In the past, advocating is a word I didn’t hear used very often. That is, until I became a parent. I know my parents did lots of advocating for me when I was younger. I know they stepped in many times when things weren’t going well for me as a child. I just didn’t know there was a word for it. Until my daughter was having trouble in preschool and daycare, would I truly understand what it meant to advocate for your child.
Our story is probably very similar to many others out there fighting for their children. My daughter starting showing signs of some behavioral issues around 2-3 years old. She struggled in settings with other children for several years. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Autism level 1 and ADHD. I realized very quickly that I would have to fight for her needs in more ways than I had ever imagined. She wasn’t just a behaviorally-challenged child, she needed help. As it turns out, she doesn’t learn like everyone else. Her brain just works differently and not everyone understands or even accepts that. What I didn’t realize, is her unbalanced behavior was not only affecting her at school with her classmates, but she was showing some tell-tale signs of anxiety and stress as well. She needed me more and more and complained of stomach aches daily. She needed change, she needed me to fight for her.
Maybe your child has trouble reading, anxiety, special needs, ADHD or is being bullied at school. Whatever it is, we have to be armed for battle. As moms, we tend to be very emotional when it comes to our children and sometimes that is what gets in the way. It’s hard to separate how we feel from what we know they truly need.
Advocating, by definition, is fighting on behalf of someone else. Someone who can’t fight for themselves. So, fight for what is right for your child. When you come armed with information and studies on how to help your child, others tend to listen. You have to put your deep-rooted emotions aside and prove to others logically what your child needs and why.
As parents we have to be the go-between for our kids and many situations in life. We have to understand that they are not equipped mentally to fight those battles themselves. For me, being an extreme people-pleaser, this was nearly impossible. I am non-confrontational to a fault. Sure, I could talk a big game about what I was going to say when my child was mistreated, but when it came right down to it, I couldn’t do it in a way that accomplished anything. I knew I wasn’t even capable of going in yelling and screaming to get my point across, so I needed a different way to make them listen to me.
For me, educating myself on my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment methods is what armed me with the information I needed to fight for her. What I soon realized, is the number of children with additional needs but aren’t being met is huge. You must qualify for many services or have a certain diagnosis for your insurance to cover them or schools to recognize them. So there that many more children needing a voice.
From our experiences with our daughter, we quickly figured out that we needed to find someone to listen. Not to pacify me, but actually listen to my concerns and take them seriously. Sometimes that’s harder than you think. You go to your family doctor or pediatrician and they may downplay your concerns. The best thing I did for my daughter was to switch doctors when they didn’t want to listen to what my motherly intuition was telling me. I went to the new doctor armed with information and demanding an outside evaluation, knowing this is what she needed. I was going to do whatever it took to get her what she needed. Even if that meant going to every doctor in town and risking sounding like a complete crazy person, then so be it. If I didn’t fight for her, then who would? She would continue to fly under the radar and not performing to the best of her abilities.
So, what do we do?
We begin the job that never ends. We have to continue to fight for what levels the field for our kids. Not special treatment but equal opportunities to succeed.