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Assertiveness and Effective Parent Advocacy
by Marie Sherrett

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Advocacy opens new doors so children may become part of the community.question marks on a chess board Advocacy knocks down barriers and prepares children for independence.

Advocacy helps you get services for children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. You can participate, plan for educational programs, and work to get legislation passed.

In my work, I find that parents of children with special education needs come in several categories:
  •  Pacifists or those who gets things done;
  •  Clinging vines or parent advocates;
  •  Silent victims or fighters;
  •  Dreamers or crusaders;
  •  Waiters or initiators;
  •  Bombshells or assertive parents;
  •  Appeasing compromisers or action heroes.

Which are you?

Parents are not assertive if they:

  • Beat around the bush;
  • Fail to describe problems;
  • Feel guilty or are afraid to be vocal;
  • Agree with professionals to keep peace;
  • Ignore the right to services;
  • Leave everything to others;
  • Accept excuses for inappropriate or inadequate services;
  • Beg for what the law says a child should have;
  • Abdicate to others the right to advocate for a child;
  • Depend on others to advocate;
  • Give up because of red tape;
  • Are too hasty to act;
  • Fail to act;
  • Accept the status quo;
  • Give in to defeat;
  • Are uncomfortable with accomplishments;
  • Discourage your child from having hope for success.

What do you do?

Assertive parents:

  • Express themselves clearly, directly and without guilt;
  • Are not intimidated;
  • Prepare for meetings;
  • Stay together;
  • Are informed;
  • Keep records;
  • Collaborate;
  • Effectively communicate;
  • Demonstrate self-confidence;
  • Advocate effectively;
  • Are self-reliant and independent;
  • Persist;
  • Analyze problems;
  • Organize to effect change;
  • Are positive and strong;
  • Have pride;
  • Encourage others and hold people accountable.

Does this describe you?

Getting Involved

To meet others, you can

  • Publish a letter or article for your local papers
  • Pass out flyers at school
  • Organize public meetings
  • Encourage volunteers
  • Plan
  • Have goals and objectives
  • Talk to the media (I love to do this!)

None of this is easy but the rewards are fantastic!

Remember: Parents put together Public Law 94-142. Parents who vote urged Congress to pass the law that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

You can make things better for the next generation without filing for due process. How?

You must learn the art of persuasion, advocacy-style!

There is both safety and strength in numbers.

If you can go over a hill and change a classroom, you can go over a mountain and change a state's respite care services, early infant and toddler program, inclusive educational situations and training manuals. There is no end to the positive changes one parent can achieve! Together, we are more powerful!

Now these things cannot occur overnight. But if a parent says to me, "What can I do? I'm only one person," I say, "You have no idea the power you have."

In five years, our Chapter made local and state changes. None of our parents felt alone.

You, too, can change the world for those with special education needs and disabilities.

Am I asking a lot? Yes, I am.

I am asking you to learn, read and network. You must take these steps for your children and the children who will come along behind your children.

Meet Marie Sherrett

Marie Sherrett is Past-President of the Prince George's County, MD, Chapter of the Autism Society of America.

Maire is or has been a member of many advocacy-related organizations. She makes presentations to local and national groups, high school and college tudents, teachers and school board members about autism, pervasive developmental disorder, Supplemental Security Income, child safety, school system and recreational budget issues as they relate to those with developmental delays. She speaks to groups about working women issues. These activities have lead her to The White House, Capitol Hill, and the local Board of Education.

Marie speaks to local and national members of the media, giving radio, TV and newspaper interviews on child support, special education and working women matters, particularly with regard to issues of single parents of those with developmental delays.

Marie has been a legal secretary since 1972. She is the parent of Mark P. Sherrett, 20, who had autism, and Daniel V. Sherrett, 18, who joins the Navy in the Fall of 2001.

Home Phones: 301-627-3042/3987
Home Email: virri345@aol.com
Work Email: msherrett@mwe.com

Do You Have a Success Story?

woman doing handspringDo you have a success story or advocacy strategy that you want to share?

We are collecting stories about successful advocacy from parents and other advocates. We will post some of these Success stories on Fetaweb.com, the new parent advocacy site.

If you are interested in submitting a success story or stategy, please send an email to: success@wrightslaw.com

In the Subject line of your email, type SUCCESS STORY in all caps. You will receive an autoresponder email that contains details about our submissions policy.

Please do not send an article until after you read and review the Submissions Policy.


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