Content Provided by: Helen Rader and Jenifer Simpson
Parents of disabled children often find themselves in meetings with a team of health care or education professionals to determine the best course of action for the child. It can be an intimidating atmosphere for a parent to step into. It doesn’t have to be so tough. These simple pointers can help ensure that you have a say in the care and education that your child receives.
Before the meeting:
- If a meeting is scheduled at a time you can’t attend, ask for it to be postponed. Propose an alternative time. If you know you are going to be late, call and let them know.
- Be sure you know the purpose of the meeting. This will establish what your role is and will help you focus on what your child needs to have happen.
- Be prepared. If you’d like to see changes made in your child’s treatment or eduction have your suggestions in writing, preferably typed, with extra copies.
During the meeting:
- Take a moment at the start of the meeting to write down the name of everyone in the room and their title. Don’t hesitate to ask “Just a minute, how do you spell your name?”
- Bring a tape recorder if you want to.
- Bring a friend or advocate for support. Introduce the person.
- If you don’t understand something that is happening in the meeting ask for an explanation.
- If emotions flare, ask for a break. Say “I think I need a break. I’m going into the hall for ten minutes.” Use the time to collect your thoughts. Avoid being in a position where you swear or will regret later words you used.
- Take notes during the meeting.
- If the meeting is “going nowhere” say so. Propose another meeting.
- If substantial gain is made during the meeting, write a follow up letter clarifying what you think was decided or happened and be sure that you send it to all the attendees or others who are interested in or affected by the outcome.
Have questions about advocacy and how to get started?
Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents and caregivers about their experiences.
Use these resources to learn more about advocacy in your area.