How Parents of Special Needs Children Can Become Advocates

Children with special needs like Down syndrome need parents to fight for them

Portrait of happy girl with Down syndrome carried by mother
A mother carries her daughter, who has Down syndrome.. Maskot/Getty Images

For parents of children with special needs such as Down syndrome, becoming strong advocates for them may be more of a necessity than a choice. By becoming activists or community leaders, such parents make a positive impact in the lives of their children and others with special needs. Learn how to become an advocate for special needs children with these tips.

How Parents Can Become Community Leaders

Create a local group in your area to unite parents of special needs children but understand that support groups can be a real challenge.

Many times, members get discouraged if support groups don’t offer something other than parent-to-parent interaction. Support group leaders can ensure the group is relevant to members by contacting local organizations about inviting professionals to make presentations during meetings, answer questions from parents or services to families. Support group leaders should also invite parents of older special needs children, as they can share their insights and experiences with parents of young special needs children.

Support group leaders may also share interesting reading materials during meetings, organize discussions about important topics and devise strategies to tackle common concerns parents of special needs children have. They can promote their group through social media or create an online group. Parents can create a private group on Facebook or start a blog about raising special needs children.

Many parents become experts as the years go by and find paid opportunities to become professional advocates or leaders in their communities. Organizations are always in search of new generations of leaders and parents. Those who work hard and believe in their own voice can eventually build a career that allows them to make their living doing what they love--advocacy and leadership.

 Paid opportunities for parent leaders are available through school districts, early intervention programs and nonprofits.  

Characteristics of Leaders

Leaders know their communities well and can voice their needs in an objective way, identifying opportunities to be heard and understood. Leaders understand that not everyone living with the same circumstances feels the same or has the same thoughts or needs. Leaders don’t try to transform people’s personal beliefs. They respect different ways of thinking and work with others towards the main objective instead of trying to impose their beliefs on the team. Leaders think of themselves as just another team member rather than as the boss or person who dictates what others say or think.

Leaders understand that leadership is not about exercising control. Instead, it is about identifying everyone’s strengths in order to win the battle. Leaders empower their peers by pointing out their strengths and suggesting creative ways to use them in order to achieve the common goal.

Leaders find joy in motivating others to believe in themselves. A leader is always looking to share responsibilities and grow as part of a team, where success is a common goal that brings pride to everyone.

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