As an advocate my goal is to give a scholar true access to their education through the development of a functional IEP. This means it has functional goals supported by appropriate Specially Designed Instruction, clinical interventions, and research-based programming. When all of these items are implemented effectively it creates transformation for the scholar. Advocacy is not just a job or just a business. It is a calling or a vocation because Advocacy is where inequity can be brought into better balance, where transformation can take place in the life of the scholar for which you advocate and where another scholar, can finally be given the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the classroom and in their education.
Transformation is a really big deal because you cannot participate in the transformation process and not be transformed yourself. When all of a scholar’s needs are identified and addressed the changes that take place can affect not only their academic performance but frequently gives the scholar self-confidence, more motivation to learn, and the ability to participate meaningfully. All of which translates into a much happier scholar and a family that is not as stressed.
Each time I participate in that transformation as an advocate my heart opens a little more. It is easier to see the next scholar in their potential as well as their challenges. It is easier to see labels and know that those labels do not define the scholar. It is easier to know that what those labels really do is give me insight into where to begin to meet this scholar’s needs and not define their limitations. It is easier to assume competence and move forward knowing that competence will emerge as opportunities present themselves.
When I advocate for scholars in the education system, I am taking on social justice which is never an easy road. Most social justice issues are, at a minimum, lifetime commitments because in order to move the social justice needle there actually has to be a shift in the society as a whole. For me as an education advocate however, while a societal shift is certainly welcome, I can do this one scholar at a time. Sometimes, the result of my work is enough to shift the perspective of some at the IEP table and getting the next scholar’s needs met is not nearly as difficult.
Sometimes, no matter the results of changes in the IEP, it never gets easier in that district. What really matters is my gratitude in being able to work with another scholar to facilitate their transformation because each time I do that, I am steering the scholar towards an independent adult life. There are few things that can give me the satisfaction and fulfillment that transformation does and is why I am always an advocate.