Advocacy and the importance of teaching it…..

Advocate:  a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person,cause, etc.

We live in a world where information is handed to us at extremely rapid rates.  The world that was once a big place continues to become smaller and smaller each year.  If we want to know something we google it and within seconds our answers (whether accurate or not) are there.  The debate as to whether or not this is a good or bad thing has taken on a new meaning and at times can be overwhelming.  However, one thing the access to information does, is it allows us to understand the world around us better.  Once you have done the weeding out of the accurate information from the not so accurate you can open your eyes to a world of possibilities.

For parents who struggle to understand things like SPD, they can now access information, support, and research at a faster rate.  It allows them the ability to better advocate for their child and find other parents who have similar struggles.  As parents we all advocate for our children.  When they are small and have no words we speak for them.  As they grow we teach them how to advocate their needs for themselves and for those around them.  One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to advocate.  It is a skill that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives and be able to use for those who can not advocate for themselves.

I was recently questioned about sharing Nora’s story and the effects it could have on her future.  The internet can be a dangerous place and once a story is shared it can not be taken back.  We have spent time teaching our children about the dangers of the internet and how to use this technology well.  In turn, they have taught us a couple of things too.  Sharing our daughters story and our story as her parents is not something we do lightly and without discussion.  In the end the benefits of advocating for all neuro-divergent children outweighed the risks to Nora.

You see there is a greater lesson here to be taught.  Not taught to Nora but to the world she lives in and the people who live in it with her.  A lesson taught for her and the thousands of other bright, capable, diverse young people who live everyday with SPD and other disorders.  Disorders that make them no less than you or me but in fact make them better people who will one day be world leaders, university professors, CEO’s, Wal-Mart greeter, car sales people, and more.  A lesson that will teach the world that what you do with your life is not about how much money you make, what job you do, or how big your house is.  It is about the lives you made a difference in and the people you helped along the way.

When Nora was little my husband and I spent many hours advocating for her.  We were patient and kind with those who needed to learn about Nora’s path.  As the years have gone by we have spent more hours teaching her to advocate for herself and more importantly how to advocate for her classmates and friends.  Our time and energy has paid off and I have watched this young lady confidently and respectfully let people know what she needs and at times the needs of others.

Last week she was to attend a school wide awards ceremony but she told me she knew she could not sit through it all.  The noise level would be too much for her and asked if she could skip it.  I explained that she was getting an award and should go.  Nora told us she didn’t care about the award and didn’t want to go.  This went back and forth for a bit until I explained to her receiving the award was not just about her.  There were teachers that had invested a lot of time, energy, and love into her this past year.  They wanted to see her receive her award and well her old mom did too.  In the end she agreed to slip in at the end and recieve her award.  The amazing staff at her school worked hard to make this happen and as she received her award she had a smile from ear to ear.  After Nora told me she was glad she went and I told her I was proud of her for advocating for what she needed.  The award she recieved was for endurance because she worked so hard all year-long.

We all advocate for the things we feel strongly about whether it is for a loved one or a cause we believe in.  When I googled the definition of advocate I discovered words like supporter, fighter, crusader, and campaigner.  This made me smile because I would use any of those words to describe Nora.  These qualities are what have helped her get where she is today, they have helped her become who she is and that we would not change for the world.  Now if only I could stop her from campaigning for a hamster!!






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