Skills to learn
Being able to communicate effectively is so important to being a good advocate, as there may be many meetings to attend and conversations to have.
Keep in mind that any meeting or conversation should be ‘balanced’: being able to hear what is being said and being able to express what you want to say. Listening to the other person’s point of view is equally as important as explaining what is happening for you and your child.
Actively listening, rather than just waiting for the chance to say your bit is essential. You need to remain focused and concentrate on what others are saying. It helps to take notes, or jot down key words to stay on track.
Advocating for your child can be a highly emotional experience and it’s easy to become upset. When you’re upset it’s harder to hear what you are being told and more difficult to get your message across. If you are upset, pause, take a deep breath and keep going as calmly as you can. Ask for a glass of water so you have time to gather your thoughts clearly.
YOUR NDIS MEETING OR REVIEW
- Planning means you need to understand the processes and organisations you are dealing with.
- You need to identify the supports your child has now.
- Think about what you want to change.
- Plan short and long term goals.
- Consider the resources you require to achieve the goals.
- There are excellent guides to prepare you for an NDIS meeting. The Association for Children with a Disability has a planning Workbook.
TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS
- Know that you can bring a support person along with you if you want to.
- It can be a family member, friend or other helpful person.
- Have an agenda or ask in advance that an agenda be created.
- If you need an interpreter, ask for one beforehand.
- If there are a few people at the meeting, it’s ok to ask who everyone is.
- Remember you are the expert on your child, so share your knowledge of their strengths, interests and goals.
- Be prepared with your questions, by jotting them down before your meeting.
- Don’t be embarrassed to ask as many questions as you need. There are no silly questions when the wellbeing of your child is concerned.
- Be clear about how notes of the meeting will be recorded, and who will get a copy.
- Find out who the contact person is for following up.
- Along with your questions, bring a list of issues you want to raise and have your notes ready.
- Don’t blame one person if there are difficulties in the meeting.
IN THE MEETING
- Stay focused on the goal which is to help your child.
- Remember that teachers and other staff members involved are there to help, even if you disagree with them.
- Be aware that the school administration team is planning around the needs of hundreds of students and staff.
- “The problem is the problem, the person is not the problem”.
- Perhaps remind the team that planning for success of the child is the focus of the meeting.
- Do your own research and offer solutions as part of the discussion.
- Be aware that you are within your rights to take an issue to the next level of administration if you don’t achieve a satisfactory outcome.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
- Am I clear about what I am asking for?
- What is going well today?
- What isn’t going well today?
- Do I have all the information I need?
- What do I need to do to go forward?
- How well do I feel we are communicating?
It is important that you have as much information as possible about the diagnosis that your child has and the system and supports that are available to assist your family.
Search to see if there is an association specific to your child’s disability that can provide valuable information. Also, connecting with likeminded families and carers can be a good way of getting advice and support.
Keep and organise paperwork and emails.
Copies can include:
- Meeting notes
- Medical records
- Work samples
Create a binder or folder and know what is in it. You never know when it might be useful.
Take copies of your paperwork to important meetings.
As children get older, they should have enough information and support so they can participate actively in decisions that affect them.
All children can be encouraged to communicate their likes, dislikes and what they want to achieve.
As your child gets older you can teach your child to speak up and self-advocate.
- It’s good to start early.
- Children need to learn that their opinions are important.
- They will keep working on skills over time and will begin to develop the mindset that they have the right to speak up and be heard.
- Talk with your child about their strengths and what is challenging for them.
- Remind your child that asking for help is a good thing.
- Demonstrate and rehearse phrases they can learn to say when they are speaking up for themselves.
- Praise your child’s efforts at speaking up.
- Encourage your child to understand how adaptations made in the classroom that are made can be helpful.
- Encourage your child to fully utilise adaptations and tell the teacher how these personalised arrangements are working.
- If your child has an Education Support Group, invite them to attend all or some of the meetings and encourage your child to have input into these.
- Goal setting and the ability to give feedback is an important way for your child to be involved.
Below are a few example questions that you can use to include a child in the planning process.
- “How do you feel about that?” – A question to get your child to contribute to the discussion.
- “What would you like to say, show, or ask? What would you like to tell us?” – Allows your child to build self-advocacy skills and know that their opinion is valued.
- “What things do you really like to do?” – Includes your Childs voice in the planning.
- “What do you think you’re really good at?” – Acknowledges your child’s strengths.
- “What would you like to work towards?” – Help your child identify goals.
A support network is important. You may already have family, friends or other supports who help you with the care of your child or family. Or you may want to set up a group of people to help you with planning.
Understand that you are learning a new skill and it takes time and practice. You will get better at advocating for your child with time.
- Are optimistic