Self-advocacy is important for ensuring that you and your child are listened to, assessed appropriately, have complaints heard and able to contribute to the development of individual healthcare and education plans.
There are many places and situations where you may want to exert self-advocacy on behalf of yourself and your child. You may want to self-advocate when speaking with doctors and health care professionals, in hospitals, at schools, with government departments and in the community.
Some people can find self-advocacy intimidating as it means standing up and exerting your own personal power. However, self-advocacy is important to ensure that the needs, goals and aspirations that you and your child have are being met.
If you are unsure about how to self-advocate and prepare for situations where you may need to advocate you may find that the following tips will assist. As your child gets older you may want him or her to be more involved or self-advocate on their own. Remember, your child learns from you and if you can demonstrate positive, effective and courteous self-advocacy he or she is likely to develop self-advocacy confidence along the way.
Tips for self-advocacy:
- Be an active participant in the process
- Clearly express what your child’s needs are
- Set realistic goals for what you hope for your child to achieve
- Get enough information to make informed choices
- Get information about other resources
- If necessary, have an advocate, family member, or friend at meetings
- If your request is not responded to in a timely manner ask to speak to a more senior person
- If you feel you are not being responded to, writing a letter may be an effective way to communicate
- Keep a folder of all materials, plans, and correspondence so that you can refer to these in the future
- Take notes when you attend meetings and document all phone calls
- Ensure that any agreed upon care or education plan is put in writing.
In addition to self-advocating there are a number of Ombudsmen in Australia that can respond to issues related to human rights, services and disability issues. In addition to the ones listed below Ombudsmen operate in all states and territories and can respond to issues regarding services and disability issues.
Australian Human Rights Commission – www.humanrights.gov.au
Commonwealth Ombudsman – www.ombudsman.gov.au
There are a number of peak human rights and disability organisations that advise or advocate on behalf of people with disability in Australia. Please note, that some of these organisations may not be able to advocate on behalf of individuals.
People with Disability Australia – www.pwd.org.au
Children with Disability Australia – www.cda.org.au
National Ethnic Disability Alliance – www.neda.org.au
First People Disability Alliance – www.fpdn.org.au
Women with Disabilities Australia – www.wwda.org.au