If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is that if you are raising a child who has a disability- you need to learn how to advocate.

During this pandemic we saw some companies, schools and departments of government really step-up to help our community, but we also saw many other fall short of helping our children.

What ultimately makes the difference for our community is our ability to advocate.

 Last year I was honored to be a participant in the Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona’s 2019-2020 Arizona Partners in Leaders class. This class is free to parents who are raising a child with a disability or for people who have a disability. It teaches parents how to advocate, how to understand the legal rights for people with disabilities and how to change laws if those rights have been infringed on.

This class has fundamentally changed my life. It has given me the tools to be a better advocate, not only for my children, but for the community as a whole. In September I was able to join with other collaborators who I meet through the program to push AHCCCS to help parents get care for their children during school hours. From what I learned in the program I called for action from the community, gathered stories, wrote letters, contacted the press, and was able to sit in meetings with decision makers to press for our rights and to make sure that our concerns were being heard. These actions resulted in parents getting in home help for children during remote learning hours and helped to speed up the release date of that program.

Another member of the 2019-2020 group was my dear friend Sarah Dorman. During a get together we talked about how Universities should be allowing students to get college credits for working with a SPED student in-home during the pandemic. Though I struck out with ASU and U of A, Sarah hit a home run with NAU! NAU took this idea and ran with it. They are in the middle of a pilot program with 5 students! It is the hope of Sarah and the University that this will not only benefit the children, but also the students by giving them hands on experience with working with a child with a disability.

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2020/09/24/northern-arizona-university-department-economic-services-programs-help-students-disabilities/3497695001/

https://www.azfamily.com/news/arizona_schools/nau-program-helping-kids-with-special-needs-navigate-online-learning/article_3b9618e6-013c-11eb-9dfe-934beadc71ea.html

 Learning how to advocate is one of the most important things you can do as a special needs parent. The program that Sarah and I participated was a Pilot Parent Program. These programs are free to parents across the United States. The link for the program Sarah and I participated in is below. If you don’t live in Arizona please search for one in your area and sign up.

If you are interested in learning more about Pilot Parents of Souther Arizona here is there website:

http://pilotparents.org/