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Parents As Child Advocates How to Become a Strong Advocate For Your Children


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One afternoon your daughter comes home from her third grade class and gives you a note from her teacher requesting a conference. You immediately feel blood rush to your head as you ask your daughter if she did anything wrong. When you talk to the teacher over the phone, you get a friendly reception and the assurance that the conference is about something positive. While sitting in a tiny school room chair the next day, you learn from the teacher that your daughter shows advanced ability in math and you discuss how her talent can be developed.

Back at home, your mind starts planning next steps but you quickly run into a roadblock. Your daughter tells you that she does not want other kids to know she is good at math because they might not like her if she appears too smart. You scratch your head wondering what just happened and how you should react. This is the complex world of parents being advocates for their children's unique talents or disabilities. Similar stories come from families with children who have learning disabilities or behavior problems. Parent advocacy can be more challenging when a child has an inefficiency in learning or behavior that requires other adults to be more sensitive, understanding and adaptive as instructors. Parents must assure that other adults and institutions provide the support their children need to be successful.

As advocates, parents need to play the middle ground between two extremes: one being an inactive bystander and the other being overly controlling. This middle ground requires judgment calls about what is appropriate to assure that your children get the support they need from others. Parents begin learning how to be advocates for their children by relying on their instincts and day-to-day experiences. Some parents become highly effective advocates over time, while others cannot adapt. Over the years, parents have learned many techniques to be effective advocates for their children. They have shared their stories around kitchen tables and at bus stops. One of the most important lessons learned is how to manage the experts who instruct your children so you effectively advocate for your children's growth, learning, and talents.

How To Manage Experts Who Instruct Your Children

Before the twentieth century, experts in the community where primarily crafts people and farmers. They grew or made things that people used each day to survive. As education became more available and industries moved from the industrial to information age, experts now predominately provide information and analysis. Today there is an expert around every corner who wants to diagnose, train, teach, coach and guide your children. Being an expert has become big business, especially when it comes to giving advice to parents and children.

Children today receive more help from experts in more areas of their lives than anytime in history. As parents strive to help their children grow and prosper, they may need expert help in education, health, sports, and careers. However, there is one phenomena about experts that has not changed in thousands of years. Some experts want to keep their work very technical and hard for others to understand because it keeps them in control and keeps others dependent on them. This can help the expert potentially receive more admiration and money. You will know these experts when you walk away from a meeting about your child and still don't understand the heart of the matter. You will know them when you are in a diagnostic session that is filled with jargon only the expert understands. This disconnect is two sided.

First, the expert is not doing everything possible to educate and empower the parents. Second, parents are too quick to abdicate responsibility to the expert and lack the assertiveness needed to ask key questions. To help you effectively manage experts, the following are four tips you can follow. First, when you hire an expert, you are choosing both the person and the expertise. You and your children need to feel comfortable at a personal level. Assuming the expert is competent, his or her ability to relate to you and your children will have the greatest effect on your success. Second, you should ask to see an example of the end result of the experts’ work. You can ask to see sample reports, talk with other parents and children, or watch the expert in action. Look for how easy reports are to understand, and how well the expert fosters passion in children to learn. Effective experts are likely to be good communicators and empower children and parents. Third, remember that you are the expert about your children.

You should assure that the expert you hire understands your opinions if needed. You can help the expert also see your child as a whole person not as a singular talent or disability. Fourth, if you have an expert assess a child, he or she should be as impartial as possible. Most experts who provide assessments have services to address specific problems and do not deliberately use an assessment to only sell follow-on services or products. However, there are some experts who do misuse assessments to convince parents that their child needs the expert's services and will shape the assessment to sell rather than diagnose. By following these tips, you can get the most out of experts who can provide great value to your children's growth, learning and talents.

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