“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” ~ Margaret Mead, American Cultural Anthropologist, 1901-1978
To be an effective advocate one must have a firm conviction. A true advocate does not purposely stir up turmoil, but at the same time does not shy away from confrontation if it is a necessary means to an end. It means rolling up one’s sleeves and doing whatever is necessary to protect your brother or sister’s rights, services and well-being.
When we speak of advocacy, it can be many different things – you can advocate for direct care resources and programming for your brother and sister (medical care, funding support, access to activities, etc) and/or you can advocate for changes to public policy and access to lawmakers who will directly impact the service delivery system budgets and programming initiatives.
Both advocacy avenues are equally important and can make a significant difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Traditionally, service programs have not been accustomed to dealing with siblings in an advocacy role. However, siblings truly represent the next generation of advocates for people with disabilities. Being an advocate does not mean taking on overwhelming responsibility or commitments, but it does mean:
- Staying well informed.
- Always taking one’s brother and sister’s best interest to heart and involving them when and wherever possible.
- Not backing down from what you know is right.
- Being able to negotiate and compromise.
- Making the right contacts.
- Making your case as strong as possible by being clear and concise.
- Always maintaining a sense of purpose.
- Developing a clear vision of what you want to happen.
- Being persistent.
- Viewing the world creatively.
- Not being satisfied with what is, if you think things could be better.
- Knowing when and where to pick your battles.
- Enlisting the support of others.
- Helping your sibling develop decision making abilities.
- Asking for ongoing input.
- Listening to your sibling’s wishes and wants.
As a sibling, you know what makes your sibling tick – use what you know to advocate for them and with them. You may get frustrated, and you will definitely need energy, time, and support. But rather than viewing the advocacy role as a burden, look upon it as an opportunity to make a difference in the life of your brother or sister.
Improved quality of services and supports benefits everyone – your sibling, you and your family.
For a complete list of Ohio County Board of DD offices visit http://www.oacbdd.org/ click on Member Directory (a map of all 88 counties will pop up) click on the county your sibling receives services in to identify your County Board representative.