Updated: Tips on Being a Strong Parent Advocate

Dr. CJ Cook, DBABlog

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

As a parent of a child with an intellectual or developmental disability, you are the expert on your family, which naturally makes you the best advocate for your child! Typically, as parents, we take on the role of advocate until our children can speak for themselves. In many cases even after that time has come, our role as advocates remains. You understand your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and challenges, and can help identify the resources your child needs to succeed.

A great parent advocate gets involved and stays informed! This includes:

  • understanding your child’s educational/legal rights
  • knowing the facts of your child’s situation including strengths/weaknesses
  • making sure to have details/accurate information, never depending on second-hand information
  • creating plans that assist children in achieving goals and objectives
  • empowering your child to succeed
  • attend public input meetings hosted by the county, school district and IRC and provide constructive feedback
  • seek out and attend educational events, activities, and conferences in your community

The system can be a bit complex, but knowledge is power.  So, educate yourself! If you need assistance in understanding the Individual Program Plan (IPP), IRC appeals process, Individual Education Plan (IEP) or related legal rights, you may contact our Legal Department or Training Department by using the Contact Us option on our website’s About Us section. You should also always feel free to contact your Consumer Services Coordinator (CSC) with any questions and concerns.

If you need assistance connecting to your CSC send us an email using the contact us option on inlandrc.org or [email protected]. We will always need the Clients name and date of birth to connect you. Please allow 48 hours for a response from the party you are attempting to contact. If you have not received an answer to your inquiry within 48 hours, please confirm that you have entered your return email address correctly and double check your junk/spam email folder. Please remember we will likely not respond after hours, or on weekends and holidays.

We also encourage our community to sign up for email updates and our monthly Access newsletter by visiting https://www.inlandrc.org/sign-up/.

Another way to get involved and learn more about advocacy is by checking out the many trainings and events posted on the inlandrc.org calendar. Many of these events are hosted by IRC’s Community Engagement (CE) Team. CE events and trainings are free of charge to Clients, care providers, and parents.  A few examples of training opportunities for Clients and parents include:

  • Monthly virtual IRC New Parent/Client Orientation
  • Weekly virtual Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings (Clients 16 and older only)
  • Monthly in person CAC events (Clients 16 and older only)
  • IRC Safety Resource Fair (Fall Festival- Coming in October 2023)
  • Service Access and Equity (SAE) Parent/Client conference (Announcements soon)
  • Consumer Sex Ed
  • How to Talk to Your Child About Sex – a parent training
  • Community Based-Organization (CB0) free events

More on advocating for your child! Keeping records is key. Keep detailed records when making calls to request support/services, including the date/time and who you spoke to. It is always a great idea to write down the calls and messages left with your IRC Service Coordinator or the school. Keep copies of everything you get or send to IRC or school district. When you receive your child’s IEP or IPP, review it and make sure it reflects what you requested, and most importantly, that you and your child agree with what has been written. If possible, you should send important letters to IRC or the school “Return Receipt Requested.” If you hand-deliver materials to the school, make a note of the date and time, and the person who received it.

It is extremely important that you as an advocate never rely on phone calls or casual conversation. Keep a record of any phone conversations: date, time, name, and position of the person from IRC or the school district, and any decisions made.

Be Prepared! Before you schedule or attend any meeting about your child’s care, ask yourself:

If you’re not sure what kind of meeting you are scheduling or attending, call your CSC or school district to find out. You need to know ahead of time what will be discussed so you can prepare and gather information needed. Identify any legal requirements that relate to the meeting, such as what kind of notice you must receive, who must participate, and any timelines that apply. Then, use the meeting time effectively. Be polite, courteous and expect the same from all those in attendance.

Finally, follow up, keep track of deadlines, and communicate with the school or your IRC Service Coordinator. You should report on progress, as well as problems. It is a great feeling as a Service Coordinator or teacher, to hear positive progress and good stories from the parents and consumers, so share them and be proud of what you and your child have accomplished.



Posted by:

Dr. CJ Cook, DBA

CJ Cook is the Manager of IRC's Community Engagement Team. He oversees special events, outreach efforts, public relations, public input meetings, and brand management. He also has oversight of Community-Based Organizations that receive grant funding from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC), equity in the Purchase of Service (POS), and the National Core Indicator (NCI) project. Finally, he also oversees the IRC's Performance Contract with DDS.

Share this Post