ad·vo·cate|\ ˈad-və-kət (verb)
to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.) : to plead in favor of
We have been talking a lot about advocacy at Dysgraphia Life recently. Advocating for your child, self-advocacy, political advocacy. The root of the word comes from the word "advocare" in Medieval Latin which meant to "summon or call to one's aid." Unfortunately, in the learning disabilities space, we often see it neccessary to come to one's aid whether it be for a student, yourself, or our entire community.
The goal of advocacy is to use your voice to influence people’s actions or decisions and to support those who may need strong voices for support. At the most basic level, advocacy can be simply educating people about an issue that they don’t know about but that you think is important. We can look at advocacy in the dysgraphia community in two different ways:
Advocating for a cause or issue on a large scale (such as to a school system, county, state, or national level)
Advocating for an individual who can benefit from your voice
Often when we think about advocating for a cause or issue on a large scale, we think of political advocacy. This frequently involves taking action to change a policy or legislation that may impact the community we are advocating for.
Three ways to advocate for the dysgraphia community:
Talk about your experience: When it comes to advocating for dysgraphia, your experience is an incredibly powerful tool. Sharing personal information about yourself or your child may not be something you are comfortable with, but if you are comfortable sharing these experiences, you can use your story to elevate awareness about dysgraphia.
Sign a petition asking your elected representatives to support actions that benefit the dysgraphia and learning disability community: For example, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) ,the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) , and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) all have advocacy action centers where they post action alerts and petitions for current issues in special education.
Get involved with your county or city’s school board: You don’t have to campaign to be a school board member to have an impact on special education and educate about dysgraphia. Many school boards have committees that community members can serve on, opportunities to comment on budgets or proposed policies, or attend meetings during which community members can provide personal testimony. Start by doing an internet search for your local school board or board of education and learn about what decisions are being made that might impact students with dysgraphia and other learning disabilities.
Advocacy is also about supporting someone who can benefit from your voice on an individual level.
Three things you can do to advocate effectively for someone with dysgraphia:
Parents: Get informed about dysgraphia, appropriate accommodations, and the IEP process. Your learner needs you to be their voice and their advocate in school. We have some tips here.
Educators: You can also benefit from getting informed and teaching those around you. Many teachers don’t know enough about dysgraphia and may make false assumptions about their learners. If you are a special education teacher, find ways to educate teachers in your school about dysgraphia and work together to identify and support students who are impacted. We have heard that watching our free webinars can be very informative for many teachers.
Everyone: Speak Up. Sharing your experiences, explaining real-world issues, and offering suggestions and solutions can be extremely impactful. Even one specific accommodation or IEP goal can make a huge difference in a student’s experience. A small change in office culture (like people knowing to when to call you instead of emailing) can improve your work environment. You never know what can happen until you ask - and suggesting the potential solutions can be very powerful.
There are many ways to advocate for those impacted by dysgraphia. We hope you join us in using our voices to support our community and make a difference.
As always, please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have suggestions of ways we can all advocate together to improve the lives of those in our community.