meetings – Whether it’s a formal meeting or a quick chat after class, make the time to keep your child’s teacher up-to-date. This can include tracking your child’s progress, sharing therapy focal points (Example: We are currently working on the ‘sss’ sound in therapy) or a particular frustration or enjoyment in your child’s life at that moment in time.
- Let one specialist know when you’ve seen another. Example: Letting your Speech Pathologist know your child saw a GP earlier in the week for an ear infection, which could potentially affect your child’s progress that week.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – And by the same token, respect the opinions of those professionals in your child’s life.
- Don’t micro-manage – While it’s important to make sure everyone has all the information, you also need to trust in your specialists’ abilities to work with your child.
Strategy 4: Know where you’re headed
Goals are an important part of everyday life, and this is no different for your child.
- Set small achievable goals – This is an important way to let your child know they are progressing and achieving. Even the smallest of goals is a win if one week they can’t do it, then a few weeks later they can. The sense of accomplishment will go a long way towards encouraging your child to keep trying.
- Share these goals with your child’s specialists – This is once again just about getting everyone on the same page and providing a holistic support base for your child. Example: If you and your child have set a goal of being able to open their own chip packet, let everyone know. That way, when you are not with your child, other important adults will be able to help work towards the same goal.
Strategy 5: Involve your child
Children need to feel that they have some level of control over their life. Ultimately, the aim is for your child to be equipped with the skills to be their own advocate in adulthood – so now is the time to start honing their skills to this task. Depending on your child’s capabilities, ways to include your child could include:
- What do we need – When getting ready for school or an appointment, involve your child in packing what is needed. Whether it’s packing their school bag, or getting their medical folder out for a doctor’s appointment, it’s all contributing to getting
your child thinking about steps in a routine and what’s needed for various activities.
- What should we discuss – When preparing for an appointment involve your child in thinking about what happened at the past
appointment and if there’s anything they would like to discuss at the coming one. Even if your child can’t/won’t contribute to
the conversation, you are still modelling the thinking behind how to prepare for appointments and activities.
Prepare a ‘CV’ for your child
There are many ways you can share information with the specialists and teachers in your child’s life. One such way is to prepare a CV as a quick reference while they are getting to know your child. Your child’s
- Introduce your child, including a picture and details such as name and birthday
- Emphasise your child’s personality, including likes, dislikes, personality traits and strengths
- Communicate specifi c triggers or stressors that may trigger negative reactions, including suggestions for pre-emptive or preventative actions
- Be brief/concise, positive and suitable for the eyes of other staff members etc.
Another variation of this is to write a letter to your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year. In this letter, you can
- Introduce your child and tell the teacher a little about their child’s journey through life
- Detail your child’s challenges and their strengths and interests
This can be more personal than the CV-style detailed above.
The best teacher is YOU!
If you have sought professional help through a Telethon Speech & Hearing program like Talkabout, Chatterbox or Outpost, then your child’s future is already looking brighter.
However the most important teacher in your child’s life isn’t the specialist – it is you. The way you model language and interact with your child on a daily basis is crucial to their ultimate success in the speaking world.
Don’t worry though, you’re not expected to do it alone. Your TSH team are here to help you. We are a registered NDIS provider and can help assist you to be the best advocate for your child throughout the NDIS process. Simply call 9387 9888 or book an appointment with our friendly team online.