ADVOCACY – “Tips and Tools”
(Adapted from the Advocacy Tool Kit published by Muscular Dystrophy Canada.)
The most important thing to remember when advocating for yourself is that YOU are your BEST advocate. You may not realize it, but you are already an advocate for yourself in many ways. Have you ever felt that it was in your right to do something or receive something you need, and then gone and done something about it? Well that is advocacy.
There are many ways to advocate for yourself but below I am going to outline a few tips from the Advocacy Tool Kit created by Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
Before you begin your journey as an advocate, the incredibly important first step is to start by knowing and understanding your rights as an adult. You may have had family members/care givers/health professionals advocate on your behalf, but now that you are an adult it is important to begin the process by knowing your own rights. You will then become more responsible and in control of your own path. In addition, it is also vital to know your needs. The better you understand your specific disability, the better you can communicate the information you need to advocate. Last, but not least, effective communication is an essential skill to advocacy.
To be a successful advocate it is beneficial to take a look at what strengths and skills you have and use these skills to your advantage in a creative way! As you go through your process it’s important to be constantly re-evaluating what you are doing to make sure you are on the right track and that you are not losing sight of why you are doing this. Always stay positive and connected to your goal even if you have to try a few different routes to get there.
Below is a 4 step strategy that may assist in the process of advocating for yourself. Advocacy can be a long and complex process. This may not be the only solution, but it is a good place to start in order to help organize your thoughts and process.
STEP 1 Define problem
Be clear, concise and accurate in making a statement that informs people of “what the issue is”
STEP 2: Develop a plan
Ensure you have a clear plan with easy to follow steps, to ensure you can monitor progress and make changes if needed. An essential part of developing a plan is also to have a support network around you.
STEP 3: Carry out the Plan
Take action; You must also be willing to listen to others and negotiate with them to resolve your issue or concern
Step: 4 evaluate the results
Look back at your plan and ask yourself what worked and what didn’t.
*Make sure you are always documenting your progress (ALL meetings, emails/phone calls etc).
Everyone should be able to live the life they want, with the support they need. A key element that will assist with this process along the way is to stay positive and to celebrate your successes big or small. Not only are you advocating for yourself, but what you have gained along the way may be a stepping stone for someone else. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it and most importantly stay positive and remember that YOU are the greatest advocate because YOU know yourself the best!
Kendal Gerus is a MuscleFacts and Bridges to the Future coordinator in B.C.