Be Your Child’s Voice–And Be Heard

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-769273

Dear Parents,

Today I learned of a remarkable ten-year old boy with autism who is speaking out about it and making a great effort to help people know about autism and the problems around it.  He is Sam.  Please go to http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-769273 and see a sample of what Sam does that will indeed make a difference in how people in his area view autism.

Then think to yourself, if this is a ten-year old child who is able to have this kind of impact, what kind of impact might I have as an adult?  If I were part of a group of people who create awareness around our children?

This is a reality:  each of us can do what Sam does.  It is a matter of making the time and the appointments to visit organizations and important people who can influence what happens in our lives and our children’s lives.  We should all be Sam for our children and their disabilities.  Imagine what a different world this would be if so many of us were out there doing as Sam does, giving information and asking the tough questions–what are we doing for these children and their families, and why aren’t we doing more?  As Autism appears to be becoming equal in incidence to learning disabilities, we certainly cannot afford to close our eyes to any avenue or option that helps our children become more independent and more functional.

We are the parents and we may be the only voice our child has.  Sam is not silent.  We should not be silent either.

Here’s how to speak out.

Talk to school classes.  Don’t be afraid of kids.  They’re kids–and they’re eager to learn.  Difference intrigues them.  Present your what your child has in common with them and the differences in his needs in a reasonable way and they will be less likely to bully or pick on your child and more likely to make him their friend. Their teachers will be educated at the same time.  Go to MOM – Not Otherwise Specified and see how one mom has presented her son’s differences to his class.

Talk to community leaders.  Our elected officials often determine how and where and what community services will be.  It’s important to let them know what community services are truly needed.  If you think a place for children in wheelchairs to play in a park is important and needed by enough families, speak up.  If you think schools need more funding for special education, speak up.  If you know there is a need for an organization that provides special services in your community, speak up and tell your leaders who needs the services and who might provide them–and that you only need the place and funding.

Talk to legislators.  Legislators on budget committees control where the money goes.  Get your legislators to propose legislation and projects/programs and meet the needs of families with needs like your own.  Get to know legislators in important cabinet positions and who control money–let them get to know your children through letters, e-mail messages and photos, introductions at the legislators’ town hall meetings and political events.  Make your face and voice familiar to them so they know there is a need for someone THEY know.

Increase the wallop of the above.  Never go alone–make sure you’re always introducing someone new to these people so they know you’re not just a voice in the wilderness but a voice with a group or mass of people who also need what you’re requesting.  NUMBERS COUNT.

Make your presence and activities known on the Internet.  Everyone knows somebody who is internet savvy who can help us do the social media thing that makes what we do so much more powerful through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.  Please don’t think you can’t do this.  I’m a rookie and a techno-boob, and I am going to be learning right beside you.  Believe me, if I can do this, a 5-year old can do this.  USE the people you know who have this talent.  Someone you know will be immensely pleased to help you and won’t feel it’s an imposition at all.  Find that person and feed him/her all the information needed to make it work.

Shy?  Think you can’t speak publicly or to strangers?  Write.  Get on blogs, get into chats where you’re anonymous but your information sharing is powerful.  Do a telephone radio interview for a talk show where you’d basically just answer questions that YOU’ve written in advance for the show host to ask you.  The key to confidence during these events is this:  People are out there who NEED what you have to share and they won’t get it if you won’t share.  Your voice will improve some family’s life and some child’s entire future.  How can you remain silent when you can be so powerful?

Your child is not the only one who has his disability, nor his symptoms, nor the possibility of a better future if we speak up.  Let that be a fire within you, that you help your child and your family and hundreds more by giving voice to what so many people need to hear.

Then use this blog to tell us what you’re doing so others will be inspired to do the same!

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