How to be Your Own Best Advocate

Our approach to parent support is to provide information and advice to help you be your own best advocate. It's not easy being an advocate for your child. It's often a case of constantly battling and wondering 'why does it have to be this difficult?' or 'why do I have to battle for every little thing?' However, we also see many 'success stories' - parents who, once armed with information and some tips on how to negotiate, are able to go ahead and organise the services they need for their child. Some tips for how to be your own best advocate include:

  • Be positive!
  • Be clear on what you want.
  • Be honest!
  • Plan/list what issues are the most important to you.
  • Gather any relevant facts, figures or documents to take to the meeting.
  • Know the rules of 'the game' (eg policy, guidelines).
  • If you are unsure of 'the rules' try and check them out first.
  • Understand all the issues involved as best you can.
  • Know what options are available to resolve the situation.
  • If necessary, have a strategy, eg an ideal outcome and a compromise outcome.
  • If a meeting is involved.
  • Ensure that your items are put onto the Agenda.
  • Never enter a meeting angry - let of steam beforehand.
  • Don't always expect to strike conflict. Others might agree with you, but also be prepared for conflict.
  • Have your documentation sorted so it's easy to find if needed.
  • If you are negotiating on the phone, always make sure you know the name and position of the person you are speaking to so you can follow up with them next time if needed.
  • Be assertive, not passive or aggressive, in a meeting situation.
  • Don't try to talk in the 'jargon' - be yourself.
  • Don't allow others to intimidate you.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Don't get into personal attacks on individuals.
  • If you need to draw on strong emotion, confine it to the issues not at someone.
  • Be prepared to compromise and/or to concede unimportant points.
  • Select the most 'winnable' points to begin with.
  • Ask for important issues, decisions etc. to be formally noted in writing.
  • Don't accept 'cop-out' excuses for indecision or lack of action (politely).
  • If applicable, another meeting date should be made that suits everyone before you finish.
  • Be prepared to follow up to ensure that the things which are agreed on are done.
  • See also Tips for Advocating on Behalf of Others.