What is Advocacy?
by Ashley Roberts
What is advocacy? What does that word even mean?
Advocate; noun; /ˈadvəkət/
1) a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy
2) a person who pleads on someone else's behalf
Synonyms: Champion, Upholder, Supporter, Backer, Promoter, Proponent, Exponent, Protector, Patron, Spokesman for, Spokeswoman for, Spokesperson for, Speaker for, Campaigner for, Fighter for, Battler for, Crusader for, Missionary, Reformer, Pioneer, Pleader, Propagandist, Apostle, Apologist, Booster, Plugger
I am an advocate.
It was a long time before I embraced that term for myself. In the beginning of my journey I was surrounded by people who spoke that word as though they were evoking the name of God (and doing so in reverence, not blasphemy). In deference to the belief that the word was sacred, I refrained from using it for myself. I advocated for my child, but I was not an advocate.
It has only been in the last year or so that I embraced and began to use that word for myself. Why?
Despite my age and education, I am, after all, "just a parent." I do not possess a law degree. I am not a teacher. I have not spent years in education. I have not spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of dyslexia.
But, is that really what the cost should be for calling oneself an advocate?
I am advocating after all. I spend my days and nights reading, studying, learning, listening, engaging, planning, strategizing, organizing, working, helping, serving, doing, being all things dyslexia, all the time.
Is that not enough to be an advocate?
Someone told me once I was "just a parent." Someone else told me I haven't been "in dyslexia" long enough to have a valid opinion on anything. Someone else told me my dyslexia advocacy was "cute," (they were referring to my personal blog). Someone else recently whipped out their "resume of advocacy," wanting to compare it to mine, and when I refused to engage they didn't like it and ended our communication.
It's important to note those first two comments stung, but the latter two made me laugh.
So here's why I embraced the term, and why all of you should to.
Do you fight for someone? Are you constantly seeking to learn more? Do you try to lift up others, be helpful, serve others with the knowledge you have?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are an advocate.
The number of hours one spends at the capitol building, at the school board, meeting with legislators, researching data, does not define whether or not one is an advocate.
When your child's accommodations are not being met, do you speak up?
When the school is refusing to diagnose dyslexia, but you know in your gut that something isn't adding up right, do you give up and say oh well, or do you do all you can to find out where to go from here?
When your child comes home not progressing do you think the school is doing all that can be done and this is as good as it's going to get, or do you push for answers and change?
When a friend of yours thinks their child might be dyslexic, do you help? When they ask questions do you do your best to answer them?
Do you seek to learn more, know more, understand more, and do you actually engage in those learning activities?
Well, my friend, if yes is your answer, then you're an advocate.
Advocacy is pushing against the walls of what is; it is a voice that is not afraid to say no; it is the person willing to stand firm and demand more; it is one who stands against the injustice of educational malpractice, and cries out that it is wrong and that it must change.
Now an Advocate (note the capital A), is someone well versed in the law (federal and state) and knows it through and through and can speak to the legality of an issue, but note they are not practicing law, unless they are actually an attorney. Certificates in Advocacy are not required by law. In Peter Wright's words, read IDEA about five times as well as his book From Emotions to Advocacy at least twice, and if you understand the law and can be quizzed on it and get it right, then you can call yourself an Advocate.
But for you, the every day warrior, the parent, the one raising awareness, you my friend, you are an advocate. Wear the badge proudly and sing it loud. We need more of you on the front lines. We need more of you standing with us, demanding change.
It is time for the army of advocates to rise up and stand together. This is the #DyslexiaRevolution and united together, change will indeed happen!