Tips for Becoming an LD Advocate
To become an effective LD advocate, you need to understand what you are trying to represent. Though personal experiences may drive you, the ability to relate those experiences to the community as a whole is necessary to foment understanding and ultimately change. Simply understanding an issue as it relates to your personal experiences is not enough. Acquiring more information about learning disabilities is very simple.
Information is available on LD.org, through your state office of education and your state’s Parent Training and Information Center. A directory by state is easily found at parentcenternetwork.org. Use these already-fashioned resources to place your personal trails with LD within state and national context. After getting informed, get involved.
It might seem daunting to dive into the political arena, but remember all politics are local. All governance has local ramifications and, as such, all public officials rely on their constituents: you. They are not present in your schools, class rooms, or parent-teacher meetings. They depend on you, the parents, for information. Strengthening your voice can be as simple as becoming a resource of information for your congressman, school board or even fellow parents. Contact information and addresses for your local, state and federal legislators can be found in the blue section of the phone book or at contactingthecongress.org. Before meeting these officials, familiarize yourself with their policies. Vote-smart.org allows you to see exactly where your representatives stand on a particular issue. When speaking with your representatives, be specific, personalize your message and follow up.
Everyone knows the old adage “Quality before Quantity” but in advocacy, it is important to remember “Quantity has a Quality all of its own.” Finding like-minded people will grant power to your voice and credibility to a movement. With this in mind, remember that media can be a powerful instrument. Twitter, facebook, newspapers and radio shows represent a myriad of means available for use in creating a dialogue. When discussing issues in the media, it is important to know your audience and not be afraid to point out individual’s positions.
Most of our current laws that assist and protect people with LD came about from the grassroots efforts of advocates like you. Federal laws like IDEA stand as testament to the power of grassroots efforts. Advocacy can be a lifetime pursuit or the five minutes one takes to inform and educate another; it should always be, however, personally rewarding, whether as a citizen, a community member or as a parent.