Advocacy skills

What is advocacy?

Advocacy is:

  • speaking, acting, or writing on behalf of a person who may not be able to do so for themselves
  • promoting, protecting or defending the best interests of the person

Parents and carers are usually the first and most important advocates for their children. As a parent advocate, you can uphold the rights of your child with a disability. For example, advocating to make sure your child’s right for the school curriculum to be individualised is upheld.

Why would I need to advocate for my child?

  • As a parent, you know your child better than anyone and will be involved in your child’s life for the long term. You are therefore best placed to represent their interests
  • You will have thought about what is important to your family in terms of your child’s education and inclusion in his or her community (also known as your “vision” for your child) and it is important to share this with others involved in your child’s life. See also developing a vision for my child
  • Different people involved in your child’s education will have varying levels of understanding of your child’s strengths and needs. You play an important role in educating people about things they may need to know about your child. For example, you may need to advocate about what works best for your child during transition to school, or when your child starts in a new class or with a new teacher within the school

How you can be a good advocate for your child:

  • ask friends and people in your community to support you
  • build positive, collaborative working relationships with those involved in your child’s education (see developing a positive relationship with the school)
  • know your rights as a parent, and the rights of your child (see rights of parents and children)
  • communicate clearly and with confidence
  • be assertive, while being respectful and polite
  • find out how the education system works
  • ask questions
  • actively listen to what others have to say and focus only on one or two areas at a time
  • think about what you, your family and your child want or need, or what you might want to say
  • be prepared and organised for meetings
  • help teachers come up with practical suggestions and/or ask others for strategies (see trouble-shooting guide)
  • provide positive feedback to people working with your child when something goes well

Who can help me to advocate?

Some parents find it helpful to take along a friend or other support person to meetings in order to hear what is being said and get across any important messages you may want to share (see also preparing for transition meetings)

There are a number of organisations that can provide support, training and telephone advice to you about how to best advocate for a family member who has a disability:

Family Advocacy

Resourcing Families