Advocating Tips for Parents of Children with a Disability

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Advocacy Tips for Parents of children who have a disability. Created by Wilma Arthurs a Parent Advocate who is part of The Real People Campaign (realpeoplecampaign.com) The mission of the campaign is to gain the supports needed for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families to plan for and enact their goals of living in the community.

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Advocating Tips for Parents of Children with a Disability

  1. 1. Advocating Tips Winter 2012-know that when you speak up for your child with a disability, yoursupports will never be compromised.-speaking up will only help your child’s cause-make sure your child is registered on the Provincial Wait List forservices and go through that process even if the Wait List seemshopeless. When funding is released, it only goes to those on the waitlist.-never lose your temper or use angry language-always use people first in describing people with disabilities, ie: my sonwho has autism, a young woman who has Downs Syndrome, never sayan autistic person or Downs person, etc-always use facts-read the Canadian and Ontario’s Human Rights Code and quote from it.-decision makers that you are speaking to are ordinary people whetherthey be politicians, teachers, Board members, Cabinet Ministers orPremiers. Always speak with respect but also as a fellow human being.Speak to them like they are your neighbor.-give recognition to the agency, school, Ministry, etc for the good workalready done for people with disabilities and let them know youunderstand the difficulties they face.-having people with you who are examples of success also helps.
  2. 2. -after a meeting or presentation, always thank people for their time andeffort and appeal to them one last time using the language of “we areappealing to your generosity and understanding to do what is right”.This gives decision makers an opportunity to make themselves feelgood by knowing they will be appreciated if they make the rightdecisions.-government always like to use the budget and funding levels as anexcuse for not funding what is needed. Always respond with “weunderstand that, but we feel that you are able to set priorities to budgetfor what is needed for people with disabilities.”-the general public thinks that people with disabilities are alwayslooked after by programs. Always use the opportunity to let them knowthat many people with disabilities are looking through the window atwhat “normal people” have and they are unable to have because of lackof support.-try to relate your story or problem using terms others can relate to, anexample would be to try and use their experience with life to relate toyour own, such as the fact that you need child care for your grown childjust like other parents with small children.-try to find the similarities and differences to help others understandyour challenges. Ie: my 21-year-old daughter functions as a 2 year old. Ialways say “can you imagine chasing a two year old in an adult body?She can run faster, climb higher and tantrum louder!”-people in decision making positions may not always understand yourchallenges. You can help them not by just saying “I need this…..” butexplain what is truly needed, why and most especially, what benefitswill be reaped by it.-decision makers also like to hear dollar figures. Try to research whatthings cost and exactly what you are talking about in terms ofmanpower and money. Sometimes decision makers think it is beyondwhat really is needed.
  3. 3. -most important, let decision makers know who you and your childrenare by yours and your childs presence or photos and briefly tell you andyour families stories.-learn what the levels of authority are and approach each level in order,ie: teacher, vice-principal, principal, superintendent, etc. As you moveup the ladder, if you write letters, always cc those below that you havealready spoken to. Let those you spoke to know you will be going to thenext level respectfully.-when you have exhausted the local levels, it is time to move on to theMinistry level. First go to your local MPP along with the Bureaucraticlevel which are the Regional Directors and Supervisiors, then on to theAssistant Deputy Minister (ADM) and then lastly the Minister andPremier.-note that Bureaucrats and ADM’s are not elected. Ministers on up areand they have a different perspective. Remember that Ministers maynot be fully aware of the issues within their Ministries, so prepare to bethe teacher.-when advocating to the Government, go first to the Opposition party.They are always clamoring to bring issues to the ruling party in thepublic eye and from the Legislature floor.-always treat all the government parties equally, use all their strengths,never side with any party, only work with them.-if you decide to go to public media, let the decision makers know youare doing this. When dealing with the media, have a media releaseready to hand to them, which is a short concise statement of what yourmessage is. This helps the press to quote you right and get the messageright.-if after all efforts fail, consider filing a Human Rights Complaint orViolation. It does not cost anything and can effect change.
  4. 4. Advocacy I’ve done for Emilia and the disability world that effectedchange:-daily transportation to the Robarts/Amethyst Schools in London forstudents in Sarnia-Lambton-Miller Method therapy program enacted at Robarts and otherTreatment Centres in Ontario for children with Autism (due to fundingcuts, most have now disbanded)- changed the admission policy to the Provincial Schools for the Deaf toinclude students who are Deaf with added disabilities-rights of people who are deaf with added disabilities-was vocal and became parent spokesperson during the OPSEU strike in2007-protested at Queens Park-filed lawsuit to have ProvSch support staff deemed Essential. After a 5year legal battle, won!-recent wording change to the Ministry’s Transition document.-Real People Campaign. Was successful in having 2 separate questionsasked from the Legislature Floor, met with 2 Cabinet Ministers and 12MPP’s to speak to the Wait List for services in Ontario. Many familieswho participated in the Real People Campaign, gained the supports theyneeded.-Bill 77-wait list clause--participated in consultations on Bill 77 and the Ministries YouthTransition Document.-initiated and worked on Information website for our areaWilma Arthurs warthurs@ebtech.netThrough the Lens by Wilplease visit www.realpeoplecampaign.com to read stories of families coping with disability.

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