As a parent, I am consistently looking to the future and reflecting on the past. My baby is now practicing behind the wheel of her daddy’s car for her driver’s license. But wasn’t she just learning to walk? And similarly goes this journey of advocating for my children with learning disabilities.
Today, I am preparing to submit a public comment at our next state special education advisory committee. And yet it seems like just yesterday I attended my first eligibility meeting for my child. How time flies.
To help me as I prepare, I have read an article or two on the “how” or the “why” parents should advocate at the local, state or federal level. In fact, I have actually spoken in front of others to inform them about this very topic. But what I think many of us who find ourselves standing before a committee giving public comment or preparing to sit down with a state or federal representative wonder is – how did I get here?
Yes, there is a method to success when advocating. People have written books on it and centers are funded based on it:
- Tell your story.
- Know your goals.
- Communicate them effectively.
- Prepare your “ask.”
- Follow up.
Everyone can do it, and some days I think everyone should. But we are each on an individual journey and our paths will not look the same. The choices I make when I decide to speak up or write a letter or reach out to make an appointment so often come from a gut feeling. Maybe a little voice in the back of my mind that says others need to hear this, or I know this group or person would care if they knew. Yet, other times it may be the quiet urging of a teacher, an administrator, a parent or most often a child who is not in a position to speak for him or herself that drives me to pick up a phone or pen.
Whatever the trigger, I seem to continue taking those advocacy steps. And when I do, wonderful things inevitably happen. An unexpected ally is developed, an untapped resource is discovered, and every once in a while systemic change occurs. Those are the things that make every scary advocacy moment worth it.
Reflecting back on my journey before I knew my story, I would have cared if I had heard it, I would helped if I knew help was needed, and I would have spoken up if I knew my voice could make a difference.
Looking to future, I plan to continue to follow that instinct, listen to that little voice and act on that quiet urging and just see where this journey leads me.
And for right now, I share what my next step on this path looks like: my most recent public comment is below. It was submitted to the Virginia Special Education Advisory Committee and read at their July 2015 quarterly meeting. Inspired by the celebration of the 25th anniversary of ADA, I felt that gentle push to be heard, to speak up. The result is three short paragraphs and the hope for positive change.
Public Comment: July 22nd
Thank you to the Virginia State Special Education Advisory Committee and members of the Virginia Department of Education for hearing my comments today. My name is Kristin Kane and I am from Leesburg, Virginia. I have not submitted a comment in a while but thought just as my child’s disability will continue to be part of his everyday life, I too should continue to use my voice to raise awareness and create change for the dyslexic community here in the Commonwealth.
With the fast-approaching 25th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, I felt it appropriate to focus my comments on what I believe to be in part a civil rights issue. Students who are struggling to read in Virginia are denied on a daily basis access to the appropriate reading methodology created to address their specific needs. Methodology designed and used to address decoding issues, fluency issues, and phonemic and phonological deficits is not only not being offered by ours schools but is essentially unavailable because of lack of trained faculty. The research and evidence-based practices have been identified and continued to be ignored in our schools. The right to an appropriate education for our students is being denied.
At this time I want to acknowledge the hard work done by this committee, I want to acknowledge that you have heard our concerns and I want to thank the committee for considering including dyslexia recommendations in your annual report to the State School Board. Finally, I urge this committee to help us stay diligent on this issue, as it is imperative that Virginia begin to address Dyslexia and its impact on a significant population of Virginia students.
Kristin Kane is an Information Specialist at the Virginia PEATC (PTI) and serves as a Parent Volunteer with Decoding Dyslexia Virginia.