Getting educational and medical services for your children with special needs is usually a struggle. Lack of money, staff and other resources are reasons given for not providing proper supports. When your child needs services, you present your child’s case to school or medical administrators who receive many other requests for limited resources. So, how do you make your request stand out? Make it personal.
When advocating for your special needs child, tell her story!
The people making decisions about our children are just people. When you need a service or support for your child, your request should touch the emotions of that administrator. You want the decision maker to form a mental picture of your child. Your child is unique and is not another 8-year-old on the waiting list for occupational therapy. Turn your request into your child’s story.
In addition, give the decision maker a reason to change her decision. From an administrative standpoint she needs to justify why she is doing something that benefits your child over other children.
How to make your advocacy personal
Look at these sample letters to see the difference personalization makes. In this scenario, each of the parents wants occupational therapy services for their children who are on a waiting list. Letter A is an example of a typical letter a parent might send to a decision maker.
- Introduces your child
- Identifies the problem
- Explains how this problem affects your child
- Provides a reason to give your child special treatment
- Tells the decision maker what help you need
- Keep the tone of the letter friendly.
- Your letter should be short and no longer than one page if possible.
- Make sure the letter looks professional. If you cannot type the letter, ask a friend to do it for you. Have someone check your letter for typos.
Making your child stand out is key to personalisation
Personalization applies to more than letters. Whenever you are advocating for your child let the teacher, therapist or administrator know your child is not just another child with autism or another disability.
services. Here are some famous USPs:
- BMW – The ultimate driving machine
- DeBeers – Diamonds are forever
- Coca-Cola – It’s the real thing
- Gillette – The best a man can get
“a factor that differentiates a product
from its competitors, such as the lowest cost, the highest quality or the
first-ever product of its kind. A USP could be thought of as ‘what you have that competitors don’t’.”(TechTarget)
When advocating for your child, find your child’s USP. In letter B, the USP
is Bella’s deteriorating condition and related anxiety. Your child’s USP is anything that
distinguishes her from other children looking for the same service. Other possible USPs include:
- Age at time of diagnosis
- Difficult home situation
- Other medical problems
- Deterioration of medical or emotional health
- Changing schools
For more advocacy tips see: